In it together: Local titles provide valuable support to their communities during this time Of crisis

08 Jun 2020

By Tasmia Ismail, GM Commercial (News) Media24

This time of crisis has highlighted the real and valuable connections that local titles have with their communities; readers have relied on these titles for so much more than information.

There is clear research evidence that readers find the advertising inserts, carried by their local titles, useful in making savvy decisions. The Publisher Audience Measurement Survey (PAMS) shows that nearly two thirds of the respondents use inserts to compare prices, whilst just over half use them to plan their shopping. With nearly nine out of 10 respondents looking through them, this form of advertising is an effective tool to drive feet through retailers’ doors.

The lockdown has revealed many unique connections the local titles have with their communities, suggesting why they are such effective advertising vehicles. Staffers at the Media24 local titles provided extensive feedback to Ads24 about their experiences working during Covid19; these illustrate the importance of their publications in readers’ lives.

Community news is the raison d'etre of these publications. Lockdown meant that the journalists had to adapt rapidly to new working methods: using social media and messaging, video conferencing and collaborating in new ways. Their well-established contacts and sources in the communities facilitated this. Readers were impressed that the titles were able to publish over this time; many went so far as to express their gratitude for keeping them reliably informed.

In times of uncertainty people need a source of news and information that they know is reliable and true. There were numerous demonstrations of readers’ trust in the Media24 titles e.g. the District Mail received requests from the community for reporters to investigate complaints and issues of concern. The Stanger Weekly broke the news of the first COVID-19 death in the community on its Facebook page; when sceptics suggested this was not true, its loyal readers actually went into the battle on its behalf.

But readers want more than accurate facts. A Swartland Gazette journalist articulated the task as “writing for the community and not necessarily just about them.They have to feel their voices are being heard and thus giving them a platform where they are not only kept informed about anything and everything that affects them as a community, but also where they can share their stories, hardship, joy, achievements and experiences with their fellow community members”.

A Noordkaap reporter recounted that people seemed to be pleased and “feel special” on being asked to do a Vox Pop in the local mall, whilst others responded enthusiastically to being asked questions on Facebook. Examples of usefully shared advice abound such as a local trainer demonstrating basic exercises and a local private ambulance service advising on protection against Coronavirus. The PE Express posted a video of rugby legend Danie Gerber’s daughter talking about her and her father’s journey with Corona, which garnered over 200 000 views!

Readers also wanted to escape the harsh realities and relished some inspiration. The Tygerburger recounted that readers were amazed that the publication was still finding content not related to lockdown e.g. interesting birthdays and weddings. Bloemnuus carried wonderful stories of local artists being creative and giving online concerts, as well as sport events being creatively held during the lockdown within lockdown rules. For Mother’s Day, the Weskusnuus invited people in the community to send video messages to run on their social media for their readers.

Initiatives to activate support for charities ranged from encouraging readers to knit for a worthy cause or make masks to providing space for NPOs and NGOs to express their urgent needs. Chairperson of the SPCA described the “absolutely amazing” results when the Uitenhage & District Express assisted them, whilst the Komani-Karoo Express was able to secure support for four soup kitchens in Middelburg.

Encapsulating the trust and reliance our readers have in our reporting comes from a PE Express reader who phoned in to say that she had started crying with relief when she saw their headline - “LOCKDOWN: You’re not alone, we’re In It Together!”

The Media24 local titles have proved their ability to meet their readers’ needs in this time of crisis. They have become a rallying point and a support for their readers, who have amply shown their engagement with the titles. Key attributes for an advertising medium are the abilities to deliver the right people at the right time at the right place and to trigger positive emotional responses. Reader feedback has unequivocally demonstrated the ability of our local newspapers and to deliver on these attributes.

Tasmia Ismail is the newly appointed General Manager: Commercial (News). During her 18 years at Media24, Tasmia gained invaluable experience in driving sales and building successful revenue models for local newspapers. In addition she was a driving force behind the successful change in frequency of Die Burger Oos-Kaap. In her new role Tasmia will be responsible for the commercial division of Media24: News and is excited about offering innovative solutions for clients.

For more information contact:
Nabila Mayet-Cassim
Stone Soup PR
nabila@stonesoup.co.za
082 266 3957