Our Top Chef interview series aims to pick the brains of top business and media experts to find out how they learn, work and innovate. We turned to Heléne Lindsay, strategic director at New Media Publishing, and got her insight on content marketing, publishing and the digital shift in South Africa. Heléne is a wealth of knowledge on digital publishing having pioneered digital communications for agencies, magazines and the 20/20 online bank. She now leads digital strategy at New Media Publishing, South Africa’s leading magazine publishing company.
How is digital media helping to engage the consumer on a deeper level?
Online channels allow you to engage much more. Because the teams work together it depends what channels work for which brand. We are using multiple channels and engaging young people who tend to be digital bunnies. Woolworths is doing this very well, they are not afraid of making mistakes and learning from them to work better. Some big brands are afraid of releasing their brand but it is becoming a necessity.
Examples of strong online communities in the South African context?
Eat Out and Taste both have strong and vibrant communities.
How has publishing changed within New Media Publishing?
I am very excited about the ways in which we have changed. All the agencies used to have their own, individual roles. Magazine publishers used to be 2nd tier but that has changed. Now due to the realness of what is happening because of social media and the internet, we are talking to customers about things that matter to them and creating content that has a purpose to service the brand and to engage. What we have been doing in print is translating very nicely to the digital space. So many agencies are trying to get into custom publishing but what works is the process of natural selection – people will find their own space and choose which channels they want to use. You can’t dictate the channels but have to look at content as a whole. Content teams are now learning from each other. We plan everything from the start and choose which channels we use for each client and they start feeding off of each other.
Does content quality suffer moving from print to digital?
Content suffers when your INTEGRITY goes out the window. Content doesn’t suffer when it moves channels, it may become less in-depth depending on the channel. It is about editorial integrity.
How is publishing different in the African context?
We often take our cues on what we think is bigger globally but we have such a vibrant and unique niche right here. We should all calm down and see what is working and what isn’t in Africa. We oftentimes have a sense that we are not good enough but the work that is being done here is quite brilliant.
What are your thoughts on digital innovation in Africa?
We must remember that penetration and usage are two different statistics. Penetration does not always equal usage. Africa is a different digital context in that the majority of the population uses mobile. We have examples of the most amazing stories here in that space: obox, motribe and blue world are all doing incredible things.
Seeing that you work with some of the most prominent magazines in South Africa, what is your daily media diet?
Vanity Fair is my favourite and I also love Popular Mechanics and Time on the ipad. Daily Maverick and Mail and Guardian are my favourite news sources and I check out BBC as well. Biz community and popbitch are great for industry knowledge and I also loved Elle Decoration UK. I don’t have much a set pattern, rather explore the different trends with a rich mish mash of media goodness.