Styli Charalambous is the CEO of South African digital news publisher, The Daily Maverick. Known for its witty and sharp take on current affairs, The Daily Maverick was born from the Maverick Magazine. With his extensive knowledge of digital publishing, Styli shares some tips with Heavy Chef as to what publishers need to know about the online news space.
What is the most effective way for publishers to approach advertising?
Publishers recognise that advertising is their lifeblood, even more so in a digital world. So the strategy to advertising should be one that ensures clients get the most bang for their advertising buck, without selling the publisher’s editorial soul. It also needs to be a long-term approach, too often publishers chase short-term profits at the expense of the advertisers benefit by crowding pages with too many ads. This means in the long-term advertisers don’t noticed, the advertising platform gets cheapened and the reader gets irritated.
The Daily Maverick offers an exclusive online space for premium brands to advertise, without getting lost amongst the crowd. How did the strategy for that come about?
The strategy came about from personal experience and feedback from readers. Too many ads cause advertising blindness and don’t achieve results for the advertiser. If you took the traditional squeeze as many ads onto one webpage approach that many digital publishers have, and translated that into TV, you’d have TV adverts that showed fourteen commercials at the same time, and only for a few seconds. We also noticed that online advertising was about clicks and impressions and very little focus was dedicated to branding. We wanted to create a space that brand advertisers would feel comfortable displaying their brand and not having to worry about competing for the readers attention. The space has worked really well for the advertisers since day one with brand exposure and recall amongst the highest anywhere on the web. The click though rates are also a multiple times higher than the DMMA average, so advertisers are getting brand exposure and driving traffic at the same time.
How would you recommend publishers keep a unified brand across different news platforms?
I think it helps to keep a unified message when publishers have a voice. It’s a pretty hard to define but its made up of a mixture of style and editorial policy and goals. Publishers that simply put out syndicated content will struggle to have a voice and will fade into the background of reader’s attention quite easily. Having said that, each platform has its own challenges with how its consumed and it’s main objective. For example, on Twitter, you can’t convey what a 1,500 word analysis piece is trying to achieve, but you can entice readers to click through and read the analysis by making those 140 characters count. The iPad on the other hand, allows for so much more integration of multimedia and high resolution photography that adds weight to any feature piece that wouldn’t always work for us on the web.
What is your approach to social media for The Daily Maverick?
Social media is hugely important to us. At a basic level it helps to drive up to 15% of our web traffic each month and at the other end of the spectrum it’s our PR megaphone. As a publisher it is easier for us to engage social media, because we’re publishing new articles all the time that we need to get in front of readers, and potential new readers. Its a great marketing channel for us, but I’d lying if I said we’re utilising our social media reach to its full potential. What many business don’t realise, is that if you don’t dedicate resources to your social media strategy, it can backfire badly. So we’re erring on the cautious side at this point in time, but we’re learning as we go and we’ll probably look to up our game a bit this year.
Once the iPad arrived, it changed the way we received our content. What do you think is next?
We believe the next step, is getting to grips with the iPad, before contemplating the next big thing in publishing. It’s crazy to think the iPad was only launched in April 2010, and was by no means the first tablet computer to market. But it was the first tablet done right, and we feel it will go down as a major turning point in the history of publishing alongside the printing press and desktop publishing. So it’ll take everyone a while to figure how best to publish on tablet, and what business model works for publishers who have print editions to worry about and how best to utilise the screen size and features the device has to offer . The concept of tablet publishing is here to stay and all that is likely to change is that devices will evolve and become better, faster, and more integrated.