Satire website Hayibo.com will post its last article on Friday after advertisers shied away from it, one of the site’s writers said on Wednesday.
“Yes, dear readers, it’s hard to believe, perhaps even harder to believe than a sick note from Schabir Shaik’s GP. But it’s true. All good things must come to an end, and Hayibo.com is no different,” Hayibo. com said an email to subscribers.
“… We would have loved to rule the internet until Jesus returned, perhaps to witness the power-sharing deal the ANC will desperately try to broker, but alas the lifeblood of all websites, advertising, has never materialised.”
Hayibo.com writer Ant Pascoe said the site registered between 80 000 to 100 000 unique users every month with its take on the shenanigans of life in South Africa and abroad, but advertisers did not bite.
“We now need to go and do fun stuff like find paying jobs. And eating,” said Pascoe.
The site was started in 2008 and was based on a business model which was to have combined paid-content syndication, an online retail shop and the elusive advertising revenue.
“We started beating the streets and approaching advertising to come aboard,” said Pascoe.
It had a few campaigns involving companies like Kulula.com, Sanlam and some smaller companies, and the shop was getting support.
“Corporate South Africa said they loved the website and found it very funny and entertaining, but they didn’t want to associate their brands with it. It was too controversial and too maverick and doors were closed in our face.”
From articles on how President Jacob Zuma would juggle his romantic commitments on Valentine’s Day to a piece on how “panic-stricken ultra-straight macho South African farmers” received the news of Julius Malema’s remix of Shoot the Boer to Kiss the Boer, the site has a loyal following, which grew from about 2 000 unique users when it began.
But, syndication partners — the site’s lifeblood — began slipping off, and consultations with advertising industry experts did not yield the required six big campaigns they needed to survive.
“We needed to draw a line,” said Pascoe.
It was also constrained by South Africa’s relatively low internet penetration figures, unlike the Onion, based in the United
The site, overseen by writer Tom Eaton, had a small dedicated team of writers which included Pascoe, Rebecca Davis, Lauren Beukes, Sam Wilson and freelancers.
“They are top quality writers, guys who ‘get’ writing funny and social political satire,” said Pascoe.
Equal opportunity ‘up yours’
Since it was started, Hayibo has not been sued, and only two people have complained about stories — both of which related to Shaik, Zuma’s former financial adviser who was convicted of fraud but sent home on medical parole early in his sentence.
One complaint was received from the Sandton Sun after a piece that Shaik was being paroled to the “Sandton Sun correctional facility”.
The hotel’s representatives sent a letter and “very nicely” asked not to be associated with a fraud convict.
“They were so nice about it,” said Pascoe.
A second related to a piece on a trip around Durban called “Reach for a Dream” outing, which elicited a “high-handed” letter from a lawyer representing the organisation which arranges special outings and events for children with terminal illnesses.
“The primary goal of Hayibo has always been to make people laugh. There is no malice on the site. It is an equal opportunity ‘up yours to the establishment’ site,” he said.
One of the site’s most popular stories internationally was the piece that Saudi scientists had denied the existence of the vagina, which recorded 100 000 unique views in one night by US readers.
“I love going back and looking through the archives … They have all achieved something and got a reaction. Once it gets published it’s like my adopted child.”
He said the site’s takes on Brandon Huntley, who asked Canada for asylum because of South Africa’s crime rate, made the front page of the Guardian in the United Kingdom and was published in the New York Times.
Outpouring of grief
“We would love to keep going, but it needs to cover its own costs to run, and it needs to make more money so that we can grow it. It really needs a sponsor or a benefactor.”
Pascoe said there had been an “outpouring of grief” on Twitter, where the subject was trending on Tuesday night.
He attributed the popularity of the site to the “craziness in South Africa”.
“There’s lots of incredible material available and South Africans are crying out for relief from the doom and gloom of baby murders and husband-kills-wife stories. It is the reality, but what we want to do is something different, something fun and funny. If people must cry, they must cry from laughter.”
He said he would have to “give credit” to Malema for inspiration and for fascinating people.
“Julius definitely transcends. He almost writes the stuff himself.”
The site will be up for at least another fortnight, with items still available from the online shop and a second book also available. – Sapa