Newspapers globally are under pressure. In South Africa, most publications, including the country’s premier business titles, have been losing circulation at an alarming rate. An exception in this market is the Mail & Guardian which has seen its newspaper sales jump 10% year-on-year, according to the latest ABC figures.
Two major trends have reshaped business journalism, says M&G editor-in-chief Nic Dawes. First, sophisticated market analysis and investment writing (including stock picking advice) has been almost entirely privatised — taken over by brokerages and banks that send their clients boutique newsletters and bulletins, some of them written by analysts who were once journalists.
At the opposite end of the market, basic company news and data have been completely commodified by online services and newswires.
“In between this limited distribution, high-end and zero-value added mass distribution data is the space in which news organisations find themselves. For many it is a bewildering place to be. At the Mail & Guardian we believe it is a place of rich opportunity,” says Dawes.
The M&G’s expanded 12- to 16-page business section and website is part of the publication’s strategy to offer a complete package of business news, features and analysis to its readership. The intention is that M&G Business will be Africa’s best business read.
“The business section won’t try to tell you which stocks to buy, or pretend it is news to you that headline earnings per share on a blue chip company are up 12 cents. What it will do is offer you real insight into the South African, regional, and global business story,” adds Dawes.
We will report on the real economy, including logistics, communications, mining, agriculture and engineering. We’ll ask interesting questions, and answer them through the in-depth reporting that is the Mail & Guardian trait. We will turn our political insight towards the regulatory environment and the political economy, reporting not just what people in high office say, but what is driving policy and how it is playing out on the ground.
We will offer richly drawn portraits of the individuals and companies and that are indispensable to a true understanding of the corporate scene and of emerging entrepreneurs.
There will also be space created for a focus on the innovation in technology, in business processes and in strategy, which is an important source of dynamism in the economy.
Along with our own reporting, we will offer insight from the sharpest minds in business and the investment community.
“Real intelligence isn’t about headline numbers, it is about drilling deep into the data, talking to the people at the coalface, and combining journalistic scepticism with an explorer’s enthusiasm,” says Dawes. “That is what we plan to offer, hour-by-hour online, and each week in the newspaper. There is no bigger story.”
Anastacia Martin, publisher of the Mail & Guardian, adds: “The market for business news and information has changed dramatically in the past decade and we recognised the need to include Business in our mix for our influential readers. We were able to build our new business model across multiple platforms to deliver vital business news 24/7. Our business content is presented with the same analytical, in-depth and relevant fine journalism that is the hallmark of the Mail & Guardian.”
The M&G currently speaks to more than one million print, online and tablet readers who are South Africa’s decision makers in business, government, academia and non-governmental organisations.
“Our readers truly represent the demographics of our country, with 80% black, 20% white and nearly 40% of our readers emerging from women in leadership positions,” says Martin.
Some of the new regular features in the bigger, bolder business section are:
- The Big Interview — an interview with a chief executive, newsmaker or dealmaker on the big issues and trends in a specific sector
- The African economy and companies
- Investment — company analysis and sector comparisons
- Analysis of the global economy or market events
- Digital life
- On-the-ground features of the real economy, including the global economy
- Agent provocateur — a column