Launch of Daily Maverick 168: from daily online into weekly print during Covid Lockdown – does it make sense?



I am a daily scanner of Daily Maverick, receiving the daily online newsletter in my email inbox, reading the headlines, and opening those stories for further details which attract my attention. For a daily digital publication going into a weekly newspaper during Corona Lockdown, after begging daily for financial support from its digital subscribers, nothing about the Daily Maverick 168 makes sense to me! It is a short-lived disaster in the making, in my opinion.

The details about Daily Maverick 168 are the following, gleaned from the first issue of the weekly newspaper which was launched on Saturday 26 September 2020:

#. It is a broadsheet, a format used by ‘commercial’ newspapers

#.  It is a weekly newspaper

#.  The 168 add-on to its name is not explained

#.  It costs R20 an issue, but is free to Pick n Pay Smart Shopper card holders

#.  It has a main ‘news’ body, a Business Maverick section, a Maverick Life section, and a Maverick Kids section, the latter two sections in Tabloid size!

#   Some stories can be accessed in greater detail via a QR code in the newspaper, linking one back to digital, a contradiction!

#.  Its Editor is Heather Robertson, a past Editor with Times Media. Its Advertising Commercial Manager is Susie White, who is also listed as the Daily Maverick Publisher. Editor-in-Chief of the Daily Maverick is Branko Brkic.

In a ‘Media Matters’ column tucked away on page 26, Fran Beighton (Maverick Insider General Manager) makes a plea for the support and justifies the launch of Daily Maverick 168.  Calling readers ‘members’ who choose how much they want to pay to support the digital Maverick Insider, and to prevent it from going under, Daily Maverick has been at great pains to not charge readers to read its news online, as most other publications around the world have done via paywalls. She justifies the launch of the newspaper as follows: ‘14,000 subscribers are supporting us to put out the highest quality journalism in a weekly newspaper so those who can’t afford to pay, can still access it. They’re giving us the freedom to increase our impact on the country’s future. They are the few who are making a difference for the many.’

In paging through the newspaper, my comments are as follows:

#. Not having bought or even read a newspaper since Lockdown in the past six months, holding and paging through a Broadsheet feels huge and uncomfortable, seeing too much news to go through. One story runs across both broadsheet pages from left to right!

#. The stories are long, and not newsy

#. The front page is a disaster, the lead story about QAnon depicted as a huge Q, with a scary ‘Be Afraid’ filling the top half of the page. As it is folded to Tabloid size, the Q and its content is on its side when seeing it on a shop shelf. Would it make someone buy the newspaper? My guess is NO.

#.  I did not find a story that I read from beginning to end.

#. The biggest contradiction for me is that Pick n Pay is clearly a major sponsor, even if it meant a Trade Exchange for a full-page ‘advertisement’. Hilarious is that two Checkers half-page ads appear on pages 5 and 7, while the full-page Pick ‘n Pay ad is on page 29 in the Business Section. Its headline says ‘Nobody reads newspapers anymore’, and its copy congratulates the Daily Maverick on its first print edition. The rest of the copy reads: ‘In a time when ‘newspapers are dead’, you’ve not only gone against the grain, you’ve printed on it. 53 years ago we were called crazy too, when Raymond Ackerman used his severance pay and a bank loan to buy four stores trading under the name ‘Pick ‘n Pay’.  And look at us now: full-page in one of South Africa’s top publications. All the best, from all of us’!

#. Advertising support for the first print edition must have been a disappointment to the top brass: Ninety-One (quarter page), Investec (quarter page), rain4G (full page), Henley Business School (half page), Workshop17 (one third page), The Wiseman Nkuhlu Trust (one third page), Red Carnation (full page Tabloid), Goodleaf Cannabis Wellness (one third page Tabloid), FutureSpace (full page Tabloid), and Pan Macmillan (quarter page Tabloid) !

#. But the ultimate joke of this publication, which praises itself on its ‘highest quality journalism’ is its error in its ‘Twit of the Week’, which the newspaper awards to musician David Scott of The Kiffness. In a half-hearted attempt to soften their blow to him being named the Twit for a comment he made about the Government’s Covid App, they state that he wrote the ‘Zol’ song, which they praise.  It was in fact written by Max Hurrell, and it was Scott who produced the video for it! It shows up Daily Maverick 168 as a Twit! On Instagram Daily Maverick published an apology on 27 September: ‘Oops, we forgot that @MaxHurrellSA wrote that great zol song and that @TheKiffness edited the unofficial video. Our apologies. And the tweet can be read as satire or dissing information rather than disinformation’. 

#. Last but not least is that the QAnon story was published in the digital Daily Maverick yesterday! What is the point of repeating stories between the print and digital versions?!

I would love to hear the opinion of my readers about Daily Maverick 168. I am not optimistic about its endurance, with such a boring start and poor advertising support.


Chris von Ulmenstein, WhaleTales Blog: Tel +27 082 55 11 323 Twitter:@Ulmenstein Facebook: Chris von Ulmenstein, My Cape Town Guide/Mein Kapstadt Guide, CAMPS BAY CLEAN. Instagram: @Chrissy_Ulmenstein @MyCapeTownGuide

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