Online media strategies & the future of print: Interview with Mags magazine

Did this interview Gareth Richards from Mags Magazine on online media…

1 Can you give me your views on how important your online presence is to the newspaper? Has it grown more quickly/slowly than the paper version?

At the Mail & Guardian we are in the fortunate position where both our newspaper and website are showing record readership. It may have something to do with the fact that the newspaper is a weekend weekly, not a daily therefore the website does not compete directly with the paper, but complements the paper. Our website is essentially the company’s daily news arm.

We take the web very seriously and see it as core to our strategy. The Mail & Guardian Online has been identified as critical to the future of our company, and a way of disseminating M&G content to the widest variety of platforms and formats. We stopped viewing ourselves as a newspaper company some time ago. We see ourselves as a digital media company.

2 What have been the main recent trends/developments in online publishing for your company?

The growth of online advertising has meant we have been able to grow our online division, with the aim of it being a profitable entity. Gone are the days where online is seen as added value, or a loss leader. The online division contributes more than 15% to the overall revenue of our company. It has its own editor and sales staff.

Two trends have emerged in recent years. The first is mobile. Mobile devices will outstrip desktop internet access via PC or Mac in the near future. This is a key platform of the future for web access, and will be a mass internet medium unlike traditional desktop web browsing. We have established three mobile sites to take advantage of this: 1) mobile news (, 2) mobile entertainment listings (, and recently, 3) mobile blogs (

The second is the rise of citizen media and the blog revolution. This is all about understanding your reader differently. Readers are also potential publishers as bloggers. As a media company we have taken the blogosphere seriously and built a sites such as (a blog aggregator); (quasi blog/media site) and (blog hosting site) to participate in this revolution.

3 Where do you see online publishing going vs paper newspapers?

I think all media will eventually be delivered and consumed via the internet, including what was known then as “TV” (Internet video) and “Radio” (Internet audio). In the future there will be no specialist print, TV or radio media companies left. All will become fully converged multimedia operations that appear on many digital platforms via the net. In the future print will not become completely extinct, but become a niche, luxury lifestyle thing. It’s a preference, part of that treasured “off time”, a break from the digital noise all around us.

So print readership will come under pressure, but it won’t completely die out. Also it’s critical to understand the timing of this – print will be a strong and viable proposition for years to come, so while it is important to keep an eye on the future it is nonsensical to talk about the “death of print” when most print titles are still performing and are the bread and butter of many media operations. It’s still a long way down.

Print will also be a strong growth proposition in developing world contexts, as witnessed by the meteoric growth of the Daily Sun. But here web access via mobile phones becomes key.

4 Is there money being made/to be made in online publishing or is everybody still scrambling to establish their value proposition?

Established online publishers are viable operations, with growing online advertising and online classifieds/jobs revenue streams.

5 What unqiue attractions does your online presence have for marketers and how can they make best use of them?

The Mail & Guardian Online is the country’s biggest online newspaper. As a generalist news site it is the third biggest site after IOL and News24. We tend to attract a niche reader, interested in quality comment, news and politics. Our readership tends to be web savvy, educated and high earners – and care about issues such as global warming.

Matthew Buckland: Publisher


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