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Google News Initiative

A Digital Growth Program for Publishers in South Africa

An image showing different media types; a newspaper, a phone and a tablet

As more people are going online for their news, publishers are looking at new ways to create sustainable online business models. As part of our ongoing commitment to supporting the news ecosystem, we've been meeting with publishers across South Africa to hear about what works and what more we can do to support their growth. Earlier this year, Google announced in a blog post that the Digital Immersion Program would soon be launched in South Africa and that we're committed to fostering growth and innovation within the local news ecosystem.

I had the opportunity to visit the Digital Immersion Program: South Africa Edition, hosted by the Google News Initiative and FT Strategies last week. The Digital Immersion programme is a five day interactive workshop for key decision makers, designed to accelerate a publisher’s journey toward digital reader revenue. The programme is designed for publishers at the beginning of their digital reader revenue journey and is aimed at organisations looking for rapid and actionable solutions to help in their transition to digital reader revenue.

Here are some of my takeaways from the lively discussions and workshop:

  1. There are difficulties around shifting from print to digital both from the publisher and reader perspective. Multiple contributing factors need to be considered as part of this shift, including access to wifi, data, and a bigger conversation around how people pay for digital news.
  2. There tend to be silos between the editorial and commercial teams, sometimes resulting in a disconnect on how publishers make the shift to digital. Digital transformation should be a concerted effort, and allocated sufficient resources, allowing the entire team the agility to experiment and grow together.
  3. Digital transformation should be collaborative and data driven. In order to drive digital transformation, it is important for publishers to use data to collect, refine and use it to better serve the needs of their audiences.

Participants in the program ranged from local and community news to national and online-only publishers: Caxton Digital,, Arena Holdings, Sunday World, Mail & Guardian, Sabido, Primedia Broadcasting, among others. I enjoyed hearing from Styli Charalambous Co-founder & CEO, Daily Maverick, along with expert speakers from FT Strategies and the Google News Initiative.

The Digital Immersion Program for South Africa is one way that the Google News Initiative is providing training and resources to help accelerate publisher’s digital transformation and ultimate growth. I look forward to continuing similar engagements in the future and to further discussions with publishers, journalists and policymakers on how we can enable innovation and growth across the news ecosystem.

Video of Abongile at the Digital Immersion Program in CapeTown

Editors’ note: hear more from Abongile at the Digital Immersion Program in CapeTown, in this short video.

Posted by Abongile Mashele, Senior Manager, Government Affairs and Public Policy, Southern Africa, Google.