The Daily Maverick is an important business. It’s a bastion of objective journalism in South Africa, a country that battles evil politicians, rampant unemployment, systemic corruption and myriad other social, political and economic issues.
Building a news organisation is no small task, especially in the age of social media, the duopoly that is Google and Facebook trying to dictate how media organisations disseminate their news and make money from this news.
In the first episode of my new show, It’s Not Over, I spoke with Styli Charalambous, the CEO and co-founder of The Daily Maverick.
It’s Not Over is a show about near-death business experiences. I talk to business owners, founders and entrepreneurs about specific moments in their businesses where they were about to call it quits. In some cases, the businesses ended in failure while in others the businesses made it out alive, lived to fight another day or went on to dominate or exit.
Styli and I cover a lot of ground in the first episode of the show.
For eight years he and his co-founder battled cash flow, outdated business models, a declining media industry and various other complexities. But there was a turning point. There was a moment in the history of this now thriving business where the founders needed to make an important but relative expensive decision. Styli was investigating new ways for his news organisation to generate income and decided to attend an exploratory trip hosted by the Poynter Institue that would cost $6400. This was a hail mary but it was so much more for their business.
The trip was the beginning of a new revenue model, one that would completely change the way that they operated, who they hired and how they made money.
Reader Revenue was a buzzword in the media space and Styli knew that The Daily Maverick needed to pivot in this direction.
To find out how this all unravelled, listen to or watch the entire episode via your favourite podcast platform or watch the YouTube video below.
Here are a few lessons that Styli shared in this episode:
Create work that is worth paying for
It’s easy to expect people to pay you for what you produce but if you produce sub-par news, media, products or services then it’s very unlikely people will pay you. So focus first on creating an incredible product.
The Daily Maverick spent 8 years producing the best journalism in South Africa before they were confident people would be willing to spend money to read.
Use data to help you with your decisions
The best decisions are a combination of data, insights and gut. Relying purely on any one variable is dangerous.
The Daily Maverick used years of data to drive its paywall and marketing strategy.
The importance of a clear and consistent mission and vision
For 13 years, the mission and vision for The Daily Maverick have not changed. They set out with clear intentions and didn’t change these intentions with the weather. Regardless of how difficult it was or which direction investors, customers, sponsors, advertisers, politicians or business people wanted them to move into, they stayed the course and it paid off.
Changing your vision and mission too often is not a good thing for any business. Stay focused.
Personal development counts
The best founders are doing the work on themselves while they are working on and in their own businesses. It’s imperative for founders to evolve as their businesses evolve and that requires a lot of hard, personal work on yourself.
Styli speaks openly about his own struggles in this regard, the tough choices he had to make and the importance of mental health and professional help.
Styli is a founder with grit and determination building a business that is helping to shape the future of a nation. Listen to this episode now!
You can read the incredible news available at The Daily Maverick right now.
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