Independent Media’s digital transformation

The Challenge

Transition IMG’s people, processes and platforms towards a digital-first mindset.

The Result

The systematic implementation of a sustainable digital content ecosystem.

Independent Media is one of South Africa’s publishing giants, with a long and storied history dating back over 100 years. In 1857 the Argus Publishing Group, as it was then known, launched the country’s first afternoon daily, the Cape Argus. The Cape Times followed just under two decades later, while The Mercury, Daily News, Weekend Argus and Pretoria News ensured the group’s growing influence and reach.

But like traditional newspaper publishers the world over, the advent of new digital technologies, like the smartphone and tablet, meant that media consumption patterns were changing irrevocably. After a century in operation, Independent had to tear up the script, with old print-centric business models no longer able to stand up to a tidal wave of industry change.

Our partnership with Independent News Media began in 2014. At the time, the group produced over 32 printed national, regional and community newspaper titles and only one news website.

Their digital landscape could be summarised as follows:

  • no digital publishing process
  • no digital products
  • no digital subscriptions
  • no digital title specific apps or websites
  • no centralised digital storage facility
  • no centralised analytics
  • no digital customer database

Afrozaar’s product team approached the group and proposed a collaborative partnership that would future-proof the business. We believed we could transform the traditional newspaper publisher into a globally positioned digital-first media group, with a digital transformation approach.

Our Strategy

Cloud Architecture

Our first challenge was to migrate the Atex Prestige Print Editorial platform from local servers to our digital asset management platform, BiblioDAM, powered by Amazon Cloud: AWS – a task which had never been done before. Acacia Cloud Solutions, a former subsidiary within the Afrozaar group, successfully executed cloud setup, configuration and optimisation.


Content Redistribution and Digital First CMS

We needed to give the group’s traditional publications an opportunity to establish their brands digitally. ‘Migrating Independent’s platforms had to be handled with absolute care. We were dealing with newspaper brands that are over a century old and had never missed a print run,’ says Afrozaar CEO Richard Cheary. We were able to repackage print content within BaobabSuite and auto publish to a branded app and web platform, with minimal impact on people and processes.

We were dealing with newspaper brands that are over a century old and had never missed a print run

Mobile Apps

By choosing to use the MobileAppSuite, we provided the group with a massive advantage in the market, as new mobile title apps could be deployed within a week, which rapidly expanded the group’s mobile distribution and reach. We developed mobile apps that had a digital newsstand facility, allowing each print brand to be represented and ensuring editions were digitally available for download.

Visit the Google Play Store or Apple’s iTunes Store to download the IOL News Mobile app.

Web Platform

As a team, we decided the group’s newspaper titles couldn’t wait until the fully fledged group wide web framework was ready, so we offered a more nimble solution. We fulfilled the role of content API provider to a third party web development team, who designed and built a custom web platform. This allowed for a collection of WordPress sites to be made secure while meeting the standard for a large enterprise media group.


Google DFP
In order for the group to monetise their new digital content, we implemented Google DFP and managed all AdOps tagging across all websites and mobile apps from within Baobab Suite. The team was able to implement adverts across mobile app navigations, web display adverts and pre-roll video adverts within customised branded media streaming players.

Augmented Reality (AR)
We needed to be sure we didn’t cannibalise the print advertising of such a large group. We implemented an in-app AR module that would enrich the print version of newspapers, especially print adverts. It brings print adverts to life, allowing the audience to unlock additional value with a simple scan. Our implementation of AR, Augmenta, is now at the heart of the group’s print advertising commercial upsell strategy.

Play Video

Mobile Journalism

Our mobile file-sharing app, MojoReporter, is now rolled out across all editorial teams, and has been made available as a mobile app plugin, allowing citizen reporters to contribute breaking news. Mobile journalists can now capture video and audio recordings quicker, faster and more safely using the MojoReporter platform, which gets compressed on demand, transferred to a central studio for further processing and immediate publishing across all digital properties and titles.

The Outcome

After a four-year journey we were able to establish a sustainable digital content ecosystem. Over 800 editorial staff across four regional offices rely on our systems’ ability to interoperate and provide the tools they need to do their job, by ensuring easy access to all digital assets. “The quality of Afrozaar’s delivery into Independent was done extremely well,” said Independent News Media’s chief digital officer Anthony Robinson. “We now have the digital foundation to scale our product and service offering across web and mobile.”

We now have the digital foundation to scale our product and service offering across web and mobile

In helping Independent Newspapers transform from a print-centric publisher into a digital-first media group we shaped the suite of products now known as the Publisher’s Toolbox. Along the way we defined the roadmap to a sustainable future for traditional print publishers.

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