Television company

Speech by BizNews founder Alec Hogg at the company’s 9th anniversary celebration

Colleagues, business partners and friends,

At BizNews, we like to celebrate milestones. It gives us the opportunity to breathe, reflect, and be grateful for accomplishments that might otherwise be taken for granted.

The very first day of our website was 5e August 2013. Like any new baby, he was nine months pregnant, having been conceived in late October 2012 when I was forced to abandon Moneyweb, a 15-year project that was to be my life’s work.

Looking back, it was a blessing to have left the publishing pioneer started above the garage of our Parkview home. Nothing beats the ability to work from a clean page.

The best address we could find was biznewz.biz. It took months and considerable investment to secure BizNews.com from Russian entrepreneurs who seem to specialize in this type of business.

My forecast when we launched nine years ago today was that eventually we could drive 50,000 people a month to visit the website. Last month Google told us that we had 371,900 unique users visiting the site. A few times over the years when an article has gone viral, we’ve even had over a million hits in a month.

As impressive as these bald stats look to the untrained eye, they aren’t really relevant. In our industry, the Holy Grail is engagement, loyalty, and interaction with your community, the BizNews Tribe as we call them.

Which brings me to a change in our strategy that happened just six weeks ago on June 23rd to be precise. Since then, our fortunes have taken a huge turn for the better. The data doesn’t lie.

I have long been an admirer of SA’s world-class strategy guru, Tony Manning. He offered upfront, honest, bullshit-free advice over informal lunches – insights that always made a difference. But with our 10e anniversary in just over a year and with many dilemmas on the table, we decided to make the investment to hire Tony professionally.

Over the past nine years, there have been many forks in the road to BizNews. But none, literally none, have been as critical as the change we made as a result of Tony’s advice.

Without going into details, he took us back on the road that gave us incredible success. Tony explained – somewhat bluntly as is sometimes his way – that we distract our most important assets by loading them with non-productive responsibilities. In particular, myself, Michael Appel and Nadya Swart.

Within days, we handed over our management responsibilities to the team of Jeanette, Stuart, Clive and Lucy – and were freed up to focus on content production. The result was spectacular. Especially in areas where we see a huge future – video and audio on demand.

Last month, our YouTube channel surpassed 50,000 subscribers, confirming its dominance as South Africa’s leading commercial channel. We are a quantum above the competition – not only in number of subscribers, but in engagement, measured by the average number of views per video.

The total number of engagements is even more exciting. In April, May and June, the BizNews TV channel posted a very respectable 1.5 million committed minutes for the month. Switching Mike, Nadya and me to focus on reporter interviews, that number jumped to 5.3 million minutes in July.

Growth is also reflected in reach. In April, BizNews TV had 73,000 unique viewers. This figure rose to 88,000 in May and crossed the 100,000 mark for the first time in June. Last month, our content was seen by 270,300 people. Measurable too, by YouTube, not the thumb sucks we’re used to from unmeasurable network TV.

Podcasts are a poor cousin, in terms of numbers, but due to direct engagement, we see this on-demand audio vehicle as a critical area for our future growth. The shift in focus had an immediate impact, with BizNews Radio growing from 38,000 individual downloads in May and 50,000 in June to 98,800 in July. The channel is now firmly in the Spotify SA Charts Top 10 News & Politics Podcasts, vying with Gareth Cliff for one of only two positions – we alternate between 8e and 9e – occupied by products made in South Africa.

There’s a similar story on the website, with BizNews.com engaged minutes jumping from 500,000 in May and 560,000 in June to over 800,000 in July.

I share this detail only to point out that although we have long believed in putting our community at the center of our existence, sometimes we have not followed this in internal processes.

Being reminded that our tribe doesn’t really care how many management meetings we have made a huge difference. They love BizNews for its content. And that’s something we’ll never forget. Still.

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