The witness celebrates 175 years of streaming news on February 27, 2021, securing its place as the oldest daily news platform in South Africa. In the media world, such a step is not reached without a clear purpose and a well-developed ability to adapt to an evolving ecosystem.
Since 1846, The witness is committed to delivering “the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth” to its readers. The witness Editor-in-Chief Stephanie Saville explains, âOur audiences rely on us knowing KwaZulu-Natal well and they know the news we produce will be relevant and important. Â»Readers see The witness as a champion of daily issues of local and provincial importance; Saville says, âWe take our watchdog role very seriously and regularly investigate and expose issues where government and local government have let their people down or where active corruption has taken place.
The witness balances survey coverage by highlighting what is good in the province and giving credit where it is due. Many articles presented the good work done by the Pietermaritzburg-based international aid organization Gift of the Gives, both nationally and abroad.
The witness seeks to give its readers the knowledge they need to make important decisions in their lives: where to buy a house or whether to invest in a generator to deal with power outages.
Adapting to the times leads to growth
The consumption of information went from the newspaper to the computer screen and then to the mobile phone; readers want access to the events and stories around them, where they live, in real time. Thus, on October 1, 2020, The witness launched its new digital presence with impressive results: In just three months, its average daily unique browsers and pageviews quadrupled according to narrative data. On mobile, desktop and social media platforms, it has reached a digital footprint of 1,741,095. That number continues to grow.
This growth continues as the publication promotes its content on the social media sites of a multitude of local Media24 newspapers across the province, drawing audiences from across KZN. By December 2020, The witness had attracted more than double the number of unique browsers than competing local news and radio brands closest to KZN.
However, January narrative figures show that 28.73% of unique browsers are in KwaZulu-Natal; most of it is in Gauteng (36.17%) and the Western Cape (14.80%). With KZN being one of the largest and most influential provinces, the adoption of political stories nationwide has been strong.
Online audiences are younger than their print counterparts; they want the latest news as it happens and are always on their phones checking in. They want to be part of the conversation around the news and enjoy sharing, tweeting and commenting on stories. They also want to be able to read an opinion piece or watch the cartoons and download the puzzles.
The print media audience, largely made up of traditional subscribers to older readers, have time to read a newspaper at their leisure; they want news, features, and in-depth thinking.