This week we hear from Abbianca Makoni, a 22-year old journalist who, after completing a four-year apprenticeship at the the Evening Standard, decided to go it alone with own online publication Awallprintss. It shares the voices and stories of under-reported communities around the world, as well as platforming the creative work of different groups across culture, news, arts, music and more. 

In the news roundup we discuss whether publishers need an exit strategy from social media as a whole, Nick Clegg’s appointment to the inner circle of Meta, and Condé Nast posting its first profit in years.

The full transcript will be live here shortly, but for now, here are some highlights:

Getting into journalism via an apprenticeship

When I realised, ‘Oh, I want to be a journalist, I want to do this full time,” I had originally applied to go to university. I was doing my work experience here and there, trying to report for local radio stations while still in school. And I just loved it so much, that part of me just felt like, what if I could just get straight into it? Why do I have to go through the uni route? Because I’m a practical learner as well.

It wasn’t until after my A levels, during that summer period, where I’d been doing more work experience and writing for local publications that I just started searching around the different ways to get into the industry. And that’s when, of course, I came across more apprenticeships and traineeships, which they hadn’t really spoken about at school, actually, because it was so uni-focused. And I was like, “You know what, this is great. I would really love to go down this route.”

Thankfully, I came across the Evening Standard’s opportunity. And funnily enough, it was on the deadline week, and I was like, “Oh, my gosh, I’ve left it too late.” But I sent over my CV – because I had been doing lots of work experience beforehand, and just writing for various people – and then I got the gig thankfully.

Starting Awallprintss

I independently worked on this investigative documentary that was about girls and women being coerced into gangs here in the UK. So I worked on that with a producer friend who was also a camera man, just a two man team! It’s called GXNG GIRLS.

The reception we had from that documentary was just amazing. We spoke to victims, survivors, former gang members, politicians. It was very solution journalism focused. And we had quite a few people, former victims themselves saying like, “This is a really powerful documentary. Thank you for making this, would love more, especially from the perspective of young reporters and just how you’ve done it basically.”

I think from there, I just had this itch. Like you know what, I generally enjoyed this as well and just really digging deep and investigating. And I guess that’s where the thought of potentially starting a publication where it’s focused on really in-depth journalism came from.

A global focus

We try to really report on the underreported stories, or if it has been reported by mainstream media, how can we dig a bit deeper, or find the angles that maybe hasn’t been explored, or has been explored by not much in depth?

For example, with one story we worked on about the rise of crystal meth in South Africa. So we do it in a package. So first part of the story is the issue, how it’s impacting people. And then the second part is, Okay, what is actually being done to try to combat this issue? What are the organisations during, what are the struggles they are experiencing? Still in our story format and as a feature piece, but we’re actually telling the readers, that was the problem. This is how people are trying to solve it. And then the third part is, Okay, but you’ve been trying to solve it, why is it not working? Is the policy a bit messed up? What’s happening, has the government got something to do with it?

So that’s what we mean when we say solutions journalism, because I guess that’s what we can do in our capacity at the moment. We can’t actually launch campaigns and so forth. But hopefully that’s something we’ll do in the long term.

What the younger generation actually wants to read

We made it clear that we focus on upper Gen Z and crossover to millennials, because our readers as well are millennials and our content definitely, I don’t think nine year olds would be reading that. But I feel like sometimes mainstream media does perhaps overemphasise on certain content with the assumption that Gen Z’s will want to read this.

So for example, just a random example, they might over-emphasise on beauty content, for example, because of course, Gen Z women, or Gen Z girls would definitely want to read just that.

But that’s not true. I love crime. I love social affairs. I love investigations. And sometimes, perhaps it’s not as catered towards a Gen Z like myself, if you get what I mean. So I think sometimes there’s this assumption that “Oh, Gen Z must like this, or it’s going to be packaged in this, I wouldn’t say childish, but, way that must cater to Gen Z.”

I interact with so many amazing Gen Z campaigners, activist authors who are doing amazing things and wanted to read about politics and want to read deep dives. I think there’s a lot of assumptions. Sometimes, it’s important to really actually reach out with young audiences and say, look, what are we missing? What can we do better? And you might be surprised what they might tell you.

Main story:

Do publishers need an exit strategy from social media?

  • Publishers were advised in a recent industry newsletter to distance themselves from social media. “Publishers’ investments in social media have not paid off and their credibility is being damaged through association with platforms on which toxic behaviour is widespread,” the newsletter went. “Some advertisers, like Lush, have decided to come out of social media and place their ads with reputable media. Ironically, the rise of fake news is helping to save proper journalism, as people increasingly turn to more trustworthy sources.”
  • There are two issues at play here: firstly, will publishers have their credibility damaged by being on social media? The answer to that (at the moment at least) is a resounding ‘no’. Not all social media platforms have issues with toxicity. To equate them all with having a toxic reputation in the public’s eye is simply not correct. People that really care about toxicity aren’t on the platforms to see which brands are on them. In addition, quality publishers withdrawing from social media will only increase fake news and misinformation.
  • The second issue – is social media worth it for publishers – is a lot more complex.
  • Mark Alker from Singletrackworld got in touch after we published the piece to share his experience. Their Instagram, with over 57k followers has been hacked, but without much change. As a result, he’s been reflecting on whether the time staff spend on social media is worth it or whether they could do something more valuable with that time.

News in brief:

  • Despite the furore over Joe Rogan – and the reported ongoing disquiet within the company about potential solutions – Spotify’s podcasting ambitions are showing no signs of slowing. It has just acquired two podcast adtech companies, Chartable and Podsights – both of which allow access to granular metrics about the success of ads on the platform. With programmatic ad spending on podcasts rising, it’s natural that Spotify would want to get in on that, but it does mean that once again the biggest players in podcasting (no RSS feed…) are buying up the market.
  • British politician Nick Clegg who sold his soul for ‘not-quite-being-in-power- in 2010 in the UK along side pan-faced posh boy David Cameron, but did manage to absolutely trash the reputation of the country’s Liberal party, has been rewarded for three years defending Facebook’s shambolic policy positions with the position of el Presidente, Global affairs. Nick Clegg is basically the face of Meta’s metaverse and now likely to go down in history as not only a failed politician but a failed corporate executive as Meta’s metaverse ambitions slowly, but surely unravel. 
  • Condé Nast has just posted its first profit in years. It obviously didn’t disclose how much, but the company recorded nearly $2 billion in revenue last year, a double-digit percentage increase from 2020, according to the Wall Street Journal. It’s quite a turnaround given they lost $120 million in 2017. Chief Executive Roger Lynch has put a huge amount of effort into streamlining the business since taking charge in 2019, including merging the U.S. and international businesses. Its expanded digital-video offerings and movement towards paywalls for some of its flagship titles has been credited with helping their return to profitability – consumer revenues now account for a quarter of its global revenue.

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