While many newspapers are still agonising about “digital first”, it is refreshing to come across a media company that has quietly just stepped into this new arena.

Grubstreet discovered recently that New Media Publishing, the content marketing (custom publishing and communications) business that is 58% owned by Media24, has been running Eat Out on this basis for quite some time and is moving in the same direction with Taste, which it does for Woolworths.

“We’ve had a very good year financially. We’ve had quite a lot of growth… and mostly from digital,” New Media founder and executive director Irna van Zyl told Grubstreet recently. “A lot of the magazines that we do that are quarterly publications in terms of print like the Mediclinic publications, we now do a blog so it’s changed the financial model. It’s the same team but they’re doing so much more.”

The company has what Van Zyl calls a “food hub” around Taste and Eat Out – and it is fast becoming a fully-fledged digital-first operation.

“The Taste and Eat Out teams are going to work together so it will be one digital team,” Van Zyl said. “We’re even reorganising the way the offices sit so that the digital teams and their managing editors will be in the centre of the space. We now do content planning and, from there, it plays out on the different platforms

“We’ve talked about this for a long time – that we would have a content bucket that would play out on the different platforms. But in reality it hasn’t quite worked like that whereas now it is a true digital-first strategy.”

Anelde Greeff, the content director for Eat Out, has been running that brand as a digital-first operation for three years and she has now taken on the Taste digital strategy as part of this food hub.

In a recent month, the company told Grubstreet, Eat Out’s website pulled in 804 110 page impressions and 203 849 unique browsers while Taste’s website got 193 959 page impressions and 37 979 unique browsers.

New Media also does Visi magazine and its clients include Mercedes-Benz, Plascon, Ackermans, FNB, MultiChoice and Sanlam.

New Media Publishing was founded by Van Zyl, a former journalist of Die Burger, and John Psillos in 1988 and this year it netted the award for the most profitable unit at the Media24 internal awards. It also picked up five Pica magazine awards and four Pearl Awards in New York recently.

“It’s about content, ” says Van Zyl, “and it doesn’t really matter how that content plays out. Does it play out as a video or a website or a newsletter or magazine or a newspaper for a client?

“What has helped us is that three or fours years ago, when no one was talking about ‘content marketing’, our MD, Bridget McCarney, brought someone out from the UK to South Africa to train us in content marketing.

“About 20 or 30 of us sat in a room for three days and encountered this phrase for the first time and were trained in it. That started to swing our heads and we did more training about six months later. Bridget really pushed to take us into a different arena. We’ve always been very sound financially but I think the recent growth we’ve experienced has come from that preparation and foresight.”

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