Thought Leader: An Editorial Blog

The South Africa's Mail & Guardian online has been experimenting with new media through their 3-step blogging strategy. The first part of the strategy was the launching of the South African aggregator, Amatomu. The second was a blogging platform, Amagama. An editorial blog, Thought Leader, is the culmination of this 3-step strategy.

Vincent Maher, the Mail & Guardian digital strategist, explains their 3-step blogging strategy:

Thought Leader is the 3rd part of our 3-step blogging strategy. The first was was to aggregate and measure the local blogosphere, which we did via Amatomu. The second was to provide a hosting platform for blogs, which we did via Amagama. The final step, and the most challenging, was to create a hybrid between a group blog and a more traditional opinion and editorial site that we could really throw our reputation behind as a quality news source.
A few people have asked me if there is any method to the madness as we rolled out the previous two products but, as you can see, 1+1+1 > 3 in this case and the 3 sites form a comprehensive approach that not many other SA media have adopted.
Each blog is edited by our editorial team and so are the comments and the intention is for it to become the source for quality blogging in the spheres of politics, economics, society, religion and technology – this will no doubt also spur some robust debate ahead of the elections.
Another thing you may notice is that it features a lot of local blogging talent mixed in with the Mail & Guardian journalists and experts. There can be no doubt that blogging in South Africa has caused an explosion of writing and from this has emerged some real talent [along with some real untalent] and we wanted to help these newcomers get some public exposure and be part of the great debate.

Mathew Buckland, the General Manager, Mail & Guardian Online, announced the launching of the platform calling it an “editorial blog”:

We’ve launched what I call an “editorial blog” platform, called Thought Leader — the third part of our blog strategy, after the amas — and
A key aspect that we were insistent on was that this was an “editorial blog” product. We needed the content to pass through an editor… old-fashioned traditional media style. So all blog content goes through our online editor Riaan Wolmarans. Unlike our other blog products, we needed this because Thought Leader appears strongly under the Mail & Guardian brand, therefore the company is liable, responsible and directly associated with the content. We had the debate internally for months while conceptualising Thought Leader, deciding that all content, whether in a newspaper, a website or blog needs to go through a gate-keeping process if under our brand.

Chilibean described Thought Leader as a “mashup of traditional media and new media“:

Mail & Guardian's Thought Leader blog is quite an interesting mashup of traditional media and new media. The site is basically a really big group blog with about 40 contributors so far. The blog is monitored by Mail & Guardian's online editor, Riaan Wolmarans who pretty much seems to have his hands full making sure the contributions submitted to the blog are safe for publication. The reason for this editorial control makes a lot of sense.
I like the Thought Leader blog and the way it has been put together. If Vincent and Matt add those extra feeds the service will be even more useful. For now, it is early days but I think this one is going to be a goodie going forward. In the meantime, I am going to add one more feed to my list …

Nicharalambous was excited about the new initiative:

am a big fan of the work that M&G have been doing, that’s no secret but I really like this initiative and have been waiting to blog about it for a while. The concept is a simple and effective one.

Ray Hartley, the editor for The Times of South Africa, congratulated Mail & Guardian:

KUDOS to the M&G for launching their Thought Leader blogging platform. Very nice, easy design and a good selection of bloggers ranging from the M&G’s own Matt Buckland and Vincent Maher to the somewhat self-consciously contrarian Ivo Vegter (Mbeki was right to fire Nozizwe).

Bridget McNulty felt honoured when she was invited to be part of Thought Leader:

So I’m really honoured (and a little overwhelmed) to have been invited to be part of Thought Leader – the Mail and Guardian Online’s exclusive new blogging platform (la di da! I hear you say).
Most of the people are blogging on politics and news and sport and the like. I’m blogging on The Novel Life: whimsical observations on the everyday. It’ll be a little like this, only more focused, and only on a Monday and Friday. One for the week, one for the weekend. And it’ll mainly be about novel stuff, and also about observations on everyday life.
Different to this, but also in my voice (obviously).
Come visit me!

Well-known bloggers in the African blogosphere such as White African, Mike Stopforth, and Vinny Lingham are also part of Thought Leader.

The launching of Thought Leader brought back a common debate in the South African blogosphere about “cloning.” Webaddict asked, “Is Thought Leader M&G’s clone?”:

Came accross 41 days ago, submitted it to muti
Wibble is a multi-user, multi-industry blog. If you are a thought leader in your industry open an account NOW
Over at Mail & Gaurdian Vincent Maher & Matthew Buckland have just launched thought leader…
The default plugin that comes or used to come with a Worpdress installation is called Hello Dolly. Dolly, also the name of the first sheep cloned many years ago.
Is it just me or is there something strange happening here?

Stii asked, “So what's the big deal?“:

So, was Wibble the first ever group blog? Did Vince and Matthew clone Wibble? Really, who cares! Did Muti rip off Digg or Reddit? Did Amatomu and Afrigator clone Technorati? Surely that NOT relevant AT ALL as what is important at the end of the day is which service is liked and used more and by whom. THAT is what is relevant IMHO. Not who cloned who and how and why. Wibble does not allow me to comment without having to register. M&G’s Thought Leader does! Guess where I will spend my spare minutes…

Cloning web services is an integral part of the internet’s evolution. If you have a problem with it, you should maybe stop and think for a minute… If you are the creator of the cloned product, then boy! you better watch out… There is a lot of pretty talented people out there and you better stay on top of your game, else you’ll be (God forbid) knocked out by a clone!

While Thought Leader continues to invite more bloggers and draw media attention, Vincent Maher announces: Thought Leader go print:

Usually the way things work in a newspaper is that copy gets written for the print publication and then gets re-purposed for the web. If the publication has a good convergence and integration strategy in place then the final output medium is unspecified at first, but there are not many publications in the world that have this working properly. In parallel, copy gets written for the web product, sometimes in the form of blogs, that seldom finds its way into the print edition. The Times have done this particularly well with their “blogumists”.
This week marks the first week in M&G history where a substantial amount of the Op-Ed section [close to a thousand words in two separate sections] has been dedicated to content that was written specifically for the online product by our readers. Our UGE (User-Generated Editorial) strategy is now in full swing with this, the final link in the chain.
Personally I have longed, for a long time, for the day when online media gets the same level of respect as the printed word. If we online people are honest with ourselves, we have to admit that there is still more authority attached to the printed word, regardless of whether there is a rational basis for it or not. To see Thought Leader go to print, and in such an important section, feels like a seminal moment.


  • […] die neue Strategie des South African Mail & Guardian Online schreibt Ndesanjo Macha. Nachdem die Seite mehrere Phasen durchlaufen sei (darunter mit dem Südafrikanischen […]

  • Mbuyisi Mgibisa

    Mbuyisi Mgibisa

    One of Britain’s most prominent black public figures Trevor Phillips noted how the British Labour Party battled to keep its ‘broad church’ character intact.
    “One of the problems for the Labour’s broad church is that every now and again, a section of the congregation will leap to its feet and shout for a place at the altar,” he wrote in a journal called Marxist Today in 1984.

    Over the years the ANC has been a ‘broad church’. It managed to bring people of all walks of life together and has always been a secular party that encompasses a broad range of ideologies, beliefs and opinions.
    Each of the different strands of ideologies within the tripartite alliance had a place in the ANC’s life.
    The ruling party had proved adept at providing a sufficiently broad church to incorporate a wide range of ideological positions, including embodying inclusive attitudes even towards the dissident social movements.
    Then, Cosatu and the SACP had accepted that the ANC is the leader of the alliance.

    The leftists who were bruised and aggrieved by what they see as the party’s indifference to them and their needs under the leadership of former president Thabo Mbeki have flooded that ANC, guaranteeing themselves a voice at all levels of the party, and possibly government.
    The current leadership of the ANC under Jacob Zuma, unfortunately, has allowed the extreme leftist forces in the alliance to pervade the political discourse of the ANC.
    Over time, centrist and moderate influences within the ANC will die down and the centre will no longer hold.
    Hence there is a great need to form a new secular party that can win a sizeable vote in next year’s general elections. The new alternative party will have to re-assert the ANC’s ‘broad church’ tradition.

    The formation of the new party has opened up a platform for sober young people to form a progressive youth movement that must challenge the ANC Youth League head-on on issues facing the youth generally.
    These sober young minds don’t cherish predictable and self-serving howls like Julius Malema, who hurl insults at other people with a different view, boisterously cussing out them, and even drawing on weapons in the process. Sober young people don’t like leaders who make utterances such as “kill for Zuma” because they understand that dangerous utterances are a threat to peace and democracy. These utterances only provide the kind of drama that is exciting to the media. The youth of this country have larger interests than providing titillation to the media.

    Young people are interested in politics if they are allowed to take up responsibility to serve the poor and reach out to the deserving. Unlike the ANC Youth League leadership, these young people would infuse a lot of positive energy into the body polity.

    The mother body must empower the youth by providing them with representation across the political spectrum spanning local bodies, assembly and Parliament. The new party could be a platform that provides a space for both senior political horses and the youth to co-exist and benefit from each other.

    Self-proclaimed intellectual and political analyst Xolela Mangcu does not believe that a leader like Mosiuoa Lekota is the right person to swing voters against the ANC. He believes that comrade Lekota is highly compromised.
    That is debatable. However, the new party will need a leader who can read the electorate and strike the popular mood. This party leader is not and will not be a populist, but is charming leader who possess a set of core beliefs.

    In order to succeed, the new party must not brand itself as an opposition to the ANC. It must be an alternative voice of reason. One of the biggest disadvantages of being an opposition is the constant temptation to take a quick and easy populist approaches to politics.

    The challenge for the party is coming up with clear and precise ideological orientation.

    The split within the ruling party is long overdue. The ANC cannot remain merely a symbol of liberation.

    The new party must seriously challenge the ANC for power in the next general election and demystify the notion that the ANC embodies the aspirations of the entire population. It must prove that the ANC cannot rule until Jesus Christ comes (aka Jacob Zuma).

    We need a party that will protect our Constitution and other democratic gains since 1994. The ANC split will provide an opportunity to form a fully-fledged political party that distinguishes the dynamics of the government and that of the party.

    Announcing his resignation from the ANC, former Gauteng premier Mbazima Shilowa, said the new party will support the direct election of a president and would call for a constituency-based system where people instead of the party bosses directly elect Members of Partilament (MPs). He said the party’s values would centre on the protection of the constitution, the judiciary and the rule of law.

    In the 10 years, the new party must become the majority of opinion of tomorrow, by engaging in informed debate and persuading people. In 2012, it should have canvassed enough support to challenge the ANC for power.

    For now, the new party must piggyback on the growing public dissatisfaction with the current leadership of the ANC and its youth wing. It must actively canvass the support of the disillusioned middle class.

    The divisive politics that the new leadership of the ANC has perfected has played a major part in the erosion of our democratic values and practices. The ANC will never be the same again.
    The next year’s general elections will provide any opportunity for the so-called “dissidents” to shatter the last semblance of unity in the ANC leading up to the 2009 general elections.

    Brief profile:
    Mbuyisi Mgibisa is a former journalist. Glass beer in one hand, he still writes with the other in his spare time at the comfort of his place in Bramley, Johannesburg.

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