Giving Its Readers A “Voice” Is The Mission Behind Kuier Magazine – The Number Five Magazine In South Africa.May 9, 2014
Kuier Translates To The Word Visit In English And Never Has A Print Product Been So Apropos Of Its Name – The Mr. Magazine™ Interview With Kay Karriem – Editor-In-Chief – Kuier Magazine…
“Because our philosophy is we don’t want to be the best magazine in South Africa, if you are looking for the best magazine in South Africa, Kuier is not it. We do not want to be it, nor do we aspire to be it. We want to be your favorite magazine.”… Kay Karriem
Cape Town, South Africa: First of its kind in South Africa, Kuier Magazine exists to give readers practical and realistic advice on everyday things like finance, careers, relationships, parenting and health. Affordable and relevant is their mantra.
Kay Karriem is Editor-In-Chief and believes so strongly in the down-to-earth approachability of her community-based print product; she has no doubt about its continuing growth. Today it is the fifth most popular magazine in the country. But by tomorrow, who knows! If its Editor-In-Chief’s enthusiasm is any indicator, the magazine will surpass its current placement very quickly.
On a recent trip to South Africa, I spoke with Kay about Kuier magazine, and learned a tremendous amount about loyalty to the audience and a cluster community of readership unlike anything most of us have ever known.
So sit back and enjoy the Mr. Magazine™ conversation with the Editor-In-Chief of Kuier Magazine, Kay Karriem…
But first the sound-bites…
On why she believes the magazine is growing with readers so quickly: You know Kuier in itself is a mission. It’s not just a magazine, it’s a statement about South Africa and it’s not just for enjoyment, it means something, because Kuier is the first of its kind.
On keeping her finger on the pulse of the magazine’s audience: I don’t want to sound like it’s simple, but in a way it is simple, because the kind of woman that I write this magazine for; she is my mother, she is my grandmother or my aunt because they all need it and they all have something to say about it.
On whether she believes the magazine’s popularity has grown due to its message or the lack of that message up until Kuier: Definitely it’s a combination. Once you’re fulfilling the message and the gap, people start to look at the other products out there that they have been buying and ask: why haven’t you been talking to me?
On her stance about the digital side of the magazine: So we said goodbye website and we launched a mobile site instead where we, in our philosophy, take Kuier the brand to the platforms, not content.
On the biggest stumbling block she’s faced: I would say the advertising sales department because as much as I believe in this market and the size of this market, our target market, they are not very attractive to advertisers because in the country’s history it is a true wisdom of economic power; where does the money lie?
On her most pleasant surprise: To have people come up to me and ask: do you know what a difference this has made in my life? Just to know Kuier has made that difference in their lives is wonderful.
On what keeps her up at night: It’s my team. I worry for them. Because they believe in the vision and the work we do and why we do it, so I worry about them.
Samir Husni: You’re the editor of one of the fastest growing magazines in South Africa; could you tell me a little about it and tell me why you think the printed magazine is growing so fast?
Kay Karriem: You know Kuier in itself is a mission. It’s not just a magazine, it’s a statement about South Africa and it’s not just for enjoyment, it means something, because Kuier is the first of its kind. It came into being at an opportune time in the history of South Africa; there was nothing like it before in the community and people adopted it because it made them feel like there was finally something for them. So it immediately changed the media landscape. And the community, which was the target market it was for, they took ownership of it immediately as well. We did no marketing, per se, of the magazine to sell it to the community. Once they took it up, they were the marketers and they sold the magazine. They would tell their neighbor: did you see this? And that’s how the magazine became so popular, by word of mouth.
It went from a nothing magazine, to number five in the country through the people who read it. All our events, our Mother’s Day event is coming up, the tickets sold out within an hour and people called and complained by saying why couldn’t I get a ticket and why are the events so small, because it is very important for them to be at our events, due to the fact that they are geared specifically for them. Everything in the magazine is for them. They get that feeling and it’s their magazine. We didn’t have to sell that message, we didn’t have to sell this is for them, they can see for themselves that the recipes and fashions are for them and the stories are about them and they could feel that and it became their mission with us to make it a go.
Samir Husni: You’re so passionate about this magazine and your passion is reflected on the pages of the magazine. How do you keep your finger on the pulse of that audience who thinks this is their magazine and they are the ones promoting it?
Kay Karriem: I don’t want to sound like it’s simple, but in a way it is simple, because the kind of woman that I write this magazine for; she is my mother, she is my grandmother or my aunt because they all need it and they all have something to say about it. And what they should do next.
Every time I go home they come with the magazine and they tell me that was a good story or they ask me, why did you do this? And they even comment on my lead-ins, because sometimes I write about my family and they will ask, why did you say this? Your grandmother never did this. They comment and stay so involved in it.
So I know what’s going on their lives and their struggles and I reflect that in the magazine. So in a way it is easy, because we talk about what’s happening right now in their lives and communities. And that’s how I knew what was missing for so long, because no one ever took the time to say this is a valuable community and it is a community that needs to be served. Their voices need to be heard and their stories need to be told in the magazine, because they were ignored for so long.
That’s why our team always talks about the service we offer everybody, we are in the service industry, how can the consumer feel valued, when they’ve never been valued before. So we take time to listen. Customer service is very big. Even though we ourselves are not directly involved in customer service, we have a team that takes care of that, we do answer them on Facebook to service the needs of our customers. We feel that they need to be heard and they’ve never had that kind of service before. So that is the cornerstone of Kuier.
Samir Husni: Because of the growth of the magazine and in reaching the number five spot; do you think that mainly happened because of the message or the lack of the message for years and now people are hungry for it?
Kay Karriem: Definitely it’s a combination. Once you’re fulfilling the message and the gap, people start to look at the other products out there that they have been buying and ask: why haven’t you been talking to me? I’ve been buying you and have been loyal to you, so why aren’t you talking to me in my language about the topics that matter to me? I have been buying your excuses for years, but now someone else is printing that I am number one. At Kuier, we treat our target market like they are the main dish, where others treat them like a side dish. And people see that.
And also now in the economic times that we’re all in, we contribute through the middle class market, while everyone else is into the upscale market. They want to be glossier and aspire more; no one wants to look cheap. And I always say there’s a big difference between cheap and affordable. And we want to be affordable. We want to talk to people on that level.
Kuier has two points in the market: the cultural point, which is the mixed race market and the economic point; all of a sudden there are areas in five or six middle class that have become your attractive markets and then there is the other market, which is upwardly mobile, and they’re going to become yours as they move, so we want them now and for them to become loyal to us.
And they need affordability. And they can’t afford these products that are going higher and higher by the day because they are chasing profit margins. So, whoever is very unattractive to everybody else is very attractive to us. Because our philosophy is we don’t want to be the best magazine in South Africa, if you are looking for the best magazine in South Africa, Kuier is not it. We do not want to be it, nor do we aspire to be it. We want to be your favorite magazine. Because that’s the one you keep coming back to.
Samir Husni: Are you afraid of the digital side of the business?
Kay Karriem: Absolutely not. At Kuier we were the first, because we are so budget conscious and in tune with our market, we never had money and we would put a website on and we would get knocked down because everybody believed our market did not have access to the Internet. And with the cost, we just didn’t have money for a website.
So we had to come up with a solution on whether we wanted digital in our spectrum. So we said we do not want a website, cancel the website.
We decided that the technology our market has the most access to, and yes, they do have Internet, but a website isn’t the best solution, our market has their cell phones everywhere. The first digital option shouldn’t be mobile, as in an iPad tablet, it should be mobile as in a phone.
So we said goodbye website and we launched a mobile site instead where we, in our philosophy, take Kuier the brand to the platforms, not content. So you don’t have the same content on the mobile site that you have in the magazine and on Facebook, but the brand values are the same across all the platforms.
So for example we would have, and we call it Mini-Kuier because you take it everywhere with you, these questions, like: how has the mobile phone changed our physical behavior and we came up with people sitting on trains and doing this and we demonstrate the thumbs and the posture of texting, when they’re not talking on their phones and we wanted to give them something. And we’re not a news source, so we’re not giving them news updates.
But what is our brand about? It’s about people, engagement and community. So we wanted those things to be on the mobile site as well. And our recipes are very popular, so we give them recipes. Something you can pick up on your way to work and make in the same day.
People are creatures of habit. So if you are traveling the train or bus every day, we give you a short story or a chapter of a book to read, so you can do it with us daily and it’s a habitual thing. But that you don’t find on our Facebook or in the magazine, only on our mobile. That’s one thing we don’t do is repeat content. Each platform is its own unique property. So this is where we see the growth of the brand, in the digital format.
Samir Husni: What has been the biggest stumbling block that has faced you in your career with the magazine?
Kay Karriem: I would say the advertising sales department because as much as I believe in this market and the size of this market, our target market, they are not very attractive to advertisers because in the country’s history it is a true wisdom of economic power; where does the money lie? The old money is white, the new money is black African, so somewhere in the middle and not a very attractive proposition, is the mixed race audience and you have to do so much convincing that the mass middle class market is upwardly mobile and that this market can’t go down.
Everything shows that over the past 20 years that market has grown, not just in numbers, but also economically. And they don’t want to be talked to as just a mixed race market, they are saying if you want our money, talk to us in a different way. We are strong economically, so if you want our money talk to us and not just as a part of something else. So convincing advertisers that yes, this is a viable, growing market, can be tough.
Samir Husni: What has been the most pleasant surprise?
Kay Karriem: To have people come up to me and ask: do you know what a difference this has made in my life? Just to know Kuier has made that difference in their lives is wonderful.
And you can ask anyone on the team, they can’t go into stores without people recognizing them as associates of Kuier. They recognize everyone on the team.
And people love sharing their stories with us and we encourage that. Our stories are very personal and people recognize our team because of that sense of community. It extends to the staff and we love it when people come up to us and tell us that we have changed their lives.
Samir Husni: My typical last question, what keeps you up at night?
Kay Karriem: It’s my team. I worry for them. Because they believe in the vision and the work we do and why we do it, so I worry about them. We are here to change the South African media, not just set and accomplish goals. It’s never had a Kuier.
We believe so strongly in our magazine that we sometimes call it the Church of Kuier. We’re not just here to draw a paycheck; we have a mission in life. And my team and I are in it together. And that mission is our driving force.
Samir Husni: Thank you.
© Samir “Mr. Magazine™” Husni, 2014 All Rights Reserved.
Truth in Reporting: Kuier magazine is published by Media 24 in South Africa, a media company that I consult for. This interview is not related to my consulting role, but rather giving my readers a better understanding of the magazine and magazine media marketplace in South Africa. This is the second of four interviews.