Gasant Abarder is the editor of the Cape Argus. Picture: Henk Kruger

Cape Town - The Cape Argus is among three Independent Media titles to have been named as finalists for the prestigious International News Media Association (INMA) Awards 2016.

The Cape Argus, the oldest English news publication in Cape Town, was nominated among the top three in the category: “Best Idea to Encourage Print Readership or Engagement”. Sister newspaper, the isiZulu publication Isolezwe in Durban has been nominated for “Best use of Mobile”, while Independent’s youngest division, MOJO - its mobile journalism unit - which celebrated its first anniversary last week, has been nominated in the category “Best use of Social Media” in the global or national brand group.

The Cape Argus entry centred around its #ShutItDown student collaborative edition, which focused on the #FeesMustFall and #EndOutsourcing student and worker campaigns.

The editor of the Cape Argus, Gasant Abarder, ceded 50 percent of his editorial control to students involved in a nationwide protest against tuition fee increases. The student co-editors produced five news pages and two opinion pages, including an editorial, and had complete control over story selection, picture selection, headlines and captions.

The editor, noting criticism from the South African students that their story was not being told by mainstream news organisations, wanted to give students the opportunity to tell their authentic stories in their own voices.

The project was unprecedented and used as an experiment to test how far newspapers could push the boundaries in order to appeal to existing an new audiences, Abarder said.

The long term results are still in effect today in terms of how the Cape Argus sets its news agenda.

“We have employed this device of storytelling in a number of other scenarios, including the coverage of cultural events that are unique to the region but have never enjoyed prominent coverage in mainstream media,” Abarder said.

In the social media and online space, the interest in the student co-edited edition garnered 69 800 impressions on Twitter, growing the Twitter following by 758 in one day. The newspaper was also flooded with messages of congratulations and well-wishes on social media for its bold approach.

In addition, the edition was also featured in a student protest exhibition in the central business district of Cape Town.

On being shortlisted, Abarder said: “The credit is due to the student co-editors who so professionally represented their peers in this edition of the Cape Argus. We are humbled to be named finalists in this prestigious awards and to be recognised globally by our peers.”

Isolezwe’s shortlisting is thanks to its “Asidlale” (We play together) campaign, which focused on growing the circulation of a vernacular daily newspaper in a world where print is challenged by digital. The newspaper used the USSD (Unstructured Supplementary Service Data) for Mobile (GSM) communication technology normally used to send text, as an entry mechanism to predict bi-weekly soccer results in the South African premier soccer league.

The Asidlale competition enjoyed 160 000 interactions over USSD with 61 000 successful predictions cast by 41 000 unique entrants. This in turn drove newspaper sales to increase by between 4 000 and 4 500 copies per pool day - six percent of the audited circulation figure.

The Mojo unit was shortlisted thanks to its use of social media platforms as storytelling tools to complement the existing print titles.

The objective of Mojo is to introduce fresh, young minds to target a new readership that does not currently exist within the traditional framework using new media tools and a mobile phone.

The unit tells stories using only a mobile phone. It helps bridge the gap between print and digital media by training print journalists and editors on how to use mobile phones to tell stories.

“We create quizzes as an interactive element for readers to take note of current events. We provide ‘food for thought’ content that enables people to see the importance of a story - that exists within their social media consumption. We give minute-by-minute updates of a breaking story using a liveblog format for readers to keep up with what’s going on,” Mojo submitted in its entry.

It’s biggest campaign to date has been the #FeesMustFall coverage, which resulted in 53 674 tweets, 15 471 839 page impressions and 125 064 URL clicks.

Last year, Independent Media won INMA’s Global Innovation Awared for Best in Africa at a ceremony in New York.

This year's awards ceremony will take place in London on May 24.

Cape Argus