South African journalism and media face many challenges. Audiences and viewers are spending more time glued to their mobile phones. The South African public broadcaster is in crisis, unable to pay its bills or to fulfill its mandate. Newspaper and advertising sales are in decline and publications are losing readers to the web. Advertising online is not making up for lost income in print and few examples of paywalls appear to be working. As the latest State of the Newsroom Report shows, these economic pressures are also affecting the role of journalism in South Africa and its ability to fulfill its democratic role.

So we believe there is really little alternative but to innovate. And all over the continent there are examples of great innovation. New online titles are launching. In this edition we have an interview with Azad Essa, co-founder of The Daily Vox which has brought new young voices into South African journalism. He tells us some of the lessons he has learnt as an innovator. Journalists have been involved in reshaping journalism by developing and using Open Data portals, first in Kenya and then elsewhere, starting podcasts.

But innovation is difficult, risky and often ends in failure. Some of the research we have been doing over the last few years has demonstrated this. And this is where we hope the JAMLAB Innovation Newsletter can play a role — providing innovators with information, inspiration and networks to support more, and more successful, innovation.

There are two ways we are aiming to contribute.

The first way is through this newsletter, social media and the online magazine where we want to showcase innovations and innovators, share experiences of using new technologies and tools and provide access to research . In this edition we review four video streaming tools which have been used effectively by African journalists to bring live video coverage to online reporting. We also describe how Zimbabwean online media is using satire as an alternative storytelling form. Our goal is not just to publish stories though. We hope to contribute to growing a network of innovators and to help to build a ‘community of practice’ of media makers that can support each other by sharing advice and experience.

The second way is through an ‘accelerator’ programme which we are launching with this first edition of the newsletter. We are looking for South African teams to join us at the new Tshimologong Digital Innovation Zone in Braamfontein for a six month programme including a ‘lean start up’ course, coaching and mentoring from some of the best innovators on the continent; access to investors and funders. So please read more about this unique initiative and apply.

The JamLab innovation newsletter will be in “beta” phase for a while as we find out what people need and want. As Azad says in our interview “if you can get enough people to rally around an idea, you can pretty much do anything together.” We hope we can help more people do more together.

Please join the conversation on twitter or facebook. Or feel free to email us at

Tshepo Tshabalaba, Jamlab Editor and Indra de Lanerolle, Jamlab Director, May 2017

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