South Africa's The Daily Maverick closed down its news operation today (15 April 2024), taking a stand on the financial pressures facing the journalism industry.

It has timed a 24-hour total blackout of its website and social media feeds between the country's series of public inquiries into the market dominance of tech platforms last month and next month's national election on 29 May 2024.

Monday is the heaviest day for traffic on the site. A typical news day sees 50 feature-length, original pieces, plus short-form videos, half a dozen or so newsletters and audio versions of the articles.

"This goes against every single piece of our DNA," say Styli Charalambous, co-founder and CEO of The Daily Maverick.

"It was a bold move that required a lot of rigorous debate."

At a time of widespread news avoidance and reluctance to pay for digital news, what can one news organisation hope to gain from downing tools? Today was a day when power was held less accountable.

The publisher wanted to show the public and policymakers that the value of journalism is at odds with the economics of the business. Journalism can help remove corrupt ministers but revenue streams are not sustainable.

The publication is lobbying to change laws in the country to better support independent journalism, from zero-rating tax on membership revenue to compensating investigation teams for assets removed and fines imposed as a result of their work.

As for outcomes it can more closely monitor and measure, this move aims to boost Daily Maverick's social media reach, gain press for the issue of market dominance, and increase memberships from individuals and businesses.

It is not as simple as turning off a switch, though. Admin and tech staff still needed to work today, and there were a whole host of technical assessments to do from stress-testing the redirect pages to making sure plug-ins and RSS feeds were switched off, too. Paying members were also notified in advance.

Daily Maverick will return at 11:59 pm on 15 April 2024.

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