Helen Jennings is an English journalist, editor, author and consultant turned digital media entrepreneur who is passionate about communicating Africa’s successes. Here is what what she has to say about the newly launched global media brand, Nataal
1. Kindly tell us a bit more about Nataal. What inspired you to create this platform?
Nataal started to take shape over two years ago. I met Sy Alassane through Arise – he modeled for the magazine and I’d written about his debut feature film, Andrew Dosunmu’s Restless City . Sara Hemming was part of the team that created the Diesel/Edun Studio Africa campaign, which Sy also starred in. We three started to talk about Sy’s idea to do a film festival project called Nataal. The team grew, the idea developed and we decided to focus on a global digital platform that would celebrate contemporary African fashion, arts and culture in a fresh and emotive way. The time now feels right to go live with our vision.
2. What differentiates Nataal from other digital media platforms?
There are other great digital platforms out there – StyleHQ being one of them! But what makes Nataal different is its unique visual language that aims to inform, represent and empower. Editorially we’re going against the grain of hit-hungry tit-bits and offering long form features and in-depth interviews. Plus our virtual Gallery is a special curation of inspirational African photography.
3. How do you make the connection between fashion, music, arts and society? Why is this important to you?
There is a big focus on fashion, beauty and style but the visual arts and culture have equal billing. Plus there will be stories on the economy, politics, health, the environment and other social issues. The creative industries do not live in a bubble – they are informed and fueled by the wider world. And you can’t frame a meaningful conversation and debate around Africa without looking at every angle.
4. Tell us a bit about your role as editorial director of Nataal, and what this means on a daily basis. Where does the editorial process start and end for you?
As editorial director, I work closely with the team and contributors to come up with content ideas, commission stories, write features, edit copy and represent the brand at events worldwide. There is no beginning or end: I’m constantly on the hunt for exciting people, places and happenings that feel right for Nataal. Meanwhile Sara has an amazing eye for what makes a photograph sing and brings some world-class image-makers to the table. We bounce off each other really well.
5. Digital media is quite different from print media. Yet it is a fact that we are all part of a revolution driven by digital and mobile technology. Did this effect your decision to develop a digital platform?
I don’t see such a huge difference between the two formats. Both are still valid mediums today and have different strengths and weaknesses. Nataal is starting digitally because this is the best way to reach the widest audience across multiple platforms. With Africa’s high mobile penetration, this is the logical way get our message out there. But I’m also old school in that I still value the joys of a beautifully produced print magazine that allows you to have a physical and more indulgent experience of the brand.
6. In your experience, do you believe that print magazines are finally figuring out what they need to do to stay relevant in the digital age?
Yes. We all have to move with the times and introduce digital solutions to print-first content, such as film and social media.
7. What’s your favorite social media or social scene?
Like most people, I’m addicted to Instagram. Loza Maleombho and Amy Sall are great go-tos but @NataalMedia is building up speed!
8. Fave design publication or website we probably don’t know about?
A new design and global affairs magazine called Ogojiii has recently launched out of Johannesburg. It’s kind of a cross between Monocle and
Wallpaper with an African focus. I wrote the cover feature for the first issue. Check it out.
9. Do you see any big/creative idea driving change within the digital media industry?
The future lies in video. In our swipe swipe age, content is becoming more instantly consumed and moving image is gaining more momentum.
10. Where do you want to see the Nataal brand in the next 5 years?
We will develop into events, e-commerce and print and hope to become a world-renowned media brand.
For more information, visit Nataal or follow Nataal on Instagram & Twitter