All posts by Arthur Attwell

Arthur is Paperight’s founder and CEO. He oversees Paperight’s overall strategy and its implementation from day to day. He’s also our CTO, working closely with the development team at Realm Digital. (Visit his personal blog at

Project 8: Team build and Infrastructure: closing report

This project established our basic infrastructure for the year. We wanted to:

  • give our core team a sense of security by extending their contracts,
  • expand our freelance and intern team,
  • join industry bodies,
  • cover the cost of accountants,
  • pay for important web-app subscriptions, and
  • secure rent for the office into 2014.

General report-back

This project was meant to a large extent to make infrastructure invisible to the team members: everything is simply in place so we can get on with work. This is just what happened: our team has been able to get on with things in a well organised, comfortable environment, both physically (in the office) and financially (knowing their salaries are sorted). We’re extremely happy with the outcomes of this project overall.

Objectives achieved

Planned: “…focus on scaling [Paperight’s] use. To do that, we have to have a foundation of infrastructure in place for the year, and greater job security for the team. … This will in turn boost Paperight’s efficiency and effectiveness.”

This overall objective was definitely achieved. We have a superb, close knit team who achieve a great deal and are fully committed to our vision.

See below for more detail on specific targets and measures of success.

Objectives not achieved


Measures of success


Planned Outcome
Has our team and infrastructure provided the base we need to accomplish our specific goals during the year? As we’ll show below, our goals changed during the year based on some sensible changes we made to strategies. We essentially achieved goals that are more closely aligned to our strategies, see more below.
When we review our progress every three months, do our predictions here about the team size and structure and tools and memberships align with our users’ needs? (E.g. are we providing sufficient support to and content for our outlets to make them use Paperight more profitably?) We worried that we did not enough outlet support in the team earlier on, but the non-outlet-support team members stepped in to cover for this. For instance, through our each adopting specific outlets, and sharing outlet support calls and emails.
We expect to see:
Our team members enjoying their roles and explicitly happy that they are doing their best work (monitored already by Arthur in monthly one-on-one meetings); Achieved.
New team members fit in well, and do their best work productively as part of the team; Achieved.
Our decisions and prioritisation influenced or affirmed positively by what we learn from PASA and SABA participation; Yes. PASA membership has been especially useful: it’s led to funding to attend Frankfurt and London Book Fairs, and loads of up to date info on the education book sector (including school contact details and publisher leads). So far, SABA membership has been less useful, but had provided bookstore contacts that have been valuable, such as Caxton Books and Juta who are now outlets as a direct result of our attending SABA meetings.
We stay within budget on all line items; Where we have gone over in some line items, we’ve consciously reduced expenditure elsewhere, and kept these changes small and aligned with current strategic priorities.
A significant increase in rights income from licence sales. Achieved. Since Dec 2013 revenue has grown over 40% per month.
We would like to see:
Core team members confident that their team output is increasing in quantity and value because their own recruitment and management skills are improving; Achieved, though always more work to do in this area.
Evidence that our participation in PASA and SABA positively influences these associations’ actions or positions on increasing access to books, especially choosing open rather than closed approaches (e.g. working with photocopy businesses rather than focusing only on restricting them). Getting Juta and Caxton to sign up was a result of SABA participation. We have not had a noticeable effect on PASA, but Arthur was nominated for the board of DALRO (though this has not gone further), which may have been influenced by visibility at PASA-related events.
We would love to see:
Some of our interns excelling to the point that we hire them for full-time contract positions at Paperight; Achieved! Oscar Masinyana, Philippa Dewey  and Marie-Louise Rouget are key members of our team that started as interns during this project.
Our efforts on training reflected in the future scoring on BEE certification; We have not reviewed our BEE scoring yet, but are being careful to record training initiatives (e.g. training sessions for interns), for this and for SDL claims.
A third source of income (after rights fees and Shuttleworth Foundation funding). Nothing concrete here yet, but we’re exploring options.


For Paperight’s company achievements, we set the following goals for ourselves to achieve by August 2013 (using present-tense visualisation):

Goal Outcome
Unisa is using and paying for Paperight to deliver content to its students. We have not made progress here. Still trying to get a meeting with the right people (after several meetings with the wrong people).
We have an alternative funding source (a grant or prize) to the value of R1m. We don’t have this, and have structured our plans and budgets to not need it to get to self-sustainability.
We have won a large award for our work. We won at Tools of Change in New York and London Book Fair, and were congratulated by Parliament.
Paperight has been covered in the New York Times. We didn’t get this exactly, but had great coverage in many places, including Forbes and CNN websites.
We have placed 10 success stories that have emotional impact in the press. When we planned this, we meant success stories about Paperight’s impact on specific individuals. Have did not identify these stories. But we’re still very pleased with the impact of our releases and news in the press (see quarterly reports for media coverage).
We have a Tax Clearance Certificate from SARS. Achieved!
We have more outlets (active printing businesses) than there are bookstores in South Africa (assuming 500 stores). We deliberately decided against growing to this size, choosing rather to focus on quality of service in our existing outlet footprint.
We have 5000 valuable documents on Paperight (more once we’ve automated content prep). We have 1900, but we’re happy that they are good quality. Automated content prep only became live around June 2013, so it has not yet had the impact on content numbers that it might still have.
Internally we may change these goals if our strategy shifts as we learn during the year. As noted above, many of our goals did shift, but we’re happy that they shifted sensibly.



Original budget: R1004313.00

Actual spend: R912555.25

Returned to pool: R91757.75

Item Budget Actual Return to pool Comments
Contract extension: Content manager 160000 144124.78 15875.22
Contract extension: Media manager 140000 126124.78 13875.22
Contract extension: Outlet development manager 140000 126124.78 13875.22
Contract extension: Office manager 154000 144882.56 9117.44
New contract: Content wrangler Nov 2012 – Aug 2013 110000 125947.00 -15947 We gave Oscar a raise to match that of the rest of the team. He had been working with us as an intern initially
Interns (outlet, media, content) 44000 47100.00 -3100
Recruitment costs 2000 0 2000 We decided to make use of free advertising
Content-team freelancers 20000 12720.00 7280
Outlet-team freelancers 20000 20000 We decided to focus on content freelancers
Publisher’s Association (PASA) membership 6000 3120.99 2879.01 We saved on our membership by paying pro-rata
Bookseller’s Association (SABA) membership 3500 1150.00 2350 We saved on our membership by paying pro-rata
Rent 105600 60800.00 44800 We have decided to move the budgeted rent from September to April 2014 into a new pitch
BEE certificate 1653 1653.00 0
Online subscriptions 7200 3815.96 3384.04
Accounting fees 12000 23344.60 -11344.6
Bank charges 3600 4169.23 -569.23 Bank charges increased as we made more sales
Mandatory payroll-related taxes 15000 20765.90 -5765.9 On hiring more staff on contract basis, our payroll expenses increased
Domain registrations 1500 1500 We did not spend anything on domain registrations
Web hosting 2160 2160
Consumable stationery 3000 8373.83 -5373.83
Software 8500 8500 We did not purchase another Adobe
Travel 42000 25113.32 16886.68
Data for remote web access R2600 1977.00 623
Advertising 0 21385.02 -21385.02 We did not budget for marketing for this year initially
Legal fees 0 7362.50 -7362.5 We unexpectedly had to cover ourselves in the event of a court case with New Africa Books
Donations and grants 0 2500.00 -2500
Total R1 004 313 R912555.25 R91757.75


Outputs and deliverables

Planned: “Direct tangible outputs: Team contracts and rental agreements in place. BEE certification. Given that this project underlies all of Paperight’s work, further indirect outputs and IP created include everything we produce over the coming year.”

All achieved.


It’s hard to sum up everything we learned in a year of teamwork. Some team-organisation principles that have served us well over the last year:

  • We don’t have job descriptions, just clear areas of functional authority which are defined in two to three bullet points each;
  • We don’t have reporting lines or bosses/managers. Each team member reports to the rest of the team as a whole (with the CEO having final say where a decision is necessary), and has a guide for one-on-one guidance, idea-bouncing and sharing in confidence. Each team member and guide get out of the office for an open one-on-one chat at least once a month. This is incredibly useful for uncovering anxieties and for celebrating wins.
  • We set goals for the company/team for the year, and then each team member sets goals for three to six months (depending on what their role demands). These are written down on our wiki. (See below for next year’s goals.)
  • We keep a close eye on training, we want to be sure everyone feels they’re learning something in their jobs.
  • Finances are totally transparent to everyone on the team, including salary info. Everyone is expected to understand how we’re doing financially, and where they fit into our financial goals.
  • We have had to actively encourage and ensure open discussion about tough issues: each others’ roles, moral/ethical differences regarding Paperight strategies, social impact vs financial priorities.
  • We have to put in real effort to creating culture around tools: we’ve worked hard to keep people using the wiki, Trello (for project management), Skype for daily interaction, Google Docs, shared files and their backups, and email properly. This requires constant attention and maintenance but is always worth investing in.
  • Shared vocabulary around productivity has been invaluable. In particular, we use the concepts of ‘shipping’ (getting something off your desk) and avoiding ‘thrashing’ and ‘lizard brain’ anxieties and procrastination — borrowed from Seth Godin’s superb talk on ‘Quieting the Lizard Brain’.
  • Our shared vision, ‘Every book within walking distance of every home’ continues to be a key compass point for us, but it does need to be consciously raised from time to time, and actively integrated into our plans and metrics so that it doesn’t get treated as lip-service.
  • Arthur relies on key members of the team to offer leadership as the team grows. These leaders emerge naturally.
  • We’ve been incredibly lucky to have such a great time spirit, and we know that this is something we must nurture, for both our effectiveness and for our enjoyment of what we do.

Team/company goals for Paperight’s next year are much more focused on self-sustainability and impact than last year:

  • We are on target (Y)
  • 100K over Paperight’s cut of target = bonuses paid out to team members (Y)
  • 500-University student survey (at UCT and US): 7/10 students have heard of Paperight (M-L)
  • We’ve reached 5000 students in 50 schools for R500 000 (A)
  • 2000 copies downloaded outside of CBDs (O)
  • R2mil in turnover contributed to South African Businesses (including licenses to publishers and turnover at copyshops) (A)
  • 10 outlets are a pleasure to by a book at (customer wants to come back) (Y)

The initials in brackets show who is primarily responsible for monitoring our performance against these goals during the year.


We will pitch again for further team infrastructure funding out of project funds, and stay on revenue target to be self-sustaining when that runs out.


This has been an excellent year: despite it being extremely hard work, with a mix of disappointments and frustrations, it had more successes and celebrations. This is only possible with a great team that feels secure.

Next steps

The current team will stay in place covered by future project funding.

Project 6: Software phase 2.1 and 2.2: closing report

Project 6, aka Software Phase 2, was written up in three parts:

  • Phase 2, the original pitch
  • Phase 2.1, which was a significant change to the original Project 6 Software Phase 2; and
  • Phase 2.2.

In Project 6 (Software Phase 2), we originally set out to add several new features we believed would be crucial or valuable for

  • automatic PDF layout (to cope with the increasing load of incoming content)
  • mobile-optimised catalogue/browsing site with white-labelling feature
  • integration of major retailer affiliate-link feeds
  • publisher dashboard for sales figures and ability to edit own content
  • incorporate tracking URLs that enable single-sign-on forum access.

Between that pitch and briefing the developers, we changed our priorities based on user feedback and strategic considerations. This resulted in a significant change, where we revised our priority features as follows, referring to them as Software Phase 2.1:

  • 3rd Party Product Integration
  • Product Ownership
  • Publisher Dashboard: Transactions, Payments, Credits widget
  • Find-outlets call to action
  • General Improvements
    • Show PDF file size
    • Country to currency mapping
    • Average default print costs
    • Licensee details capture
    • SEO friendly URLs
    • Suggest a book
    • Licence search
  • PDF Automation
    • HTML to Paperight PDF
    • PDF to Paperight PDF

In 6B/Phase 2.2, we pitched to develop additional, closely related features, referred to collectively as Software Phase 2.2:

  • Site-content management (admins can change text on the site)
  • Preview-document downloads
  • Company User Management: separate ‘company’ registrations form ‘user’ registrations
  • Paperight Staff User Management (different user privileges)
  • Ability to Close/Reopen Accounts
  • Removal of advert space in PDF
  • Hide product-ordering and pricing details from non-logged-in users
  • Revised home page layout
  • HTML to Paperight PDF: further dev on epub imports

General report-back

Overall, this project went very well, thanks to good preparation on our side and great professionalism by Realm Digital. We did change priorities for development during the project, but this was understandable since we need to respond to user feedback as it comes in, especially if it affects our development roadmap while we’re developing.

As with other projects, our only concerns are that we and Realm should find ways to do more testing on older versions of IE (7 and 8) under different circumstances — but that can only really be achieved by seeing the site working on the field and responding.

All of the features developed in this project work well, and almost all have already proven useful or critically important in practice.

Objectives achieved

Planned: “These are important improvements to our product and our infrastructure. In particular: they reduce confusion and uncertainty for users (preview docs, find-outlets); they enable us to refine our messaging continuously in response to user feedback and context (e.g. emphasise topical content, or test different calls to action); they speed up prep of and improve the quality of our documents (epub-to-Paperight PDF); they make clear the distinction between individual users and the companies they represent — companies, not individuals, register on Paperight and deal in licences, and we must make this clear for user clarity and for legal clarity. We want these improvements to lead to higher conversion rates (more copy shops completing transactions, more customers going into Paperight outlets) as a result of clearer messaging, confidence from previews, and more content availability (as a result of our faster content-prep workflow).”

These objectives were all achieved and have proved very important to our work and strategy.

Objectives not achieved


Measures of success

Original pitch

Planned Outcome
Are all our features implemented on time and do they work as planned? Yes.
Do they enable us to learn the lessons we want to learn, particularly around revenue streams? In part. We moved white-label site functionality to a later development phase (phase 3), and have not seen revenue increase there because Postnet are still delaying head-office-level signup. And we’ve now tested and proven that affiliate income (Amazon links) is not a revenue source. So while we have no positive outcomes from the experiments, the lessons have been valuable.
Expect: Ten-fold increase in the rate of adding new content (currently about 50 books a week); Reports from outlets of increased consumer-initiated interest; Some revenue from affiliate links within two months of that feature being live; Publishers updating their own metadata (e.g. descriptions and pricing). As explained further below, increase in rate of adding new content has been closer to two-fold.

We have seen greater consumer-initiated interest at outlets.

No revenue from affiliate links.

We decided not to allow publishers to update their own metadata, and have not seen demand for that feature anyway.

Like: In addition, an increase in rate of outlets and small publishers signing up abroad Outlet signups abroad have not been significant (two or three outlets abroad). However, we’ve seen several small and medium publishers sign up abroad, which has been great.
Love: One large South African publisher contribute a range of books (or a single major text prescribed at a major college or university) because of the availability of single-sign-on tracking URLs. This has not happened yet.


Project 6B pitch (revised original pitch)


Planned Outcome
Are all our features implemented on time and do they work as planned? As with Phase 1 there was some delay over original planned schedule. All features work as planned.
Expect: Ten-fold increase in the rate of adding new content (currently about 50 books a week); Previews being downloaded, and leading to some full purchases; Increased rate of purchased material We have not seen a ten-fold increase. The increase is likely a doubling of speed, which is still very useful. This is largely because it has proved near impossible to automate dealing with the technical differences between content sources, and some human intervention is still required.

Previews are being downloaded; it is not yet clear whether they directly lead to more sales, but anecdotal evidence suggests they do prevent sales of the wrong documents, reducing our customer service burden.

We see an overall increase in purchase rates that may be in part attributed to these software improvements, but can’t be separated from improvements in other areas of the business.

Like: In addition, an increase in rate of outlets and small publishers signing up abroad; Some revenue from affiliate links within two months of that feature being live We’ve seen one or two overseas signups, but no significant increase.

We have seen no revenue from affiliate links. This was not a good use of our resources, though it seemed a very good idea at the time. Worthwhile experiment, though, since we can now exclude affiliate revenue as a revenue source.

Love: One large South African publisher contribute a range of books (or a single major text prescribed at a major college or university) as epubs, and these books being purchased in outlets. The large publishers that have signed up have only given us PDFs so far, because they do not have EPUBs of the books they are giving us. This may still happen in future.



Original budget: R592160.00

Actual spend: R553 641.00

Returned to pool: R38519.00

Item Budget Actual Return to pool Comments
Software phase 2.2 572609.00 534090.00 38519.00 Software expenses up until October 2014 to be carried over to a new budget
Legal expenses 19551.00 19551.00 0
TOTAL 592160.00 553641.00 38519.00


Outputs and deliverables


Planned Outcome
Phase 2.1
3rd Party Product Integration Done. Search results show affiliate links to Amazon products. Has proven that this is NOT a source of revenue, and not as helpful as we hoped.
Product Ownership Done. Critical piece of the puzzle, allows us to link sales to publishers’ earnings automatically, in real time.
Publisher Dashboard: Transactions, Payments, Credits widget Done.
Find-outlets call to action Done.
Show PDF file size Done.
Country to currency mapping Done.
Average default print costs Done.
Licensee details capture Done.
SEO friendly URLs Done.
Suggest a book Done.
Licence search Done.
PDF Automation: HTML to Paperight PDF Done.
PDF Automation: PDF to Paperight PDF Done — extremely useful, and means we no longer require Adobe products in our workflow (except for rare and tricky exceptions)
Phase 2.2
Site-content management (admins can change text on the site) Done. Extremely powerful, has allowed us to fine tune wording from overall messaging to tweaking phrases on tooltips and buttons to increase site usability.
Preview-document downloads Done. Very useful and important feature.
Company User Management: separate ‘company’ registrations from ‘user’ registrations Done.
Paperight Staff User Management (different user privileges) Done.
Ability to Close/Reopen Accounts Done.
Removal of advert space in PDF Done. (Docs can now either support ad space or not.)
Hide product-ordering and pricing details from non-logged-in users Done.
Revised home page layout Done — crucial change, this, reduced dud registrations on the site from dozens a month to almost zero.
HTML to Paperight PDF: further dev on epub imports Done, but epub imports still present problematic issues, related to the wide range of epub structures, so we do not use this feature as much as we thought we would, preferring to work with the HTML extracted from the epub instead where possible.



We and Realm should find ways to do more testing on older versions of IE (7 and 8) under different circumstances — but that can only really be achieved by seeing the site working on the field and responding. But Realm give us two weeks after going live to do final testing, after which most bug fixing is charged for over and above the project fee. The problem is that some problems (esp those with IE) only arise in the field months after release. This is an issue we’re discussing with Realm to find good compromises.


This was a once-off development phase that builds towards Paperight’s overall self-sustainability as a business.


This project went well overall. Some of the features we developed were experiments, and we learned valuable lessons from them even if they weren’t the lessons we were hoping for. We’re pleased with the changes as made midway due to user feedback received at the time.

Next steps

At the time of writing: for software, a phase 3 has been completed and phase 4 is starting.

Project 2: Promotion: closing report

This project was to promote Paperight to outlets and customers as we launch our instant-delivery site.

With this project we wanted to plan and execute a marketing effort to attract new outlets and consumers to use Paperight. Key features of the project plan included:

  • A dedicated outlet-development manager to visit and provide support to outlets;
  • Public advertising of the service (incl. buses, mobile ads, Facebook ads);
  • Mainstream-media coverage (incl. interviews on radio, magazine and newspaper articles, press releases for online reference);
  • Production of an explainer video for our website and others to embed;
  • Production and distribution of a catalogue of Paperight content to 1000 outlets around South Africa, with an emphasis on the Western Cape.

General report-back

We came a very long way under this project, making many twists and turns as we learned by trial and error how best to promote Paperight. It’s a journey that we’re going to be on for some time to come.

Overall, a key learning was that we must help outlets promote themselves as much as, or more than, we promote Paperight itself. And that the only way to reliably make sales in the early days is to create them manually, one by one. You simply can’t dive into advertising till you’ve done the groundwork in person, face to face, hand-holding every sale from start to finish.

We also learned that it’s easy to produce marketing materials that never get used. Under Objectives Achieve below we explain how we fared in each area of the project plan.

Objectives achieved/not achieved

We said: “Paperight’s value is proportional to the number of outlets and customers using it, so promotion is critical as soon as we have a site that can deliver instant PDFs for printing. We need to plan ahead, have the right people in place, and then execute a well-organised marketing campaign.”

For over a year we consistently underestimated how much deliberate, focused planning must go into a marketing plan, and what it would involve. We had a strategy (approach many outlets, and build our profile through PR), but did not build this out into a play-by-play plan. We also thought that we’d run a public advertising campaign, an approach that quickly changed when we realised that we didn’t yet have the outlet footprint or available products required to support that.

As planned, we did bring in a marketing professional, but this wasn’t the right person and we parted ways within a month. We then naively thought we could handle marketing ourselves. It was only when Zoom Advertising did a pro bono marketing-plan workshop with us in June 2013 that we really understood what a marketing plan should be, and hired a dedicated member of the team to create, manage and implement it. This is now in place and doing well.

We said: “We plan to create enough interest that 100 outlets register on Paperight, and 1000 documents are purchased through these outlets over a two-month period.”

It took us just over two months to get to 100 outlets, mostly by visiting them personally. However, 35 of these were duds, not viable as outlets. After three months we had 100 viable outlets registered. Over the first two months we only ‘sold’ (most were free downloads) 100 copies, not 1000. It took us ten months to get to 1000 copies.

We said: “This will also lead to valuable feedback for us, and kickstart the word-of-mouth required for organic outlet and customer growth.”

This was definitely the case, a process that continues today.

Activities planned vs actual

Planned Actual outcome
Approach media contacts, especially in radio and newspapers (broad and community-based), to ask for interviews and articles. We’ve got better and better at this, and now are very effective at getting good PR. PR campaigns are carefully planned and thoroughly executed. But it took us about a year, including hiring a professional for five months (using SAB Foundation funding) to learn how to do it.
Identify key advertising targets, and purchase space. Current key targets are Facebook, Golden Arrow buses and taxis, posters in train stations in Cape Town, and posters for outlet shop windows. We’ve tried Facebook advertising with limited success. We decided against bus advertising, focusing resources instead on producing small-scale advertising for outlets, with generally poor results.
Outsource design of bus-wrap advertising. Not done.
Recruit outlet-development manager. We hired three people for five months: Zukisani, Zimkita and Yazeed. They hit our outlet registrations targets. Yazeed has stayed on under separate projects as business/outlets development manager, and is a crucial member of the team.
Hire in part-time marketing expertise. Our first part-time hire did not work out — we were not happy with performance or approach. We then used these funds to keep on Nick Mulgrew full-time as in-house designer. This has been a crucial role, helping us create very high quality materials and design and copy.
Commission explainer video from Blinktower. We commissioned Sea Monster instead of Blinktower, and are very happy with our explainer video.
Design, print and distribute catalogue of top content. We did this as a poster. We could not distribute the poster properly though, and it quickly became out of date because of the way we included pricing on the poster. The lesson learned was not to print large quantities of posters, but rather the design custom posters per outlet or chain, and let them print them as needed.
Develop outlet-support protocols, processes and scripts. This is an ongoing process. We developed an outlet user guide, outlet introduction/info pack, and various templated scripts and survey questions.


Measures of success

Planned output Planned measure Planned target Actual outcome
Visible adverts and media coverage Claimed visibility numbers (e.g. how many people see a bus?) 1m people It isn’t possible to get a good measure for this. When we planned this measure, it was based on using one major advertising method. We changed our approach to use many targeted methods. We doubt we’ve exposed Paperight to anything close to 1m people.
Explainer video Viewers feel they can use Paperight today; leads people to sign up 8 of 10 viewers we survey say they’d use Paperight in the next month; traffic to the site from video embeds leds to >1min time on site and >2-pages browsing The explainer video is still extremely clear and useful in many contexts, especially pitches to publishers and potential partners. But we have not been able to gather data according to these measures. It’s great that after a year of changed messaging, the explainer is still on message.
User feedback, and outlet-support protocols, processes and scripts Ability to answer queries quickly; common issues converted into improvements and added to dev roadmap Every query solved within 2 minutes of first contact; any query that repeats >10 times converted to roadmap item This has been achieved. Queries that are not instantly resolved only take longer because the customer needs patient handholding. Repeat queries have consistently led to development roadmap items that have been implemented.
Developed list of good media contacts Can we get PR messages out through good channels in future? >20 personal media contacts who’d return our calls We have many more than 20 excellent media contacts now, and get great coverage from press releases.
Top-content catalogue Can outlets use it to entice customers to print? Verified distribution to 800 outlets; positive feedback from 80% of outlets we ask We did not achieve this aim. We have conducted a separate survey (here) of outlet’s use of Paperight posters in general that show low take-up: “Of the 145 surveyed outlets only 28 put up posters.” IMportantly, “of the outlets who put up posters, 70% sold books”.
Better understanding of what works and doesn’t when marketing Paperight What would we do differently next time and why? Clear, ongoing write-up of lessons learned on wiki We are fairly good at this. We have a range of reports and protocol pages on learnings from campaigns. (E.g. the outlet survey mentioned above.)
Expanded user base (customers, publishers, outlet partners) Number of users; frequency of use; revenue per outlet Users: 1000 customers, 100 outlets, 50 rightsholders; frequency: average outlet acquires 1 document/day; total revenue per outlet R500/month. Only after several months did we hit the numbers of 1000 customers, 100 outlets and 50 rightsholders. We have never attained the frequency of 1 doc/day/outlet or R500/month per outlet. However, we have established new, clear revenue targets for the network overall  that have been met for 9 months in a row.


We expected to see customers using the site at the measurable levels listed above. We’d have liked to see all these measures exceeded. We’d have loved to see these measures exceeded but also to discover new ways to develop Paperight that we never thought of.


Original budget: R511500

Actual spend: R489372.37

Returned to pool: 22127.63


Item Budget Actual Return to pool Comments
Outlet Manager 150000 150000 0 3 outlets managers hired for five months.
Travel 45000 35132.96 9867.04 We managed to save on travel these months
Marketing Consultant 50000 50000 0 Some spent on a consultant, remainder used to give Nick Mulgrew a full position.
Advertising 164500 136998.30 27501.7 We kept our advertising costs low, and spent on many small, targeted efforts and experiments, rather than a few big expenses.
Content Manager 84000 84000 0 Tarryn-Anne Anderson
Computers 18000 10580 7420 We managed to save  by buying cheaper equipment
Unbudgeted 0 22661.11 22661.11 Adobe CS5.5, Additional consultant fees, Bank charges
Total 511500 489372.37 22127.63


Outputs and deliverables

Planned Actual outcome
a range of visible adverts and media coverage focused on Cape Town Done! We have developed a large and growing library of ads (posters, flyers, signage etc.) developed by Nick Mulgrew, and keep a running list of extensive media coverage. This project began this work, and we’ve continued it under other projects.
an explainer video we can use indefinitely to show how simple and powerful Paperight is Done. See: and in Xhosa:
outlet-support protocols, processes and scripts, stored on the Paperight wiki Done and ongoing.
a more developed list of good media contacts Done. We have an extensive list of several hundred media contacts. When we put out a press release, we select appropriate contacts from the list, and mail each one separately. High-value contacts get a phone call too.
a top-content catalogue We did this as a poster. It was not as useful as expected, largely because we chose to include pricing information on the poster that went out of date quickly.
a better understanding of what works and doesn’t when marketing Paperight This project began this learning process, but we believe our best marketing messages took well over a year to crystallise.
an expanded user base (customers, publishers, outlet partners) Indeed.
user feedback (good and bad) on which to base future development. Yes. We actively encourage this, and could always do more. Feedback is incredibly valuable and we make sure to take it on board every time.


The most important learning has been that you can’t make marketing up as you go along. Only a year later (under this and separate projects) have we got marketing planning right, after bringing in Zoom Marketing to help. marketing planning requires deliberate focusing on very specific target markets and products. The scary part is choosing what not to do — it always feels like a huge risk to not take every path. But narrowing one’s offering and one’s targets is the only way to be effective

We tried to take too big and wide an approach at the beginning, and it took a long time to realise that narrowing down was important and would take deliberate effort. That narrowing can only be done if you write down and commit to a detailed marketing plan.


Further promotional work will be funded by further Foundation-funded projects until we’re self-sustainable in 2015.


This first promotional project taught us a great deal, which was very valuable. We’re confident we can apply these lessons constructively in future promotional work in ways that grow revenue towards our self-sustainability.

Next steps

Pitch for further promotional funds under a new project, based on our new, detailed marketing plan.


Project 14: Software Development Phase 3: closing report

The third major phase of software development on

  • adding support for VAT (now that Paperight is VAT registered),
  • A5 document downloads and PDF generation,
  • high-res cover downloads (for outlets who want to produce high-end products and their own marketing materials), and
  • improved product workflow and management features.

General report-back

This project went smoothly although there were delays on our side and Realm’s, mainly in the testing stages, where we had to test some complex VAT-support issues around invoices and statements and couldn’t allocate proper time to this. However, the delays did not have a noticeable impact on our business.

Objectives achieved


Objective Aim Outcome
A5 printing Books that are easier to read, leads to greater customer and PR enthusiasm for the end product Done. This has been just as important as we hoped, greatly simplying outlet’s lives. Lots of positive feedback in discussions with users.
High-res cover downloads Lets high-end outlets create attractive front covers and promotional material We’ve seen some take up of this, particularly for promo material (e.g. Juta used these covers for a store poster), not so much for covers (outlets actually find it too much hassle to print a separate jpg as the cover; so we’re addressing this in a future dev project).
VAT support Provide automated VAT-compliant invoices and statements between us, publishers, and outlets. Done. This is a major statutory requirement. No user feedback yet.
Improved PDF generation Speed up the content team’s ability to get documents online, and reduce the file sizes of downloads Done. The new PDF generation workflow is a huge improvement, drastically cutting doc creation time, and resulting in consistently smaller file sizes than in our old InDesign-based workflow.
Improved document management Ability to control a book’s visibility on the site

Ability to change the 80/20 earnings split between Paperight and rightsholders for specific documents



Objectives not achieved


Measures of success


Planned Outcome
First: do the new features function as expected? Yes.
We expect to see A5 documents outselling A4 documents (with the exception of matric exam packs) by 2 to 1. This is hard to measure because we have sold no documents that are available in both A5 and A4 simultaneously. That said, A5 is outselling A4 overall, even though there are far fewer A5 books than A4 available. This is in part because we’ve changed many of our bestsellers from A4-two-up to A5, and removed the two-up option completely.
We would like to see a noticeable increase in revenue, and as importantly, an increase in the number of outlets actively promoting the service to their customers. Our revenue continues to grow on target by over 40% per month on average.
We would love to see traditional booksellers register as outlets, given that we now offer products that ‘look like books’. All of Juta’s 10 stores and Caxton Books (a major supplier to the schools market) have registered. We can’t attribute this directly to A5, but our pitch to them generally is stronger by being able to offer A5.



Original budget: R139080.00

Actual spend: R139080.00

Returned to pool: R0.00

Item Budget Actual Return to pool Comments
Functional specification 6840 6840 0
Software build 3.0 84360 84360 0
Theme support, purchase notification emails, registration form improvement, record and timestamp all logins, company account closure improvments 34200 34200 0
Read only PDF’s, listed publishers titles, outlet GPS locations 13680 13680 0
TOTAL 139080 139080 0


Outputs and deliverables

Functional specification and working software code on


When working on something as complex as multinational VAT support and automated documentation for three-party agency sales (Paperight, publisher, outlet), it’s important that you:

  • write everything down very clearly as you go
  • keep one master document of current thinking in as concise a form as possible (multiple docs or outdated notes are unhelpful and even misleading)
  • work quickly while the discussions and decisions are fresh in the mind.


This was a once-off project. Ongoing maintenance and support will be done on an ad hoc basis with Realm. A future project will move all code to an open-source repository, increasing our options for involving other developers for future maintenance.


Great project, despite some delay (as much ours as Realm’s) and testing issues.

Next steps

We have conducted further development projects with Realm Digital, and will continue to build on an excellent working relationship.

Project 3: 1.0 Software Build: closing report

This project is to build the first release of the current Key technical outputs planned:

  • Complete basic frontend components: landing, registration and profile pages; account-credit-top-up page; catalogue page; licence-purchase page; manage-licences page; manage-metadata page.
  • Complete basic backend components: account-credit management; user-search-and-manage page; doc-search-and-manage page; licence-search-and-manage page; PDF-watermarking (shop name, customer name, date, URL ID).

General report-back

After a great deal of careful planning and briefing, this project went extremely well. It ran a couple of months late, which is not unusual for software projects of this nature. Importantly, we built what we needed and achieved our objectives.

Objectives achieved

Planned: “… contract Realm Digital to build a revenue-generating site that will sell instant, automatic licences with content. … ensure that the site is built to accommodate a database of millions of titles, and a range of future enhancements, including devolved user-management, publisher self-service, and API plugins.”

This was achieved.

Objectives not achieved


Measures of success

Before: “We expect immediately on launch to see outlets respond positively to improvements in speed and ease of using 1.0 over 0.5.”

After: Achieved. Getting outlets to sign up with Paperight at all was much easier after the new site launched.

Before: “we’d like to see them using the site on their own for buying content for customers, for content we haven’t explicitly told them about, and visiting more often per month than they visited 0.5. (Outlets have already used 0.5 without guidance for content they’ve found themselves.”

After: This did happen, and has continued since.

Before: “we’d love to see more than a dozen new outlets registering and using the site based on word of mouth, without our active promotion and guidance. (We’ve already had half a dozen registrations on 0.5. So we are confident of far exceeding this number with 1.0.”

After: We actively signed up 117 outlets within four months. In addition, 15 signed up by word of mouth, slightly exceeding our planned measure.


Original budget: R510000

Actual spend: R509238

Returned to pool: R762

Item Budget Actual Return to pool Comments
Realm Digital Build 510000 509238 762 All done on budget.
Total 510000 509238 762


Outputs and deliverables

Planned: “…the 1.0 site described in supporting documents: the Realm Digital quote and solutions architecture document. The site (a) is faster and lighter than our WordPress prototype, (b) automates a one-click licensing and PDF-delivery process. The IP created will be the designs, code and related documentation that make up the site, and workflow/process documents (hosted on the Paperight wiki,”

This was all completed as planned.


Crucially important to keep regular, clear communication with developers, especially about timing. This project ran late because we let that communication slip early on and had to claw back time later.

Realm Digital is superb at creating clear documentation about agree functionality, process and costings from the beginning. This was immensely valuable, and the kind of professionalism that we expected, given that they are an expensive development company. We would noe expect similar levels of professional planning and execution from any supplier

One are of concern has been cross-platform testing. It only became clear almost a year after this project that Realm were not testing their code as thoroughly as they had led us to believe. We’ve since addressed this with them, but aren’t entirely happy with their level of testing, especially in IE8. This requires ongoing effort to address, and we will agree with Realm in future dev phases, on a case by case basis, how testing is conducted.


This was a once-off project. Under a separate project, we’re moving this and subsequent code to Github under an open licence, which will give us wider options for future improvements and bug fixing.


Great project, despite some timing and testing issues.

Next steps

We have conducted further development projects with Realm Digital, and will continue to build on an excellent working relationship.


Marketing steps up, and we do some backroom plumbing

In the last three months we’ve worked on a range of strategic initiatives:

  • paperight-sponsors-guide_2013111324 Jun 2013: We formally created a model for bulk sales as our ‘Sponsor-a-school campaign/programme’.
  • 27 June 2013: We workshopped a marketing plan with Zoom Advertising (who gave us most of a day of their top execs’ time pro bono), and fleshed it out over July and August into a marketing plan that forms the foundation of our efforts for the next 12 months.
  • 1 Aug 2013: We created and implemented a Facebook conversation plan for Paperight Young Writers’ Anthology. This meant creating several posts for every week, including beautiful graphics, scheduled to publish for the next six weeks on Facebook, all promoting the anthology. You can see the posts on our Facebook page.
  • 5 Aug 2013: We revised our rightsholder agreement, which was received with no negative feedback, and even a nice endorsement from top tech journalist Adam Oxford.
  • 8 Aug 2013: We officially finished Software Development Phase 3. This was a big update that included support for VAT-compliant invoices and statements. (See Dezre’s post on VAT.) It’s not glamorous, but massively useful and important for us, and it was really hard work.
  • 20 Aug 2013: We revised our privacy policy, spurred by some concerned feedback from Pearson who said it needed work. It really did: it was originally drafted by Nick, still an intern at the time, while bleary-eyed on an international flight. Sometimes you just have to get it done even if it’s not perfect!
  • 30 Aug 2013: We created a simple tillpoint checklist for stores. It was hard to do. The simplest things can be the trickiest to make.


Spreading the word

We’ve been getting around:

  • 28 June 2013: I spoke at the Education Week conference in Joburg, arguing that open-license publishing has more in common with commercial publishing than most think.
  • 6 Aug 2013: I went to Gauteng to present at the Accenture Innovation Index Awards (and got through to the finals on 10 Oct!)
  • 4 Jun 2013: In a blog post, I argued that it’s a myth that reading is dying among young people.
  • 26 June 2013: I spoke at Khayelitsha Chamber of Commerce meeting on the need for technology entrepreneurs to focus on simple solutions that solve today’s problems (not tomorrow’s).

RISO on board


We’ve entered into an exciting collaboration with copier manufacturer RISO, where they bundle a funded Paperight account with every colour printer sold to a South African school.

This gives us a powerful mechanism to engage with large schools and colleges, a simple message for the media, and a great tool for getting certain key publishers on board.

Loads of media coverage

(Special highlights in bold)

Our roadmap for the next 3 months

  • Our revenue targets are getting serious, so the focus is on bringing in bulk sales, mostly through getting sponsorships. We’re recruiting a salesperson, but meanwhile (and perhaps beyond), I’m going to focus more of my time on this, and delegating other responsibilities to the team.
  • We have a few more software updates to do: most minor but important tweaks, and one major addition: a much better, fully integrated outlets-finding maps, integrated in the UI with product pages.
  • Get our video production stream up and running with new full-time video intern.

Project 5: Team 2.0: closing report

This project is to extend two existing contracts, create two new positions based on new needs and priorities, and allow us to bring in more interns. In short, it’s a team refinement.

General report-back

This project set out to extend or create positions on the Paperight team:

  • Content Manager (Tarryn’s contract extended)
  • Communications Manager (Nick’s contract extended)
  • Office manager/bookkeeper (new position)
  • Outlet development manager (new position, modified from existing outlet relations manager)
  • Interns (new, two per month)

Extending Nick and Tarryn’s contracts has been an unmitigated success. They’ve continued to produce superb work and to lead thinking in the Paperight team.

For our office manager we hired Dezre Little, who within a few months we gave the broader title of financial manager. Dezre is an incredible member of the team, keeping our finances super organised, driving the process of identifying and appying for awards and funding opportunities, and keeping the office ship shape.

The role of outlet development manager went to Yazeed Peters, who’d been on contract as an Outlets Manager for five months previously. Yazeed has gone from strength to strength, leading the development especially of our relationships with the Jetline and Minuteman Press chains, and establishing our model for bulk school purchasing and book sponsorship.

Our internship model has brought us three more amazing team members: Philippa Dewey as a second Content Manager, Oscar Masinyana, now Reading Communities Manager, and Marie-Louise Rouget, now Marketing Coordinator.

Objectives achieved

Our objectives were:

  • new team structure more effective and streamlined
  • continue building on strengths (such as Tarryn’s impressive content-prep systems, and Nick’s fine design and media work)
  • new approaches to outlet development
  • office manager frees up staff, especially Arthur, from admin to focus their energies on their core responsibilities

These objectives were all achieved.

Objectives not achieved


Measures of success

Before: “We expect to see faster, more focused strategic decisions being made regarding outlets (growth of outlets and use of Paperight by existing outlets). Paperwork and admin will be up to date (nothing should lie unattended for more than a week).”

After: This has been achieved.

Before: “We would like to also see a twofold increase in outlet rate of growth and rate of conversion to paid use of Paperight from late September.”

After: The stats below show that we more than exceeded our targets, but it took more than four months (we didn’t set a timeframe for our measures of success). Note: two outliers do affect the figures: the registration of forty Jetline stores as a chain in June 2012 skews the outlet registrations in May to August 2012; and a single large bulk sale of books in March 2013 has a large effect on the average revenue for January to April.

May to August 2012 (before):

  • Sales per month: $12.83
  • Outlet registrations per month: 31.75 (spike when entire Jetline chain registered at once)
  • Number of outlets starting to download paid books: 5 (average 1.25 per month)

September to December 2012 (immediately after):

  • Sales per month: $22.45
  • Outlet registrations per month: 3.25
  • Number of outlets starting to download paid books: 3 (average 0.75 per month)

January to April 2013 (longer after):

  • Sales per month: $78.23
  • Outlet registrations per month: 11
  • Number of outlets starting to download paid books: 13 (average 3.1 per month)

Before: “We would love to see, in addition, that this team can handle all customer support queries that come in.”

After: Achieved easily.


Original budget: R206500

Actual spend: R200681.87

Returned to pool: R5818.13

Item Budget Actual Return to Pool Comments
Content Manager 48000 48374.34 -374.24 PAYE and UIF
Communications Manager 42000 42374.45 -374.35 PAYE and UIF
Outlet Development Manager 42000 42374.45 -374.35 PAYE and UIF
Office Manager/Bookkeeper 42000 42374.34 -374.24 PAYE and UIF
Job Advertising 1000 0 1000
Laptops for ODM, OMB, Comms Manager 19500 18878.40 621.70
Interns 12000 6306 5694.10
TOTAL 206500 201595.87 5818.13


Outputs and deliverables

Pitched Report
A new team structure and core job descriptions will be formalised. Done. Areas of functional authority are kept for each team member on the Paperight wiki. Team members have reporting lines, which are intended to define ‘job coach’ relationships rather than task-based managerial relationships.
IP creation is minimal: contracts, job ads. Done.
Team members will create IP including strategy docs and project plans, internal admin docs, media and PR docs, designs in posters, flyers, website elements, etc. Ongoing. IP created is stored in our shared Dropbox folders, in Google Docs ( Google Apps accounts), and on our wiki, blog, and social media accounts.



Paperight’s tightly knit, hard-working and productive team is the result of a careful choice of purpose-driven young people, and a supportive environment. As CEO, Arthur reads voraciously on management, and brings this learning to the team as constant, open experiments in running a team and building a business around that.


The team salaries will continue to be supported largely by Foundation funding while we worked towards self-sustainability in early 2015.


We have an excellent team that is continuing to grow in numbers and strength. This team spirit is self-sustaining in the way that a marriage is: as long as its members are willing to put in the work, every member of the team can contribute and be fulfilled doing do.

Next steps

The team is growing, so this is the first of a series of team-building projects at Paperight.

Project 4: Office Infrastructure: closing report

As the team grows, we’re moving to formal office space and setting up infrastructure that enables us to work more effectively.

General report-back

We’re very pleased with our office space and its facilities. EBW and Paperight knit really well together in the office space, and the shared expenses and office maintenance responsibilities have been time and cost effective.

There were a few teething issues to sort out (e.g. blinds not installed, door sticking). But these were easily resolved.

Internet connectivity has been good and stable 99 percent of the time, with limited interruptions.

Storage space and filing systems are still a work in progress. We have found a system that currently works for EBW and Paperight.

Space is becoming quite tight and at present we do not have space for additional Paperight team members without organising more office furniture.

Total office costs did work out higher overall than expected, and EBW has been carrying the extra load. Paperight is paying much less per person for the space than EBW. From September 2013 a new project pitch will include a higher payment for rent, utilities, and contribution to office expenses.

Objectives achieved

The office space provided has been sufficient to house Paperight’s team of eight people. It has also worked well for Paperight meetings. Desk space is now full and if the team grows any bigger we will need to reorganise the office area.

Objectives not achieved

All objectives have been met and the team is very happy with their working environment.

Measures of success

Before: “We expect to see us working efficiently together in a space that suits collaboration and brings an air of comfortable professionalism. Setting up and settling in will be disruptive and have teething issues.”

After: The team have been working well together and have found ways of communication and sharing space that works for everyone. No major teething issues were experienced.

Before: “We’d like to find that existing team members feel more productive in the new space, and settle in quickly with minimum fuss.”

After: The team settled in straight away and productivity definitely increased.

Before: “We’d love to be able to walk in on the first day of occupation and start working; and to feel confident that the office is the ideal place to pitch our services to prospective client organisations.”

After: The team were able to start working straight away, on the same day that they arrived at the office. The team are still happy with the office environment, the view and productivity levels are still high.


Original budget: R106500.00

Actual spend: R92051.64

Returned to pool: R6282.61

Item Budget Actual Return to pool Comments
Office Furniture 7500 7500 0
Rent and costs 88000 82230.27 5769.83
Consumable stationary 5500 5918.89 -418.79
Telephone 5500 4568.23 931.87
TOTAL 106500 100217.39 6282.61


Outputs and deliverables

The office was set up with a combined effort of both Paperight and EBW staff. Paperight has grown during the course of the year and has taken up eight work stations out of a possible ten.


Overall this office set up has been very successful. In future we could look at more shelving and storage space for Paperight’s stationery, legal and accounting records.


The contract for this project has come to an end and has been extended in project 8. The agreement with EBW is still strong and our relationship with the landlord is good.


We are very happy with the results of making this move and have no doubt that it has been extremely beneficial for Paperight.

Next steps

Our lease will continue with EBW in project 8. We have started looking at potential adjustments that can be made within the office to make space for additional team members. We will look at shelving space as well.

Project 13: A guide for UNISA students: closing report

Aim: Create and publish a short book on how to succeed as a UNISA student

General report-back

We set out to develop and publish a guide to studying with UNISA that is much more readable and practical than the existing official UNISA guides. This was an opportunity to market to a large body of UNISA students by partnering with Together We Pass, who have a mailing list of over 25000 students. We also wanted to test and show that Paperight is valuable to UNISA students in particular, as we begin pitching Paperight-as-document-delivery to distance-learning institutions.

We produced a great little book that has been widely distributed by Toegther We Pass, but our own sales have been extremely disappointing: we didn’t sell a single copy through Paperight.

That said, there are no failed experiments: we learned a lot about managing partnerships, open-licensing anxiety/panic, and marketing.

Objectives achieved

Produce a guide that sets a higher standard for readability and concrete value than existing official student guides: student feedback to Together We Pass is positive enough that we’re happy that we achieved this.

Licensed with a CC-BY-SA licence: We did licence openly, and then in a moment of panic of UNISA Press potentially republishing the work (and us then losing the effect of proving our distribution model), we temporarily removed the open licence. With hindsight (now, having not sold any copies through Paperight outlets), we realise that we removed the open licence out of unnecessary paranoia: UNISA Press has bigger fish to fry than republishing our little book. Embarrassingly, we had fallen into exactly the same fearful-thinking trap that so many proprietary publishers do. It’s good to know we’re not immune to this, because now we can look out for it in future.

Objectives not achieved

Sell copies of the guide to at least 500 students around the country within six months of publication: we have not sold a single copy of the guide through Paperight stores.

That said, over 1000 UNISA students received the free ebook version of the book from Together We Pass, and more continue to do so. This is a good contribution to have made, and the book contains lots of good advertising for Paperight.

Measures of success

Before: “We expect to get positive feedback and to sell at least 3000 copies within a year.”

After: Feedback was positive from Together We Pass students, especially in the development phase when TWP gathered direct feedback form many students (whose own tips were then included in the book). However, we did not sell any copies through Paperight. We note, but do not count as sales, that over 1000 students requested a free ebook copy from TWP within four months of launch.

Before: “We would like to sell 5000 copies within a year, and receive positive feedback from UNISA staff who see it.”

After: Not achieved. We are planning to promote the book again in the next year, and to do a  much better job of it. Part of that process will involve getting UNISA staff feedback directly.

Before: “ We would love to see, in addition, this project providing the proof of Paperight’s value to students that convinces a large distance-learning institution (not necessarily UNISA, but perhaps a department within UNISA) to place a large number of materials on Paperight for students, and encouraging those students directly to use Paperight to get their materials.”

After: While our UNISA negotiations continue positively (UNISA Press is currently moving our contract through their legal department), the book has not had a significant effect on those discussions.


Original budget: R40000

Actual spend: R30850

Returned to pool: R9150

Item Budget Actual Return to Pool Comments
Together we Pass Book 40000 30850 9150 An overwriter was not necessary
TOTAL 40000 30850 9150


Outputs and deliverables

Now What? A guide for UNISA students:


We learned a lot about managing partnerships, open-licensing anxiety, and marketing:

  • On managing partnerships: working with Together We Pass was fruitful in product development phase, but we did not work together well on marketing. The root cause was that Paperight and TWP had different aims: Paperight wanted to use TWP’s mailing list to get UNISA students to buy the book from an outlet, while TWP wanted to offer those same students a free ebook to boost their own reputation among those students. TWP sent out marketing messaging (email, website, Twitter etc.) before we had a chance to vet and discuss it with them. So they got what they wanted, and we didn’t. TWP also put out a press release that described us incorrectly as a publisher, and did not provide the messaging we’ve crafted to tell people about our model. We didn’t see this coming, and should have been more proactive right from the start in clarifying and agreeing on the overall partnership marketing strategy. (This learning has directly influenced our MOU with Riso Africa on a copiers-in-school marketing project, where we explicitly provide for each party to see the others’ marketing releases before they are public.) This wasn’t helped by the fact that the personal relationship between our team members and Tabitha Bailey became brittle during the late production process, which in turn meant the relationship didn’t have the positive energy it needed for us to solve the problem together.
  • Open-licensing anxiety/panic: as explained above, we wasted energy worrying over the open licence when we briefly thought UNISA Press liked our book so much they might republish it. At the time, we still expected to distribute lots of copies through Paperight, thereby proving our network’s value to UNISA students. UNISA Press republishing would make that hard to do. However, we hadn’t yet realised that TWP’s free ebook version, and weaknesses in our own marketing, meant that we wouldn’t get to make enough sales to prove our network’s value anyway. In fact, the marketing benefit of having UNISA Press republish our book would have been much greater. Essentially, we panicked: something we must avoid in future.
  • Marketing: this project (along with a few others) was an example of how we have been lazy and/or wishful about marketing. In climbing the marketing learning curve, this project has shown us that we cannot do things in half measures. We’ve since got much more deliberate about planning and executing marketing strategies properly, putting in real effort and full-time team resources. (Our subsequent PR around the Paperight Young Writers’ Anthology is an example of how it’s done properly, and that in turn has informed our bigger marketing plan for 2012–2014.)


We’re planning to relaunch the book as part of our marketing plan for 2013–2014. We’ll control the messaging ourselves (marketing won’t be in partnership with TWP), and develop a more solid marketing plan. We still believe the book will sell in future, but we will need to be smarter about promoting it.


As a team, we’re very disappointed and a little embarrassed byt eh way this project turned out. However, we learned a lot of very valuable lessons that we’ve already putting into practice, and the book still has lots of potential to be valuable in future.

Next steps

Plan relaunch in marketing strategy, and continue to use the book as a touchpoint in our ongoing discussions with UNISA and UNISA Press.


Project 7: Paperight in Live Magazine: closing report

Paperight placed a full-page advert in Live magazine, including a cartoon (as advertorial) developed by the Live team. The issue included mentions of books available on Paperight, pointing readers to Paperight outlets.

The deal also included advertising/content on Live’s mobi website. This was done later as a call for entries to the Paperight Young Writers’ Anthology.

General report-back

Collaboration and execution went smoothly. The full-page ad featured a story-like cartoon, developed by the Live team, of a boy who goes out to buy paperight exam packs at the last minute to study with. Under the cartoon were small ads for two books: Let’s Talk About Varsity and Project H (a graphic novel).

However, we did not notice any discernable impact on Paperight sales as a result of the advert. We suspect this was largely because Paperight’s messaging simply wasn’t effective enough. The advert wasn’t clear enough about what was being offered and how, and we had not made it easy enough to find an outlet for those who did figure out what the ad was offering. It’s also possible the tone and approach of the advert simply wasn’t interesting enough to readers — especially being a studying-related message in the middle of a magazine consumed largely for leisure. In addition, we may simply not have advertised the right products.

We do count it at a very important learning experience. it is possible we will advertise in magazines, and potentially Live mag, again in future. But our messaging will be much clearer.

Objectives achieved/not achieved

Live Magazine wanted to:

  • generate revenue for the magazine
  • give the young production team experience of working to a commercial brief.

Objectives not achieved

Paperight aimed to drive young people to Paperight outlets to get books and documents like exam packs and increase general awareness of the Paperight model and brand. We were not able to find or show evidence that this occurred as a direct result of the advertising.

Measures of success


Measure Report
Benchmark copy shop/outlet activity in the areas where Live is distributed before the August issue is distributed, and track the increase in traffic from August to October 2012. No discernable increase in sales from August to October. Number of completed sales over the 12-week period per week: 39, 40, 19, 20, 14, 40, 18, 13, 6, 6, 30, 29, 32.
We’ll filter by demand for the specific books advertised and reviewed in the magazine. We made consistent sales of matric exam packs over the period, but no discernable increase. We did not sell any copies of Let’s Talk About Varsity and Project H.



  • Any clearly noticeable increase in the rate of outlet sign-ups in the areas where Live is actively distributed (e.g. from 1 per week to 10 per week): not achieved
  • Any clearly noticeable increase in the rate of document purchases (documents advertised in Live tracked separately to others) in the areas where Live is actively distributed: we were not able to distinguish distribution sites and nearby outlets, but did not notice any discernable increase in purchases across our outlets
  • A piece of advertorial produced that feels like a suitable and engaging piece of content for the magazine: We believe the ad fulfilled these objectives.




Paperight: A five-fold increase in the above rates: not achieved




  • reader responses and positive feedback: We are not aware of reader responses to the ad.
  • Paperight satisfied that the piece was well executed: At the time we were happy, though with hindsight having learned a lot since, we’d do it differently now, with a much clearer, starker message, and clearer, join-the-dots instructions on finding an outlet, possibly addresses of one good outlet in each urban centre.



Paperight: A twenty-fold increase in the above rates: Not acheived.




  • Paperight as a repeat customer: Paperight would love to work with Live again, but more likely on a content-based project (mag or video) than an advert.



Original budget: R37500

Actual spend: R37500

Returned to pool: R0

Item Budget Actual Return to pool Comments
Advertising and mobile pages 37500 37500 0
TOTAL 37500 37500 0


Outputs and deliverables

Full page advert in Live designed and published.


As described above, we believe the content of the advert was not clear and stark enough: we’ve learned through this and other experiences that the Paperight model must be explained in starker terms, with a direct connection to a specific product and specific outlets, and preferably a clear price for the product.


This was a once-off project/experiment.


We probably rushed this project, but also were still on a steep learning curve on how to get the Paperight message across clearly. We may try magazine advertising again, but will more likely work on content/advertorial, or advertise in conjunction with a specific outlet chain (e.g. Jetline or PostNet) so that we can point customers to specific places and price points.

Next steps

At Paperight we’re constantly refining our marketing methods and plans, and this learning has contributed a lot to that. We are also talking to Live magazine about collaborating in other ways in future, e.g. in producing video.