Facing off against a silent enemy from within

By Louis Eksteen

As the days flow into one another, we are all increasingly aware of the long-lasting impact of severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus two (SARS-CoV-2), the pathogen that causes coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19). Currently it feels like a hectic and endless battle to not only stay physically and mentally healthy, but to also keep financially secure.

Recently the closures of two major magazine media publishers, Associated Media Publishers (AMP), the publisher responsible for Cosmopolitan and others, as well as Caxton Magazines (Rooi Rose, Garden and Home and many more), reminded me of the wonderful years my fellow Toaster Kim Browne and I spent in the heyday of the magazine world.

We were super lucky to experience magazines in the industry’s glory years. Over time we published a business-to-business marketing magazine, which appeared six times a year, then a monthly, after which we added three weekly magazines. The regime of weekly publishing taught us a thing or two about getting stuff done on tight, unmoveable deadlines. Our mantra became: “The truck leaves at six, our magazines better be on it”.

The printed magazine business also showed us the world. Riding across Bermuda on scooters in the rain, enjoying the best fresh seafood ever in Sydney, drinking incredible jasmine tea on the Great Wall of China, lunch-that-turns-into-dinner in the OXO Tower Restaurant, Bar and Brasserie in London, chicken pot pie and tequila in P.J. Clarke’s, New York. Then there were other adventures too. Riding the goods lift with Shaggy while sneaking into an all-celeb do in Miami, partying with Carmen Electra and Holly Valance, also in Miami, target-shooting cans against the Americans and winning in Arizona (Kim), showing our friends from afar the wonder of Table Mountain and bumping into those same friends over lunch in Paris.

What a jol, as we used to say. Well, that’s when magazines truly were the internet.

I suppose reminiscing like this (and weird dreams, are part of the COVID-19 era. A lot of it has to do with coping, I imagine. A recent, super-informative Teams webinar about current research into present consumer behaviour conducted by InSitesConsulting seems to support this notion.

Humanity is desperate for a way out, a resolution, an end to the nightmare.

Some of the insights from the research include how consumers worldwide miss human contact actions such as a simple comfort hug. Whereas social distancing was super weird at the beginning of lockdown measures, by the start of May people were increasingly comfortable with staying apart and specifically with the wearing of masks. This means “the strange” has become the norm. This is a universal experience shift.

People are using creative ways to stay mentally healthy too. Whether it’s live-broadcasting parody songs from your living room, building intricate puzzles, reading (The Plague by Albert Camus is all but sold out), writing (see my own effort as a song/poem at the end of this article), creating an artfully done virtual family newspaper shared live on Zoom or as a WhatsApped PDF, drawing, remembering the old times and reminiscing big time, falling for a Facebook friend’s challenge to name your best albums, movies, etc, etc.

Collectively, via digital means the world has come together in ways few experienced before. So while it’s obviously an incredibly trying time for all (and things won’t get much better any time soon), a light of inspiration lurks in the dark tunnel.

I truly believe an inflection point such as this should not go to waste. We’ve all quickly adapted to the world Marshall McLuhan saw in the early sixties (The Gutenberg Galaxy). We are exponentially shrinking distance and time through the light of internet connections.

This part of what we’re dealing with is fantastic. When we launched Twisted Toast Digital on 1 April 2011 we thought it would be easy to convince prospective clients of the unique brand value of digitally amplified content published across their own platforms, but it practically took much longer to convince a few early adopters to do this.

Now we are inundated with work in the field of creating, distributing, amplifying and sweating what we have come to call brand content assets. We have supported the hosting of large-scale live launches on Zoom, created a myriad of branded live-streaming opportunities, developed truly inspirational content ideas and executed these, we’re working on a brilliant new podcast concept at present and as I write, we’re in the throes of completing yet another high profile campaign for a popular hosted webinar.

It’s motivating and inspirational to now be tasked with so many executions of dreams we had when we launched nine years ago. We’re ready, able and we can’t get enough.

On the software development side, Altum Systems is in the process of finalising a streaming music concert video app prototype. We’ve increased the speed of rolling out significant new features for apps already in store by, I would guess, tenfold.

We are happy and grateful to be busy. Sure, we’ve lost clients in hospitality, primary education and skills training, but we’ve also gained exciting new business in tertiary education and automated digital investment advice. Next week we’re pitching in a second round to win the business of a forward-thinking commercial law firm. Holding thumbs!

So while financial knocks are inevitable, we remain super positive about the future.

Humanity is in the crosshairs, yes, but we’re coping as best we can, taking each day as it comes, while we are trying to tune in to new opportunities all the while. We’ll all get through this, I’m sure, together digitally and in spirit, with our eyes firmly on a new dawn that will surely come.

Onwards and upwards!

Judgement Day

By Louis Eksteen

They didn’t come from SW19

They didn’t come from another world

They came from within and intended to stay

So let’s sing and play

They came to stay

Sing and play

They came to stay

We’ve been here before

We’ll be here again

As sorrow rises, there’s none to gain

So let’s sing and play

They came to stay

Sing and play

They came to stay

To be the judged

Forever banned

No harm no foul, just live to die

So let’s sing and play

They came to stay

Sing and play

They came to stay

No one to save me

Just one more time

No one to love me…

Redemption’s gone astray

Oh no, oh no, no, no, no

Now come together and pay

Come together and pray

Come together to say

They came to stay; they came to stay