The launch of newspaper titles The Times, Isolezwe ngeSonto and Sondag, is not the only recent newspaper industry development worth noting.
Mary Papayya, secretary-general of the South African National Editors’ Forum (SANEF), says there have been “enormous changes” in the newspaper landscape since mid-2007.
“Young journalists and editors are now given the opportunity to excel, which has resulted in enormous changes in ideas and stories. The voices of the ordinary people are now being reflected. There has been a shift from political reporting to civic public journalism.
“The focus is on the readers and this is a good thing.”
According to Ray Hartley, the editor of The Times, an “incredible relationship with the reader” is key to this newcomer’s progress.
The Avusa daily, launched in June 2007, was initially exclusively distributed to approximately 120,000 of the Sunday Times‘ subscribers. It has since also been made available to non-subscribers.
“When we launched, our objective was to retain the subscribers of the Sunday Times and to attract new subscribers,” says Hartley. “In terms of adspend we had modest plans and we are achieving our adspend targets.”
The Times has been given three years to break even by its management.
“We have accomplished our objectives. We have managed to increase our subscriber base from 120,000 to about 134,000, which is brilliant,” Hartley adds.
According to the latest Audit Bureau of Circulations (ABC) release, the daily has a free circulation of 139,137 and a total paid circulation of 4,369.
In the period January to August 2008, The Times secured R31.4-million in advertising, according to AC Nielsen. “We are still a new newspaper. We don’t have expectations to make large bags of money. But during these tough (economic) times, people seek out reliable information and that’s good for newspapers,” says Hartley.
Papayya is impressed with the title.
“As a daily newspaper it is doing what it should: It is providing an everyday platform. It complements the Sunday Times and it gives readers added value.”
She believes part of its success can be attributed to the fact that The Times is priced right. “The way in which the news is presented is also great; the structure makes for an easy read.”
The Zulu Sunday newspaper from Independent Newspapers was launched in KwaZulu-Natal in March 2008.
Thulani Mbatha, editor of Isolezwe and Isolezwe ngeSonto, says the aim of the title is “to take the daily readers to the weekend read. It is merely an extension of the daily, but it is more lifestyle inclined, with a focus on entertainment and sport.”
The circulation figure for the title is at 45,325 (ABC, July to September 2008). “We have exceeded our expectations: We secured circulation of over 40,000 in six months.”
In terms of adspend, Mbatha says the title is on track. “In the past few editions we have even managed to break even.”
Papayya says Isolezwe ngeSonto has accomplished what it set out to do.
“They clearly studied their audience and are giving them what they want. They also try to produce consistent quality.”
Mbatha considers ILANGA Langesonto to be their biggest competition. “But I do believe that a fair amount of readership is shared. The pie has grown; we have not rattled any competitors yet.”
Isolezwe ngeSonto hopes to achieve circulation of 50,000 by 2009.
Media24’s Afrikaans Sunday tabloid, Sondag, a sister paper to Rapport, City Press and Sunday Sun, was launched in May 2008.
Papayya says the title was well researched and is “well geared towards its niche market”.
Sondag has a circulation of 47,628 (ABC, July to September 2008) and it has secured adspend of R8.7-million from January to August 2008, according to AC Nielsen.
The title was redesigned in September to introduce an “international tabloid look”. In November, it launched a monthly travel supplement, Ritsgids. (Representatives of Sondag failed to respond to an enquiry from The Media.)
On the magazine front, titles including Destiny, Cleo, Psychologies, BLAQUE, INTIMACY and Best Life have been launched since 2007.
Sue Grant-Marshall, a journalist and judge of the Pica Magazine Publishing and Editorial Excellence Awards, says what is offered in general, however, “still falls short of the average South African intellect”.
“The calibre of journalism across the board has deteriorated as journalists continue to be paid less than they are worth. Investigative journalism is suffering due to a lack of training and resources.”
Grant-Marshall says a positive development in the magazine industry in the past 18 months has been the emergence of a number of local titles. “Local is lekker. My heart sings when I see another South African title, as we are a unique country and this uniqueness needs to be reflected in our magazines.”
One such local newcomer, is Destiny, a 50:50 joint venture between Ndalo Media and Media24.
Launched in October 2007, it has a total circulation of 25,936 (total paid: 19,426; ABC, July to September 2008) – a drop from 37,745 in the previous quarter. Khanyi Dhlomo, publisher and editor, says: “We are happy with Destiny‘s performance, particularly considering the current economic environment in South Africa. We are not a massmarket publication.”
Dhlomo believes the title will grow “as this segment grows and as the economic climate improves. Advertisers value the market we are talking to and they too seem to believe that quality is far more important than quantity when you’re talking to the high end of the market.
“They have supported Destiny enthusiastically. As a result we are well ahead of our advertising revenue targets for our first year.” The title secured R4.7-million in advertising for the period January to August 2008, according to AC Nielsen.
In November, Ndalo Media launched a Destiny brand extension: the business and social networking site DestinyConnect ( href=”http://www.destinyconnect.com/”www.destinyconnect.com!_LT_/a).
Says Grant-Marshall: “They have managed to grow the powerful psyche of emerging ‘multi-coloured’ South African women.”
Caxton Magazines launched a women’s title, Cleo, in May 2007.
Tanya Kovarsky, Cleo editor, says the title was launched because Caxton magazines wanted to “provide full coverage of the female English-speaking market of all ages”.
“As there were already well-known international titles in this market, we opted for a magazine that represented younger women of the southern hemisphere and therefore brought in the ACP title from Australia.”
Cleo’s circulation is at 30,241 (total paid: 28,158).
“As Cleo is a new title we are content with its ABC, particularly in light of the recent failures and poor reception of other new launches. While we would always wish for higher circulation and ad revenue, given the current economic climate we are happy with its progress,” says Kovarsky.
Asked about her thoughts on Cleo, Grant-Marshall said: “It’s another imported title, while local titles are dying.”
Media24 launched a South African edition of Psychologies in April 2007.
Editor, Tracy Melass, says after 10 issues (at the time of publication), the title is exceeding expectations.
“Budgeted circulation for the first year was 28,000, while our latest ABC (January to June 2008) was 33,275.”
“I believe we are thriving because of our unique editorial formula, the fact that Psychologies is a magazine for reading, not just leafi ng through, and that discerning women are looking for so much more than the homogeneous offerings of the general interest titles.”
Grant-Marshall welcomes the arrival of Psychologies, because “they have managed to break new ground. Most magazines have a niched section for psychological life. They capitalised on that niche and they did it properly.”
Media in Africa introduced the English version of Afrikaans Christian women’s sex title, INTIEM, entitled INTIMACY, in March 2008.
Managing editor, Liezel van der Merwe, says the goal of the title is to “make a positive difference in marriages and to increase our advertisers’ turnover. We have done brilliantly on this.” She says the title has exceeded advertising targets, but she was not willing to provide exact figures.
The title does not have an ABC figure as yet, but its sister publication, INTIEM, has a circulation of 14,134.
She adds: “So far the magazine is doing well. The English market is much more liberal than the Afrikaans market. Sex is talked about openly in other magazines.”
The past year saw the launch of a number of men’s titles including, BLAQUE. This title, published by independent publishers Blaque Lifestyle, and targeted at the upwardly mobile black man, was introduced in March 2008.
Says the marketing director, Monwabisi Thethe: “At this stage, there is no indication of readership figures or circulation for the title. It is really too early to tell. If the question was built around awareness, then I could say we are securing a significant number of readers.”
Touchline Media launched men’s magazine Best Life in June 2007. Circulation manager, Gillian Chapman, says the title was “hoping to achieve a total circulation of between 15,000 and 17,000 by June this year”. According to the latest ABCs, its circulation is 13,596 (January to June 2008).
She adds: “There are a number of (reasons) for not achieving our newsstand goals. I believe the two biggest factors are the ‘newness’ of the title, coupled with people having less disposable income to spend on luxuries.
“Launching a magazine is always a challenging enterprise given the crowded newsstand, however, it was made even more difficult with the market experiencing a slump soon after launch.”
Editor, Jason Brown, says they have been successful “in maintaining a consistent readership and attracted a synergistic set of advertisers in challenging market conditions. Overall, we believe it is a good result. In the next year our goal is to further entrench the brand through extensions, smart events and continue to build the brand on the newsstand and online.”
Grant-Marshall says Best Life “arrived at the right time, when there was a gap in the market for an intelligent, sophisticated male read”.
The economic climate has changed quite dramatically since most of these print titles were launched. Comments Papayya: “We’ve seen the impact of the economy and advances in technology on the print industry. Media owners need to figure out how they can best provide for the right price. (If they can) they will continue to flourish.”
Where adspend fi gures are not provided in the article, AC Nielsen could not provide them.
Nazley Omar is the content manager of TheMediaOnline ( href=”/”www.themediaonline.co.za!_LT_/a).
- This article first appeared in The Media magazine (December 2008).