John Farquhar, editor-at-large at Wag the Dog, offers some insights into what’s going down in the media industry right now.
Will local print titles lose out?
In the short term I don’t believe local print titles will lose out to the big bad digital wolf to the same degree as is currently the case in western countries. It will take years before the Internet achieves the same penetration levels in South Africa as they do abroad. Our mass market doesn’t yet have the financial resources to afford the connection.
The strong local print titles in South Africa at present are the suburban free sheets. Besides the fact that they are free, and dropped off in home post boxes, they are also the only impartial source of information about what is happening socially on their doorstep. No other medium publishes local news to the same depth.
Proof that suburbanites do read their local paper is substantiated by the large volume of advertising support they get from retailers, who only advertise in media that generate foot traffic.
Local newspapers are more resilient than many believe. However, they do face a potential competitor Abroad, after pushing city newspapers into a corner, digital is now moving into suburbs and small towns with dedicated local websites.
New research from abroad suggests that their presence is not a catastrophic event, as yet. Local residents are still loyal to the local newspaper for news about people, politics and events. Retailers still believe they pull feet through the door.
The research, however, adds a caveat to this. Local newspapers have to raise the bar in terms of the quality of local news they publish. In addition they need watch the mobile. The mobile, is the wild card in this media mix. In first world countries it is easier to pinpoint where people live and work. Even with RICA I don’t think this will happen in South Africa, given the sloppy attention to detail by government employees.
New gadgets change the language
Notice how little time there is left in a day to enjoy life? Heard the story about a woman having sex, who stops when her cell rings to have a conversation? The reason time seems to fly past in a wink is because we are increasingly being offered new gadgets that keep us in touch with what is happening around us, 24/7. The more information floods our social lives, the more it becomes a drug, a must have, and we become news addicts.
The Yanks have a word for these gadgets: Time Suckers. When you come to think about it, was the conversation you just had important, or just trivial?
The pad as a magazine
As more people are opting to buy a reader and fill its memory with apps, they are buying less hard copy issues of print. Apple, through its iPad, is currently publishing its own magazines, and selling advertising. The advantage of this magazine offers is that it can include video with appropriate content, Travel, auto reviews etc. The quality of the new pads is such that they truly engage the reader. Do readers interact with the ads? According to Sports IIlustrated, the pad edition out-preformed the hard copy version of the issue.
Ebony, the SA failure
The has always been a belief amongst South African exiles, educated in the U.S who returned home after the struggle, that many South Africans not only admired African Americans, but also their culture. So it seemed at the time like a good idea to launch a South African edition of the top magazine Ebony.
After launch and a brief lift these investors lost their money. No sale.
Others, instead of paying royalties, copied the editorial style, and launched magazines as South African products under different titles. They failed too.
The latest title in this class is Destiny Man.
After hiding its circulation from industry scrutiny for two years, Destiny Man now has an ABC audited circulation of 13 507. Yet South Africa’s black male population is around 20-million people, which could suggest that black males are not magazine readers.
As a corollary to this, it is interesting to note that the American Ebony, launched in 1945, could only manage to achieve sales of one million amongst a population of 32 million. According to the latest American ABC data, it missed its guaranteed circulation in 2010 by 20 percent.
Reaching and influencing black South African men through advertising is therefore a tougher proposition than placing a few advertisements in titles aimed at that particular market. Marketers and ad agencies therefore need to use a far broader spectrum media to influence their behaviour. Activation programmes comes to mind as the best option.
Dulux goes local
It is interesting to note that Dulux has dropped is global marketing and communications strategy in favour going local, according to its marketing director. ‘”With paint, it is much easier to build relationships with local distributors and consumers. Particularly, when you speak their language. It is much more difficult to be pals with them with global speak.”