The decline in sales of Sunday newspapers is nothing new. But what is interesting is how the newspapers are going into battle to reverse that trend. City Press announced this this week that it was to publish a glossy Sunday magazine. Not only that, but it was outsourcing the production of the title, called ‘i’, to award-winning magazine specialists, New Media.
The first issue of ‘i’ is due this weekend, inserted into the Gauteng and KwaZulu-Natal editions of the paper.
“Media 24 did acknowledge that there isn’t a slew of cases where newspaper people have created successful magazine supplements, which is why they specifically came to ‘magazine specialists’ to do it for them,” admits New Media content director, Clare O’Donoghue. “Our brief was to design a quality high-end lifestyle magazine, and I believe we have created a unique hybrid – a clever consumer-style magazine that is a fit with a smart Sunday newspaper. Filled with leisure reads – entertainment and infotainment – it’s the counterpoint to the hard news of the paper.”
New business director, Andrew Nunneley says City Press were “were bold enough to acknowledge that this could best be done by people who know magazines”.
“I think it’s also very astute of them to realise that by using a partner for this, they could avoid causing any significant disruption to the main paper or any of its existing sections. i Magazine is just a part of their overall strategy and doing it this way allows their team to keep their focus on the other areas of the strategy,” he adds.
It’s not as if Media24, owners of City Press, are complete strangers to New Media. They do, after all, own a 60 percent stake in the publishing company.
As Nunneley says, City Press hasn’t gone into this venture half-cocked, using half measures. The magazine is a “large-format tabloid-size magazine, with quality paper stock. Its inside pages are 60gsm and the cover significantly thicker on 90gsm,” O’Donoghue says. And Nunneley adds “keeping a whiter, thicker paper and not opting for more cost-effective newsprint was critical to the overall strategy of providing a really valuable magazine read”.
That, as any magazine publisher knows, costs a bomb. This, Nunneley confirms, is the reason that ‘i’ Magazine’s initial distribution footprint will only cover Gauteng and KZN. “Using the kind of paper stock mentioned above makes it very hard to get the business model to work on a larger print run – especially as something like this hasn’t really been seen in South Africa before,” says Nunneley. “The intention, therefore, is to launch the magazine and build advertiser demand before rolling it out to a wider audience. Naturally, the intention is to expand to entire print run as soon as possible.”
Nunneley says this weekend’s print run is 120 000 copies. “We naturally hope to see steady growth based on circulation growth for the paper and when we are able to roll out countrywide, the circulation would increase to around 250 000,” he says.
In the meantime, O’Donoghue and her team, more accustomed to working to a monthly deadline, are putting together a kick-ass issue. The cover, says O’Donoghue, will get the magazine off to a “roaring start”.
“At the outset, we were briefed by City Press on what they wanted from this magazine – from a brand perspective and from a commercial and strategic perspective. It was imperative that we not only understood their current reader, but also the future reader of the newspaper and consequently of ‘i’ magazine,” says O’Donoghue.
“The magazine model that we have designed bore all this in mind, and to this end, it required regular consultation with Ferial Haffajee and her team. On an ongoing basis, we are very careful and conscious not to duplicate content (particularly in their current supplement “7”), and while ‘i’ is a brand on it’s own, it must work within City Press. We shall continue to work with the newspaper team around broad planning, but otherwise the production and creation of ‘i’ will run autonomously.”
Technology has enabled a Cape Town-based publishing company to work hand-in-hand with a Johannesburg newspaper. “Thank God for technology – all of it: email, sms-ing, conference calling, FTP sites, Insight and a little bit of telepathy! Fortunately, there is a large dollop of respect and trust from all sides thrown in too,” O’Donoghue laughs.
So what exactly can we expect from the launch issue on Sunday? O’Donoghue answers. “It covers leisure content that readers will want to keep beyond their Sunday morning read. Featuring celebrity, fashion, sport, business, tech, shopping – it features both glamour and gravitas. ‘i’ magazine is a very visual, picture-led magazine (featuring styled, glamorous images), with a beautiful, sophisticated design, supported by solid, smart editorial.’
The magazine’s title was conceived to reflect the confidence of its targeted readers, who are excited to be part of today’s growing, optimistic and multicultural South Africa. ‘i’ is also the universal symbol for information, which is presented in spades with both style and panache.