Tshepo Moletsane discovers a new regional newspaper in the Free State with great content, and few ads. He has made it his mission to change that state of affairs. Check out this space for the #Haak Vrystaat media sales monitor.
I have spent the past few days about 380km South of Johannesburg, where my family live. With family comes the occasional shopping trip and this time, it took place in the midst of Mangaung Cultural Festival commonly known as Macufe. Like most people with a passion for the media industry, newspaper stands are one of the first places you visit in a new town or place. I took a peek at the newspaper stand, and compared the women’s magazines and browsed the leading stories with every visit to the local store, irrespective of how many times I found the content monotonous.
It’s an unwritten rule in the industry that once the media bug has bitten, you can’t read a publication without dissecting it: first you look at the headline and front page layout (the index to the publication) and then you scan the advertising. There is a silent monitoring and evaluation within every media owner’s sales executive team, as they begin to add the numbers in preparation for the weekly status meeting, including those of their competitors.
Us media agency people go through the checks and balances of whether the ad is in the right place and whether the competitors’ ads are in a prominent position or not. Then comes the debate of whether a loading fee could have assisted. Advertising agencies will also be doing their checks and balances on looking at issues like repro and colour or whether the right material was placed.
The entire industry worries if all that it sees is content and lack of ads, as that speaks to the state of the industry or publication following the recession or going into what has been called a double dip recession.
I have always said that in print, content is nothing but a hook in building a brand and establishing a following, but the life and blood of the media industry is advertising.
Editorial teams will hold a different view on this one, to the extent that their voice goes beyond editing to making decisions on what goes on the masthead (dare to change the masthead and suddenly the editor is bound to tell you about his brand).
So here I am in the Free State, browsing at the newstand, and buying some hard copy publications to read during my visit. I bought City Press, Sunday Independent, Sunday World, and DRUM magazine. The rest I read online.
And then I bought a title I’m not familiar with: the Free State Times.
I’m told everyone in the Free State knows about this publication, including those living near Lesotho in particular, Ladybrand. And it has great content. But where was the advertising?
So without making ill-informed conclusions I decided to visit Free State Times office and find out exactly what was the reason for lack of ads in their publication, particularly because Mangaung is now a Metropolitan municipality. This is a scenario I’m quite familiar with, as one of the leading Sunday titles suffered the same dilemma: great content, no ads (copy sales will not stop the shut- down of a title and from where I’m sitting copy sales will never rescue a publication).
These are only six points that followed the lengthy discussions I had with Molly Goosen, Free State Times sales and marketing manager:
- Their content is perceived to the an attack on the political administration;
- Their AMPS will only be ready when SAARF releases their next AMPS between December & January 2012;
- Despite how well-read the publication is in the Free State, it is not well marketed to their audience;
- Local businesses associate the paper with growing middle glass and refuse to support skewed market, despite this being the source of their increased earnings;
- Media agencies don’t understand why a new print publication is necessary and chances are none of them care to visit their libraries for their free voucher copies;
- The publication is not only new but it’s competing with Free State heritage brands and community newspapers.
There are definitely remedies for all these challenges. Verified readership will be the first starting point, but for media agencies and direct clients, as with the stock market, this niche publication offers great value for a seven month old publication that is essentially the Free State’s first exclusive provincial newspaper.
With the festive season around the corner, large parts of Free State, Northern Cape and Lesotho will be descending on the Metropolitan all armed with their copies of Free State Times…
The last line definitely has the tone of a sales pitch. And it is. I figure it’s my provincial duty to assist the newspaper; let’s call it my contribution to media freedom or making every day a Nelson Mandela day or a Siwelele moment.
I have personally just challenged myself to contribute to their sales kitty #HaakVrystaat and will request them to include a AMPS clock countdown on their site (www.fstimes.co.za ) & #Haak Vrystaat media sales monitor. So for sales enquiries relating to this provincial newspaper give Molly Goosen a call on 051 412 0000 (Reference #Haak Vrystaat) she will be more than happy to send you rate card and their publication profile and a booking form.