There seems to be no end to new media, so we must be in a flourishing industry. Taryn Arnott finds out what’s new, and who we should be looking at this year.
It is a difficult time for media
At once diverse in content and over-traded, the media landscape is being driven forward by new publications and innovative ways of attracting consumers. Many magazines that start, fail. Many go on to develop a loyal readership. Some publications are hanging by a thread, while existing big brands are finding new ways of expanding. Online publications come and go, and innovations and failures in the newspaper industry happen on an almost monthly basis.
In particular, the South African media has seen a trend towards the hyper-local in recent years, with niche publications becoming more popular for publishers. Tanya Schreuder, director of Vizeum South Africa, says that there has been an even further move towards the ‘geo-micro’ this year. The addition of niche print and online publications and brand extensions testify to this.
Publications that focus on particular communities of individuals are increasing in popularity. Publications for unique readers – the intellectual, the music lover, the scholar, the newly wed, the international traveller, or the foreign national – have become the norm. For those readers that just don’t have the time, there is the rise of the news aggregator. Even mainstream consumer publications are zooming in on smaller groups of potential new readers.
“It is bizarre that each year new titles launch when print is under pressure in terms of gaining advertising revenue,” says Schreuder. “The reality is that the pie is not growing, so new titles either cannibalise existing ones or get swallowed up.”
Professor Anton Harber, head of Wits Journalism, says: “There is always space for new innovative publications which add to the market mix and serve a useful niche. The test will lie in whether these titles offer quality and value, and not more schlock (rubbish) in a market already knee-deep in schlock.”
Feel SA is one such magazine, launched in 2011. It has generated a buzz among foreign nationals in South Africa. This English and German-language quarterly targets foreign national readers and companies who want to live, work and invest in South Africa.
Supernova is a new niche educational magazine, providing activities and fun articles “to broaden children’s horizons, and help them become respectful and responsible world citizens”, according to editor Andrea Vermaak.
New lifestyle title, i do magazine, helps engaged and married couples aspiring to family life to make informed decisions about their relationships.
VOILA!, a free print and online publication, uses the concept that women may not be willing to spend as much on magazines, but are willing to pay the amount for the products inside of them. The magazine focuses on local content and style.
Both i do and Feel SA have strong online content to complement their print offerings, allowing their niche communities to develop online too.
“Any publication which does not have at least a medium-term online and social media strategy is doomed. But these can be introduced over time once the print product has tested the market,” says Harber.
Many titles have opted solely for the online route, which offers a low-cost opportunity to build online communities of followers.
Harry Dugmore, MTN chair of media and mobile communication at the School of Journalism and Media Studies at Rhodes University, says that digital media gives magazines a low-cost opportunity of becoming very niche.
“These offer the opportunity to develop content for particular niches where people are passionate about the subjects they follow,” says Dugmore. “It’s all about building a community of interest of dedicated readers.”
Digital flip-through magazine COUP, which launched towards the end of 2010, focuses on impactful individuals in the media, advertising, marketing, PR and communications industries.
Two new free online magazines, Travel Mag SA and Brides Essence Travel, present travellers and honeymooners with an accessible, focused product. Financial magazine WealthWise is a digital flip-through focusing on wealth creation and management.
In one exciting addition, South Africa saw the launch of The Daily Maverick’s daily iPad newspaper, iMaverick. The application (app) was the world’s second English iPad newspaper when it launched. The app offers extended content on and direct access to the intellectual analytical focus covered by The Daily Maverick.
“Tablet penetration in South Africa is small, but it is growing,” says Schreuder. Mining Weekly also launched an international edition for the iPad during 2011. “A future model for magazines will lie in a paperless version,” she says.
Gordon Patterson, group managing director of the Starcom MediaVest Group, says tablet titles will grow as independent publishers targeting the affluent segments become comfortable breaking the print ‘security blanket’ comfort factor. This transition should increase profitability, and innovation to readers.
For the consumer faced with an information overload and suffering from a limited attention span, the news aggregator is a solution. In a brave venture within the South African media landscape, Media24 has provided another means of keeping up with the digital revolution. NewsNow attempts to cut through the information and news overload that South Africans face.
The weekly magazine, which is a news aggregator, offers bite-sized stories that are an average of 120 words each – which can fit on the screen of a smartphone.
While some experts believe there is a market segment for NewsNow, Patterson believes digital platforms offer a more relevant delivery.
Editor of NewsNow, Waldimar Pelser, says that the publication is not “adding a voice to the choir, but listening to the choir”.
In targeting a community of specific consumers, Toys R Us and Woolworths launched additions to the custom magazine stable during 2011.
Mom & Me is available in-store at Toys R Us, and so relies on customers to provide “a solid base to work with”, says Deanne Birkholtz, editor of the magazine.
But W magazine, while sent to Woolworths cardholders and available in-store, is also available on newsstands. “W magazine on newsstands serves to entice customers to become part of the cardholder family of Woolworths,” say account director Helena Gavera and editor Retha Jurgens.
Schreuder believes that these titles will be sustainable if they are truly customer-focused and use the platform to add value and serve the purpose of cross-selling.
It is also interesting to track two new additions to community-focused outlets that have found their feet in 2011.
In July 2010, e.tv launched its very own Afrikaans news programme on kykNET. Andries Cornelissen, news editor at eNuus, says “the 19:00 to 19:30 time slot on kykNET has seen phenomenal growth since eNuus started broadcasting.”
The programming features a balance of human interest, serious news and, as Cornelissen says, “arguably the best rugby coverage that you will find in any TV news bulletin.”
“The addition of this news programme now means that Afrikaans kykNET viewers no longer have to switch channels to stay up-to-date,” says Patterson.
The New Age, however, has not evoked such a positive reaction from the industry.
“Sadly, The New Age has had a minimal effect on the market,” says Harber. It is “hamstrung by the complicated nature of its political origins, meaning that it can’t really take on the tough and interesting issues which make for good journalism”.
Dugmore points out that starting a daily newspaper in South Africa is a bold undertaking, as it requires enormous capital to begin and a lengthy amount of time to build loyalty. “And it is becoming harder and harder, with the phenomenon of social media, to grab attention,” he says.
Ryland Fisher, editor of the paper, says that The New Age is aimed at people who love the country and who are positive about its future.
“It has been a tough year, but the paper has every intention of being around for a long while still,” says Fisher.
The New Age has recently launched Western Cape and KwaZulu-Natal editions. Fisher also says the team hopes to launch a weekend edition, “sooner rather than later”.
“People are always nervous around what is seen as overly political, and the paper is not getting a lot of advertising,” says Schreuder.
While many consumer brands have barely managed through the struggle for consumer attention, some mainstream publications have expanded their markets by taking the bold leap into brand extensions to zoom in on new niche communities. By diversifying their target market, they are able to develop a new revenue stream and attract new advertising.
These are treacherous waters though, as these extensions must enhance the brand, attract new readership and not detract from the main product.
In the Sunday newspaper market, at a time when publications need to be paying attention to a decline in sales, the Sunday Times and City Press have both launched very different campaigns insofar as their brand extensions go.
City Press has launched the glossy i magazine, which Harber refers to as “a bold and interesting intervention”. Harber believes that this has the potential to encourage a more competitive and sharp-edged Sunday paper market.
The glossy magazine is a proven concept in many countries, Harber says. “But none of our Sundays have ever really stuck with the kind of resources and commitment needed to break into this area.”
City Press was reinvented about 18 months ago with the goal of appealing to South Africa’s trendsetters, thought leaders and opinion changers, says Babalwa Shota, assistant editor of City Press.
The Sunday Times, on the other hand, has focused its attention on multiple supplements in addition to its main paper. Food Weekly, Travel Weekly, Home Weekly and Lifestyle are a means of attracting advertisers, says Schreuder.
Dugmore believes that supplements are a necessity for attracting unique readers to Sunday papers. “Supplements take a paper to the point where it is impossible not to buy because there is something for everyone,” he says.
Another interesting addition is Sondag’s English counterpart, Scoop!. Editor Peet Bothma says the Sunday publication will feature some copy share, but will differ in its sport offerings, music and other content. The basic format will include news, entertainment and sports.
Bothma says that there is a gap in the market of about 1.6 million Indian, white and coloured South Africans who do not buy Sunday newspapers. Of the content, he says: “We don’t write politics, we write politicians. We don’t write religion, we write religious leaders.”
But the Sunday paper markets are not the only media segment to heat up with brand extensions.
DEKAT launched a lifestyle magazine show on kykNET in October – DEKAT-TV – which features inserts based on articles in the magazine and by its journalists.
COSMOPOLITAN is giving new young potential readers a taste of the real thing with COSMO on Campus, which is handed out to students for free. The theory, according to Vanessa Raphaely, is that the exposure to the brand will create a buzz and remind new consumers of the brand.
But the more fragmented the media becomes, the harder it becomes to attract revenue, says Schreuder. “But COSMOPOLITAN is a big brand, and COSMO on Campus exposes the brand to a market who may otherwise not have been exposed to it.”
Getaway has also navigated the waters of publication off-shoots. Getaway International, which appeared as an annual in 2011, focuses purely on international travel, allowing the monthly Getaway magazine to focus on South Africa and its immediate neighbours, says Justin Fox, editor of Getaway International.
Another niche market brand extension is being tapped by the local Top Gear magazine. The launch followed the international success of the original Top Gear magazine – a brand extension of the Top Gear television programme.
Local editor, Pierre Steyn, says Top Gear magazine is a men’s lifestyle magazine rooted in motoring.
The magazine will relate to the programme in that Jeremy Clarkson, Richard Hammond and James May will have columns, and the Stig (an anonymous character on Top Gear) will feature too. But content will be focused on the local.
Despite the uncertain future of new publications, there is positivity within the industry about new titles in the media. “Certainly I have the feeling that titles run by publishers rather than printers are faring better,” says Patterson. “Growth in above-the-line sales are cause for celebration, as it bodes well for the future of print in general.”
But whatever this year holds, niche magazines, brand extensions and online platforms will continue to draw new readers and grow the always diversifying market.
This story was first published in The Media magazine.