The Cape Argus is NOT going to close down. Many a media pundit has expressed the opinion that the venerable old title was on its last legs, but it seems Independent Newspapers’ Irish owners, Sir Tony and his son, Gavin O’Reilly, have decided to give the newspaper a new lease on life.
“Closing? Nothing can be further from the truth,” says executive editor, Gasant Abarder.
Rumour has it that the Argus is to become an upmarket tabloid in what is being touted as the “compact project” but executive editor, Gasant Abarder, says they are “looking at a wide range of proposals”.
“A tabloid is just one aspect we’ve researched,” he says. “We’ve done intensive research into a number of options including timeslots, whether we should consider a 24-hour publishing project like The Star. We’ve had to look at the impact on other titles in our Cape Town stable such as the Daily Voice and the Cape Times too. Then there’s circulation and distribution and advertising…”
He says Independent Newspapers is “committed” to the Argus. So will they make a major investment into the title? The O’Reillys have often been accused of making money from their South African media interests, while not reinvesting some of that profit.
“The owners are 100 percent behind it. This exercise is about invigorating the title and that requires investment. When we met them late last year, they made all the right noises. They love the South African company.
“The paper is at the heart of Cape Town. It has a vested interest in everything that goes on in the city. Think of the Argus Cycle Tour, and our CSI projects. We are committed to making the most of the title. After all, it’s been around for more than 150 years.“
Abarder says it’s no secret that afternoon newspapers are taking strain. “The Argus is bucking the trend in that it’s still profitable. Look at what’s happened to the London Evening Standard: it is distributed for free and relies solely on advertising to stay afloat. We’ve even looked at that model!”
Abarder says that in two weeks time, they will present the various options to “the bosses” who will be coming out from Ireland for the meeting.
“We’re going to put everything on the table,” he says. “We have six or seven options for them to consider. Some are ridiculous, others are excellent. We’re not in a position to make the final decision. That’s up to the owners.”
We’re watching this space!