If men are from Mars and women are from Venus, are their media choices light years apart? Megan Chronis tackles the research to find out.
Is it all just soapies and talk shows, fashion and home mags, and schmaltzy ballad-laden radio stations for South Africa’s women, with sport channels and girly/sporty/petrol-heady mags reserved for the men? To determine what South Africa’s 18 054-million women are reading, watching and listening to – and not always by choice – we turn to the industry’s media audience currencies, SAARF’s AMPS, RAMS and TAMS.
According to AMPS Dec 2011 (Jan-Dec 2011), print reaches a lower percentage of women than men – 61.8% of women, compared to 70.1% of men.
Those women who consume print have a preference for magazines. While 42.3% of women read newspapers, 50.5% read magazines, compared to 55.9% of men reading newspapers and 50.4% reading magazines.
AMPS December 2011 shows that magazines hold seven of women’s top 10 print spots, while newspapers dominate on the male list. “Women read an average of 3.21 magazines compared to men’s 2.99, and only 1.99 newspapers, compared to men’s 2.19,” says Dr Tiffany Tracey, SAARF’s senior technical support executive.
Why is it that women prefer the glossies to newsprint? “It’s not that women don’t want to know about the hard issues covered in newspapers,” says Suzy Brokensha, editor of Fairlady, “since you’ll find a lot of crossover between magazine content and that of newspapers, specifically the weekly papers.”
Instead, she says it’s to do with how that content is delivered. “Women are more sociable, more concerned about community. Magazines often have an editorial approach that better suits this,” she says. “At Fairlady, our angle is always through the people – how does an issue or a policy affect people? Women want the hard facts, but they’re also interested in the human implications.”
She feels this is part of the reason why magazines are able to develop such a strong, one-on-one friendship with their female readers.
Within each media type, which are the titles that resonate most with women? “Very often, the same titles that resonate with men,” says Tracey. “AMPS shows that the top 10 titles for newspapers and magazines are remarkably similar across the gender line.”
In newspapers, the same 10 titles feature for men and women, just in a slightly different order: three dailies, Daily Sun, Sowetan and Son (Daily Sun leads both lists), six Sunday papers (Sunday Times, Sunday Sun, City Press, Rapport, Sunday World and Ilanga langeSonto, and Soccer Laduma.
“In magazines, women have a more restricted range within their top 10: almost all titles are exclusively general interest or female genres,” says Tracey. “Men’s top 10 mags cover sport, motoring, general interest, male titles and women’s titles.”
She points out however, that no matter the publication’s focus or target, none has exclusively male or female readership. “While general and female interest titles naturally top the list for women, with publications such as Bona, Drum, True Love, Fairlady, Sarie and rooi rose ranking highly with women, female readers read a wide range of publications. Their interests extend beyond the expected topics of fashion, beauty, relationship advice and celebrity gossip.”
AMPS shows this clearly. So-called male titles like Kickoff and Car have audiences that are just over 13% female. FHM might be “a guy thing”, yet almost a quarter (22.3%) of this lad mag’s audience is female. And you can’t get more male-focused than a title like Loslyf, yet it has a 45% female readership.
And while the business titles do have a higher male readership – three quarters of Business Day’s readership is male, as is Financial Mail and Finweek’s – 44% of men work either full time or part time, compared to 27% of women, which is probably why more men than women read business publications, rather than because women are not interested in this field.
FHM editor Brendan Cooper suspects that part of the reason why even those magazines aimed very clearly at men have female readers is because they’re there. “If a magazine is lying around, people tend to read it,” he says. “Another factor is voyeurism…women want to know what the boys are up to, what they’re thinking. The same would go for why guys read COSMO. In FHM’s case, there is also editorial crossover in the celebrity interviews, since we feature people who are relevant to both male and female readerships.”
Tracey says that this cross-over reading, and the similarity between the lists of top-reaching magazines and newspapers, could suggest that men and women’s interests are not as sharply divided along gender lines as we might think.
RAMS May 2011 shows that radio reaches 88.9% of women each week, and 87.1% of men. “At a macro level, RAMS shows precious little difference between men’s and women’s listening,” says Tracey.
Both sexes listen for almost the same amount of time each week (24 hours and 46 minutes for women, 24 hours and 25 minutes for men). Women’s top five radio choices are Ukhozi FM, METRO FM, Umhlobo Wenene FM, Lesedi FM and Motsweding FM. The list is the same for male listeners.
“Even across time slots, such as drivetime shows and afternoon shows, the numbers show little difference in female and male listening habits,” says Tracey. “Most stations also have a fairly even gender split, with exceptions like the sport-oriented and male-skewed Radio 2000, and Radio Pulpit with its definite female skew.”
5FM station manager Aisha Mohamed says that radio moves so fast that there’s always something for listeners to tune in to, engage with and appreciate, whether male or female. “Even if a listener didn’t enjoy a particular song or found a talk topic of little relevance, there’s always a new song, another link or some interesting item of talk just around the corner,” she says.
As a mass medium, radio is a “means of getting through the day, staying on top of the day, and escaping the day – and this applies equally to both men and woman”, says Adene van der Walt, Ireland/Davenport advertising agency strategic director.
“There is however, a difference between how men and women consume, react and interact with the information and content they receive from their station of choice,” she says. “For example, Gender Link’s ‘Gender and Media Audience Study’ showed that women prefer it when a response mechanism is built in to the content so that they can participate.”
Television reaches 89.3% of South Africa’s adult women and 92.4% of men, according to AMPS, Dec ‘11.
The top 20 TV programmes viewed in May 2012 were identical for both women and men, according to SAARF TAMS. “TV is definitely blurred across the genders, with very little difference showing in the numbers and little distinction across genre – even men watch soaps,” says Tracey.
e.tv’s GM of group research and audience strategy, Janet Proudfoot, says this has a lot to do with who’s in control of the remote. “Especially in one-TV homes that view only free-to-air channels, our research showed that women tended to watch their programmes before the men came home, but relinquished the remote once the men returned,” she says. “Some women sneak viewings of the repeats in the morning because this is the only time when they can control what they watch.”
In terms of women’s favourite genres, Proudfoot says women love talk shows because they’re interactive and educational. They also tend towards dramas and soaps. “Women are avid soap followers, while men watch more by default,” she says. “Different story lines and approaches attract different gender biases. ‘Rhythm City’ is more male, ‘Scandal’ and ‘7de Laan’ more female, while ‘Isidingo’ is both.”
Proudfoot says that both sexes watch the news, but often for different reasons. “Women tend to watch because this is family-viewing time, when the whole family gathers – especially for news in vernacular languages,” she says. “Men watch the news because it is their male responsibility to be informed, since knowledge is power. Males tend towards more international content and political opinion, while females prefer local content which is more relevant to them.”
Finally, Proudfoot says that women like shows that feature the concept of ‘lost and found’. “They like reconnecting, resolution of relationships and forgiveness,” she says.
ONLINE AND CINEMA
Fewer women than men access the internet in any given month – 17.8% compared to 22.1%.
“What they do online, however, is very similar,” says Tracey. “Both rank using the internet to search as their number one activity, followed by emailing and then social networking.”
Finally, to cinema, where 692 000 women (3.8%) attend at least one screening in an average four-week period, compared to
790 000 men (4.7%).
“Men and women are different, and we see this every day in many ways,” says Tracey. “But when it comes to their media choices – whether because of genuinely similar tastes and a blurring of the line separating traditionally male content from female, or because women still do not have total control over their media consumption – the two sexes show a surprising amount of similarity.”
Photo: Fairlady editor, Suzy Brokensha
This story was first published in the August 2012 issue of The Media magazine.