BDFM will not change its size from broadsheet to tabloid in the immediate future. The company will instead be focusing its attention on driving digital subscriptions now that its paywall is in place, and on streamlining the merged newsroom that will see Business Day and the Financial Mail merge news operations.
Publisher and editor in chief, Peter Bruce, has announced that Business Day will remain in broadsheet format. There has been significant consideration and debate over recent months regarding the possible move to a tabloid format for one of South Africa’s leading financial newspapers.
“The benefits of the intended change to tabloid format are many and it will remain a future option, but at this stage we would like to apply caution. We would also like to monitor the performance of digital subscriptions. The tabloid is very close to my heart and it is painful to have to apply the brakes but is there is no doubt it is the sensible thing to do right now,” Bruce says.
In the meantime, the company has launched a major subscription drive as its long-awaited paywall on BDlive comes into effect. BDFM’s new subscription system encompasses printed and digital content.
Until now, registered BDlive readers have enjoyed unlimited access to content on the website as a means of entrenching the brand online and building up a loyal audience. The new registration and page-metering system is designed to ensure BDlive retains and continues to grow this audience, rather than presenting a solid paywall.
“This is the first of many changes we are making to meet our readers’ growing need for more business content and digital products. The registration and subscription process provides much insight from which we can develop our content, product and advertising solutions. I look forward to sharing business audience insights with our valuable advertisers,” said Bronwen Auret, general manager: BDFM digital.
Auret reports that web traffic has doubled to more than 500 000 monthly unique browsers, making BDlive South Africa’s second-biggest business news site (Effective Measure, April 2013). The website also enjoys more than 2.3-million page views each month. It has recorded more than 65 000 app downloads on iOS, Android and BlackBerry, and we have more than 26 000 Twitter followers. The BDlive community now has more than 15,000 registered users and this figure continues to grow steadily each week.
For advertisers, the subscription model relies on sophisticated analytic tools and data gleaned from user profiles and user behaviour to enable advertisers to construct clear, precisely defined campaigns with minimal churn. Since its launch, BDlive has attracted a number of campaigns from major South African companies and sold sponsorship packages in a range of niche areas to both large and small corporate brands and public sector firms.
“We have never made any secret of our plans to charge subscriptions to BDlive since we began planning the launch of the website last year. It has become unsustainable to make freely available online the content for which print readers are prepared to pay,” Bruce says. “The reality is that robust, good quality and independence come at a cost. There is growing awareness of this globally and there are many examples at media firms much bigger than ours where subscription models are finding traction.”
“Business Day and BDlive are premium brands, which will be firmly reflected across our digital platforms. In reaching out to a wider audience and a new generation of digital media consumers, we remain steadfast in our commitment to producing the best possible analysis, opinion and news relevant to our audience,” he says. “We remain sharply focused on the political economy and the interests of business, as well as its leaders and decision-makers in listed and non-listed business and the public sector,” he said.
The Times Media Group (TMG) has agreed to purchase the outstanding 50% shares of BDFM from Pearson in the UK, to then hold full ownership of the prestigious BDFM titles. For the moment, the priority for TMG is to ensure that operational efficiencies and business functions streamline to integrate Business Day and Financial Mail smoothly into the stable which includes The Times, Sowetan, SundayWorld, Daily Dispatch, The Herald, and the Sunday Times.
“The integration of the Business Day and Financial Mail newsrooms is well underway and this, together with the successful BDlive platform, will enhance our standing as the country’s foremost business news and analysis provider,” says Bruce.