The Audit Bureau of Circulation has released the first quarter (Q1) of 2013 results, showing what has become a familiar picture. Looking at a four-year period, overall, English newspaper sales have declined by 7.5% (387 000 copies), Afrikaans titles have lost 5% (67 000 copies) and vernacular titles have grown, up by 3.2% (14 000 copies).
A similar picture emerges in the magazine sector with a 2.5% decline (511 000 copies) and consumer magazines losing 3.9% (254 000 copies). Performance over the past year has been “particularly disappointing” says Gordon Patterson, vice chairman of the ABC organisation.
“Looking at a four year category trend by quarter, circulation has declined annually by 6.35 % since 2009, equivalent to 440 000 copies. However, Q1 only declined by 0.7% (9000 copies), compared to Q4 2012,” he said in his presentation.
Patterson said weekly newspapers reflected “an erratic performance decreasing annually by 1.9% (47,000 copies) over the period” but that Q1 declined by 5.4% compared to Q4. UmAfrika and Ilanga took major hits in the sector. Interestingly, the title that showed the most growth was Motorsport World. Newspapers showing the biggest declines are the Daily Sun, The Star, the Pretoria News and Son.
Weekend Newspapers dropped 3.7% (372 000 copies) over the period. Q1 only declined by 0.6 % (13,000 copies) when compared to Q4. Looking at a four-year period in terms of language, English titles have declined annually by 5.6% (397 000 copies) over the period. Afrikaans titles have declined by annually by 3.1% (70 000 copies) over the period. Vernacular titles have grown annually by 15.6% (95,000 copies) over the period. Not surprisingly the largest growth was once again Isolezwe ngoMgqibelo (10%) and Isolezwe ngeSonto (9.75%).
Those showing the largest declines are City Press, Ilanga Langesonto, Sunday Sun, The Saturday Star and Sunday World.
In terms of free newspapers, distribution has increased annually by 6.1% (1,259,000 copies) over the period, although only increasing by 1.0% in Q1, compared to Q4. Hybrid newspapers has seen increased circulation over a four-year period, but Q1 has declined by 5 000 copies.
“The various take-overs of publishing groups & restructuring have without question impacted on circulation performance,” says Patterson. “That said, the newspaper slide has slowed somewhat. Inland newspaper circulation, however, continues to decline compared to coastal performance. The language trend that we have tracked continues i.e. English titles declining the most against vernacular growth.”
Consumer magazines showing the highest growth are the annual The Expatriate SA, HQ Pony, Forbes Africa (up 22.43%), Kuier (continuing its growth path by 0.97%) and The Big Issue (13.05%).
Sadly, Rolling Stone showed a decline, as did The Red Bulletin.
“Within the Consumer Magazine category, we see disappointing results down 11.4% over the past year, partly due to the removal of 9 titles & the admission of only 4 to the ABC,” says Patterson. “The growth that exists is less widespread. Notable performances include Forbes Africa (54% growth year-on-year) & Kuier (47% growth year-on-year). The Women’s Interest category, always a key indicator, returned a stable performance.”
Patterson says clothing store titles grew in the custom magazine sector, while several furniture titles declined.
“In conclusion, the outlook for the balance of 2013 looks challenging, and in particular for publishers that have not brought their finances under control.”