Some Afrikaans print media may be struggling but other publications are soaring. Kay Karriem explains why her magazine is on the up.
I absolutely love die taal. Maybe it’s those deep guttural sounds that no Englishman will ever master. It could be that no matter how bilingual I become, I’ve never quite managed to swear as fluently or colourfully in English.
But I think what I really love most about my mother tongue is its ability to transform itself time and time again and remain useful to its speakers, notwithstanding the odds.
The odds are against us again but I, for one, am glad to be working in Afrikaans media right now because I am convinced we (the speakers and the language) will be better off for this transformation too.
But first you need to move past old stereotypes about the market.
For example, in the same week I gave a presentation on Kuier’s phenomenal success, I saw this headline in the Mail & Guardian: “Is Waldimar Pelser Afrikaans media’s last roll of the dice?”
I’ve got no beef with Pelser. I first met him when he was a young reporter and I the night news editor at Die Burger. He is a phenomenally talented young man and the future of South African media. His appointment as editor of Rapport at 35 is a huge deal and it is right and proper that a big fuss be made about it.
But the headline nearly made me have a coronary (very serious in my case as I’ve had two strokes)! Like so many times in the history of the language, this headline really does create the wrong impression. In certain parts of the Afrikaans media we are achieving great success despite the performance of the industry on the whole. Again, it felt like other Afrikaans players (and speakers) were just being ignored.
And according to the South African Institute of Race Relations (SAIRR), more black, coloured, and Indian South Africans speak Afrikaans at home today than white South Africans. According to a recent SAIRR study, based on data from the 2011 census, only 40% of those who speak Afrikaans at home are whites. This means that out of 6.9 million people who speak the language at home, 2.7 million are white, while the rest are from other racial groups.
Even Pelser knows this. “Coloured Afrikaans-speakers represent the majority of Afrikaans-speakers across South Africa and we (Rapport) are pursuing better ways to be relevant and interesting to that key market.”
But advertisers have been slow to catch on.
Now, let me tell you the story of Afrikaans in the media from a Kuier perspective. The magazine was launched in September 2009 and the first ABC numbers were 15 681 copy sales for the period Oct-Dec 2010. The next year the magazine recorded 58 672 for the same period and last year it was 94 926.
Everyone keeps asking me to share the secret to Kuier’s success. And I keep telling them, it is not a secret. Nobody believes me, but is very simple: Kuier is on a mission.
We want to change the media landscape and give our readers a voice.
Everything we do flows from this very clear ideal. And everyone in the team is determined to succeed in the mission. But most importantly, we absolutely believe we can.
Sound like Obama-wama, mumbo-jumbo or guru-whooroo?
You need more than a plan and the right people to make it in these tough times. You need guts, inspiration and moments of pure genius. But you also need to manufacture a whole lot of luck. Teams who are not totally committed don’t get lucky. I see it too often: media people who can quote a brand’s mission statement off by heart, but don’t believe a word they’re saying.
For those more practically minded, we want to give our readers a quality read at an affordable price – in Afrikaans.
Let me break it down for you. We are not terribly sophisticated, so don’t expect some kind of Harvard Business School plan. We keep it very simple, almost like a recipe.
We didn’t create a new market. Afrikaans speakers have always been around and there have always been many who have not been adequately catered for (especially in magazines). Yes, Die Son paved the way to this market, but Kuier believes we can still build a highway.
Our core target market is coloured women between 35 and 45 who want a magazine to call their own. Most of them are in the Western Cape. If they like it, they will introduce it to everyone in their circle.
But this is not all there is to Kuier. Our themes are universal and we reflect reality. So we are relevant to many more people than our core target market who feel their needs are not being met elsewhere in the market.
I get asked one question more than any other: Where do your readers come from? (Or more accurately: Who do you steal from?) I really don’t have the answer, mostly because I have not invested much of my energy in trying to find out. But if I had to venture a guess, I would say that in the early days most of our readers were irregular buyers of other Afrikaans products who were looking for a product that made them feel like they were the main attraction instead of a side-dish. In our most prolific growth spurt I think we converted newspaper readers or people who never read Afrikaans magazines before.
Lately, I would say we are attracting Afrikaans (and even some English) readers from right across the spectrum and that’s mostly due to the economic downturn. It is this latest development that is especially encouraging for us, because it indicates that our market share will continue to grow, albeit at a slower rate.