What does the average reader of print media look like? In a country where rapid societal development is layered over an evolving media landscape, it can be hard to keep up with the changing profile of an audience.
SAARF’s All Media and Products Survey (AMPS), the media currency for the print industry, shows how the profile of South Africa’s print readers has evolved over the past four years alone.
Since 2009, print readership in general has increased by 2.2%, according to SAARF AMPS Dec 2009 and SAARF AMPS Dec 2012.
The daily newspaper sector bolstered total newspaper readership levels, thanks to the dailies’ growth of 8.0%. Readership of weekly newspaper publications dropped by 9.1%.
The growth in total newspaper readership over this 2009-2012 period – up 3.8% – softened the impact on total print of a 6.2% decline in magazine readership.
A better standard of living
Since 2009, the LSM groups themselves have changed significantly as the development of South African society continues. Naturally, as the makeup of society changes, so too does the makeup of print’s audience.
The greatest change has been the burgeoning of print readership in the middle classes, particularly in LSM 6. As a group, LSM 6 has grown in size by 29.8% since 2009 (in terms of thousands). This larger group now contributes significantly more print readers to the total print audience of 2012: almost a million more readers than it did in 2009.
With 5.4-million readers in its ranks, LSM 6 delivers the largest reading audience, accounting for 24.0% of total readership, compared to 21.6% in 2009.
LSM 7 has also shown strong growth in its print-reading audience since 2009. The group itself is 25.8% bigger than it was in 2009, with the resultant LSM 7 print audience up by 21.9%. At the end of 2012, LSM 7 delivered 3,230-million print readers, compared to 2,649-million in 2009. This group now accounts for 14.3% of total print readership.
An aging audience
The 2012 reading audience is older than it was in 2009. Readership across the 15-34 group declined slightly over 2009, while readership in the 50+ age group grew by 18.6%. The 50+ age group now makes up 19.8% of the total reading audience, compared to 16.7% in AMPS Dec 2009, a growth of 1,2-million more readers.
In the under-49 segment, the 15-24s contributed 2.6% fewer readers in 2012 than in 2009, the 25-34s contributed 5.5% fewer, and the 35-49-year-olds 2.9% fewer readers.
Despite these declines, the youngest section of the population measured by by AMPS remains print’s biggest audience. The 15-24 age group consumes more print than the national average, and accounts for 29.7% of total readership.
While there are more 50+ readers of traditional print, there are also more older readers for online print products. Far from being averse to new platforms, this group showed the highest growth in online print reading, growing consumption of digital print by 18.4% over the 2009-2012 period, and now contributes 14.8% of all online print readers.
The 35-49 age group grew its online print readership (up by 12.9%), with the group now accounting for 34.1% of all online readership.
Those aged 34 and under however, are reading less online. The 25-34s posted 2.7% less online readership in 2012 than they did in 2009, while the 15-24s’ online readership dropped by 22.7%. This youngest group now contributes 18.4% of the total online print audience, down from 23.8%, while 25-34s contribute 32.7%.
(The penetration of online print is still very low in South Africa, with only 3.4% of adults claiming to read a newspaper or magazine on the internet: up 21.4% over 2009’s figure of 2.8%.)
Better reflecting SA’s make up
Print readership is up significantly in the black community, a testament to improving education, employment and income levels. In 2009, 56.5% of black people consumed print … by 2012, that figure was up to 58.7%. The Coloured community too has shown significant growth in reading, up from 75.7% to 79.1%.
In the black market, there was growing interest in daily newspapers over the four-year period under review: newspaper consumption rose from 25.0% to 28.1%, with some 1.364-million new readers coming on board. The Coloured community also shows increased readership of the dailies, up from 44.9% to 48.7%.
In contrast, despite a one-percent rise in population size for whites, and a 9.6% growth for the Indian community, print readership was down in both population groups: by 2.0% and 5.0% respectively. Total readership in the white community was 87.2% in 2012, down from 89% in 2009, while readership in the Indian community was 79.5%, down from 83.7%.
Both markets showed decreased readership in all print sectors – dailies, weeklies, and magazines.
Growth of the print-reading population in LSM 9 and 10 was more moderate. LSM 9 grew in size by 13.2% over 2009, with its print audience growing by 10.4%, while LSM 10 grew in size by 4.3%, with the size of its reading audience growing by 2.1%,