It’s no secret that South Africa is wading its way through tough economic times, with the generation of advertising revenue a challenge for all industries. The media is no exception, but a shift in strategy for newspapers seems to be paying dividends for publications.
Traditional methods, like advertising and circulation sales, still garner the most money for Media24 confirms Ishmet Davidson, general manager of the group’s print division.
“Traditional forms of ads still dominate especially with retailers, telecoms and banks where big spreads work best to promote product and price. Our local newspapers also remain very attractive and effective for inserts,” he explains. But he reveals that supplements and wrap-arounds are not as popular any more with the former having been hit by the tough economy and to a lesser degree the shift to digital, and with the latter also feeling the effects of the economic state, as they are reserved for special events and carry a premium price.
Similarly for Caxton, traditional platforms continue to generate the most revenue. This despite many small businesses cutting back on their print advertising frequency and ad size and making use of cheaper marketing alternatives, such as their local Facebook communities.
Jaco Koekemoer, general manager for Caxton Local Media, attributes this to the method of local advertising, where clients mainly only advertise in one or two local papers within their operating area.
But Gill Randall, joint CEO of Spark Media Group, explains that on a national level a massive shift has been seen from Run of Press (ROP) to inserts due to the volume game. Clients can print a standard pamphlet and insert it into multiple newspapers and have run-on copies to dish out at their stores. The cost of ROP is much higher compared to high volume inserts.
The group benefits from having a printing company in its stable, with three large commercial printing plants across the country and 10 newspaper factories.
“We generate insert turnover on three levels: firstly, the commercial factory charges for the printing of the pamphlets.
“Secondly, the newspaper print plant charges the publisher for inserting the pamphlet into the newspaper. And lastly, the newspaper charges the client an insertion fee to insert their pamphlet into their published local paper,” reveals Koekemoer.
The more non-mainstream print options are usually used by Caxton for tactical and special campaigns – for example, power wraps and belly bands may be used for a store opening, a new product launch or other big announcements that require ‘wow’ impact.
A 360 degree strategy and events
So while traditional print advertising is not obsolete, media houses are continuing to innovate and adapt their offerings. Trust building has become a vital part of their strategy as communities are being created around the print products and their online counterparts.
Media24 is providing tailor-made 360 degree solutions including print, digital and TV, through Via, Davidson says. “Events held by our iconic and trusted print magazines prove to be good revenue sources,” he adds. These include Huisgenoot, YOU and Drum’s Future Park, Women’s Health’s popular FitNight Out and tuis/home’s fix it with flair. Events build stronger connections with the created print community and reinforce the trust between the two parties with helpful advice for consumers.
Tiso Blackstar Group is another of South Africa’s print houses that is utilising innovation and events to maximum effect. It is incorporating both its print and digital assets into offerings and not only are its events a revenue generating stream, but they continue to reinforce the trust and relationship with the community that has been created.
On the digital side, Caxton is very much aware of the importance of incorporating digital assets into a total package for both consumers and advertisers. Randall comments, “Digital is relevant, with massive potential, but so are local newspapers. We are a local media company that integrates both these platforms in order to effectively speak to consumers across both. This allows us the opportunity to give our local advertisers further reach by giving them exposure on both. The future for local advertising is a holistic package that combines the printed local paper and its title website, offering a much broader reach and offering.”
The media house is also constantly innovating, coming up with new advertising offerings. A power wrap, which wraps around the main body of the newspaper, has allowed Caxton to bring in new non-traditional newspaper revenue, like clothing retailers, pharmaceutical products, food brands, fast-food companies and even some fragrances. Power notes, a sticker on the front of the newspaper, allows a brand to be in the face of consumers when they pick up the publication and perforated bellybands with a magnet on the back, allow for brands to have a longer presence in the consumers space as they can be removed from around the body of the publication and stuck on the consumer’s fridge. The introduction of special features inside Caxton’s newspapers, which contain relevant content related to a specific industry, provides helpful advice for readers and allows local advertisers to promote their store next to relevant content of their industry.
A positive outlook
While print advertising is under pressure, the strategy of curating trust with a community has certainly paid off for publications. Koekemoer stresses that in order for local papers to remain relevant, they need quality editorial content.
“To sustain this, we need quality journalists operating within the local footprint of the newspapers … To maintain affordability, a balance needs to be reached on the number of journalists per paper, but if a staff member leaves, finding an immediate replacement is extremely urgent, as the quality of the editorial content in the paper cannot drop, as it is the bloodline of our product.
“The digital era also poses a massive amount of uncertainty, with anyone and everyone being able to be a publisher of content. Our content needs to consistently be high-quality, newsworthy and relevant for the community we serve. There is so much fake news out there, but our consumers trust that our reported news is true and well researched.”
Davidson is equally as optimistic, singing the praises of the newspaper industry. “The print environment is tough; perhaps as tough as most industries are finding it in our current economic environment. However, retailers have increased spend in our newspapers and magazines because in tough times they return to what they know works best,” he says. “While print advertising revenue generally is declining, print remains a highly effective medium for advertisers, is an important element in the advertising mix and continues to attract a sizeable share of total advertising spend despite the state of the economy and the impact of digital.”
Michael Bratt is a multimedia journalist at Wag the Dog, publishers of The Media Online and The Media. Follow him on Twitter @MichaelBratt8.
This story was first published in The Media Yearbook 2018. To read the digital magazine, click on the cover image.