Why is Son viable in the Western and Eastern Cape, but not in the north?
The idea is to find similar markets and to serve them with a similar formula. An editorial formula doesn’t translate automatically. It was clear that we could not use the same formula (in the Free State and Gauteng).
In the Western Cape (where Son is a daily) there are 1-million people in the target market range (mainly coloured). There is proper scale for the tabloid to flourish. In the Eastern Cape (where Son is a weekly) there is a small market, but the Eastern Cape benefits from the scale of the Western Cape.
The Gauteng numbers look pleasing, but if you drill deeper, you find that they do not support the nature of the product. The coloured population in Gauteng is at 200,000 and there are marked differences between the English- and Afrikaans-speaking coloured population. The market is hugely dispersed – not very viable for a newspaper. The English-speaking people are already attached to other products.
The Afrikaner (Afrikaans-speaking white) market in the north is sizable, but there are not a lot of gaps. A lot of people are very loyally attached to prominent newspapers like Beeld.
You would have to dislodge them from those newspapers. The offering was not strong enough (to achieve that).
On what premise was Son‘s launch in the Western Cape based?
When we started Daily Sun six years ago, it was on the basis that, because of the changes in South Africa, the working class would grow in numbers. Working class people’s fortunes have changed. They have benefited, from for example, affirmative action, skills training and housing.
As soon as people own a home, their needs and actions change in the commercial world – it changes their outlook. Based on Daily Sun‘s success, we thought: If it is true for Gauteng, it might be true for the Western Cape.
Son was designed around the phenomenon that lives are rapidly changing for the better.
If the lives of the members of Son‘s target market are changing for the better, does the possibility exist that they will outgrow the product?
It’s possible that people will outgrow the product. But how these papers work, is they reflect the soul and character (of the target market). They are likely to change and follow the market. (For this reason) Daily Sun is a far cry from what it was a few years ago. The challenge is to stay in touch with the market.
What scope for growth exists for !_LT_EMSon!_LT_/EM in the Eastern Cape and Western Cape?
In the Eastern Cape (where it is a weekly) Son sells just above 22,000 copies a week. There, the sky is the limit. It could possibly become a daily and one of the leading newspapers in the province. Son could easily reach 25,000 to 30,000 in the Eastern Cape (even if it becomes a daily). The daily sells about 102,000 copies in the Western Cape. It has 600,000 readers – a penetration of 60 percent of the target market, which is quite high.
I could possibly grow by another 30,000 to 40,000 copies in the Western Cape. Extensions to other platforms might be very exciting. We are deep in throes of doing a proper website. We are talking about mobile opportunities. One of the significant trends in the Western Cape newspaper market is Die Burger‘s loss of circulation. What role do you think Son has played in this? It might have had some impact, but I won’t blame Son.
If you take Die Burger and others prior to Son‘s launch, the writing was on the wall anyway.
If you look at core circulation, there was a steep decline for most. Son might have accelerated the decline. Readers who have abandoned Die Burger have not necessarily taken up Son. The readers’ profile is very different.
Henry Jeffreys, editor of Die Burger, says Son’s success has no doubt impacted on Die Burger (also a Media24 paper). “Die Burger likely lost readers and circulation (as a result). “(But) it could have been much worse if you look at Son’s strong growth.”
Jeffreys says the bigger picture is that Son has attracted new Afrikaans readers – resulting in growth for the total Afrikaans readers’ market despite !_LT_EMDie Burger!_LT_/EM’s decline (Son has an Afrikaans and English edition).
He says when such tabloids were launched, it was thought some of their (new) readers would over time migrate to other products (including !_LT_EMDie Burger!_LT_/EM). “But we are still waiting for that day to arrive.”
According to Jeffreys, !_LT_EMDie Burger!_LT_/EM continuously considers the contributing factors in its circulation decline and develops strategies accordingly. He says he will be ready to talk about what they have discovered in this regard in the near future.
This Q&A first appeared in The Media magazine (September 2008)
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