Isolezwe, the daily Zulu language tabloid, has reported record-breaking sales in the 2011’s first quarter’s audited circulation figures released earlier on Tuesday.
The average daily sale during January, February and March was 112 273. Although the Zulu tabloid has breached the 100 000 mark a few times in its nine-year history, this quarter’s sale is almost 8 000 higher than the 104 481 achieved in the first quarter of 2010. TheMediaOnline caught up with editor Mazwi Xaba to find out the secrets behind this newspaper’s success.
Your sales are fantastic: what has this meant in terms of advertising?
Thanks. Advertising in Isolezwe has been growing steadily over the past few years, particularly among retailers who get to see an immediate response to their ads. In terms of our recent growth, the advertisers are obviously getting a bonus from the additional sales.
Are these sales concentrated in KZN or are you picking up Zulu speakers readers around the country?
Being a Durban and KZN-based newspaper, most of our sales are made in KZN but we do print a Gauteng edition which is distributed in that region. Gauteng sales account for just under 7% of our total daily sales.
What is your distribution model? Percentages in urban vs rural areas?
As part of the Independent Newspapers group, we benefit from an extensive distribution infrastructure which sees us going to 3 300 outlets every morning. Nearly half of the day’s copies are sold in greater Durban – for many commuters we are a daily habit. Although we are available in ‘deep rural’ areas, most of our sales are made in key areas where there’s more economic activity.
What are your readers’ issues and how are you addressing them? Must be doing something right!
The key to our success is that we provide breaking, fresh, up-to-date news in our readers’ own language, every day. Isolezwe has become a forum for readers to raise issues about development, service delivery, corruption – any thing which affects their lives. We often get letters and calls before readers even try to resolve their issues using the ‘official’ channels.
What are your online figures looking like?
Our site, www.isolezwe.co.za, has been up and running for a few years so we have an online presence but, digitally, Isolezwe is a work in progress.
I see English is used online. Is this deliberate, in order to perhaps gain English speaking and international readers online?
Not really, our focus is on the Zulu reader. Although the majority of our readers can read English, they choose to read Zulu. Our website carries the main stories of the day in Zulu and the English content is shared from Independent’s national brand, iol.
Do you have a mobile app yet?
We don’t. As I mentioned earlier, we have a number of digital projects in development but there is no app in the market at the moment.
Print media sales are declining around SA, particularly in the daily market, yet you’re flying. Why?
Must be the editor! Seriously, it’s the whole wonderful team. I think it starts with the need that we’re meeting in the market. Right from the start, nine years ago, we’ve seen such an appetite for the type of news we publish – relevant, credible, content which affects readers’ lives and is delivered in a professional and politically-unbiased manner. Our accessible style is different to what the opposition published and readers like our unbiased approach to news – we love our language and our culture but we’re modern and open-minded and look ahead instead of dwelling in the past.
How would you describe your editorial pillars?
Firstly, we set high standards journalistically – we get the sources and report the truth as best we can. Historically, this market has been riddled with hearsay, supernatural forces and all kinds of ‘hocus pocus’. We respect our readers’ intelligence and report on issues which impact on their lives – from community stories, to national and international affairs. Being politically non-partisan is key for us and has also played a role in our growth and success.
We share our readers’ passion for sport, especially soccer, so they rely on us for top notch coverage. Our more modern mindset makes us women-friendly, our health and legal advice, for example, appeals to both men and women. Another important editorial aspect is that we’re constantly refreshing our content – adding features on finance, motivational material, younger voices – to keep pace with where our market is moving.