The latest Audit Bureau of Circulations figures were released today [Thursday]. Here’s a snapshot of what South Africa’s media looks like in the second half of 2014, set against a backdrop of a sobering economic outlook.
South Africa’s GDP growth prospects for this year have more than halved since the initial budgets were set earlier this year and now sit at 1.2%. The value of the rand has declined. Labour unrest continues to have a devastating impact, not least on the magazine sector that has been hard hit by the postal strike.
But, says ABC in its report, trustworthy journalism and a consistent product in times of disruption often result in growth. “While consolidation will save money and improve efficiency, this alone will not improve the financial standing of print. Those titles that are growing, are doing so by improving the product, increasing the value that readers obtain, and by better understanding reader needs,” it said.
Meanwhile the ABC noted that while circulations are down, several titles are performing fairly well. “This investigation will reveal that the most severe declines are clustered into one publishing group and most likely linked to an effort to cut non profitable distribution. That said, the growing use of distribution below 50% of the cover price has become concerning, and marketers should be aware of these tactics,” the organisation reported.
As far as consumer magazines are concerned, the “devil is in the detail.” While the results reflect a disappointing result, more careful inspection will reveal that this decline is influenced by a review of a recent digital packaging of titles and their counting methodology.
Of particular note in terms of growth were: Destiny Man +20% (clean circulation growth); Braintainment +17%; Modern Athlete +37.9%; Essentials +12%; Rooi Rose + 8.3%; SA Home Owner +7%; and Habitat +5.6%
Newspaper circulation continued its decline by 66 000 copies compared to the previous quarter. Only one daily title showed growth, albeit minimal. The Herald moved from 21 446 to 21 972 but is still down from last year’s Q3 umber of 22 987. The biggest losers are The Star (down to 84 785 from 100 804), The Pretoria News (15 124 from 17 194) and the Daily Sun (262 431 from 291 132).
ABC says weekly newspapers reflect an erratic performance but some good news in that Q3 increased by 35 000 copies compared to Q2. The Saturday Dispatch largest growth in weeklies, 21 241 from 19 561. The Pretoria News Saturday dropped from 10 515 to 8 034 and the other Independent Media title, The Saturday Star declined from 73 408 to 62 514. Beeld Saturday recently changed format from broadsheet to tabloid but that hasn’t yet reflected in the numbers, with the paper now sitting on 49 234. Ilanga Langesonto also dropped, from 56 656 to 49 298.
Local newspaper have declined by 3.2% (65 000 copies) over the period but Q3, remained static compared to Q2. Once more an Eastern Cape newspaper showed growth with Grocott’s Mail moving upwards from 2 284 to 2 593. Other winners were Review Midweek and Capricorn Voice. The Courier, Standerton Advertiser and Vaalweekblad all declined.
Hybrid newspapers took a major dive as a result of The Times, singularly responsible for the category holding its own over the last few years, moved to the ‘daily’ category a year ago. ABC said Q3 circulation is significantly higher than Q2, because one title failed to report in Q2. Free newspapers, however, increased by 5.7% to 1 275 000.
Magazines continued to slide, this by a major 560 000 copies over the previous quarter. Consumer magazine decreased by 3%, 176 000 copies, in the same period. Titles showing major growth were the six-monthly Green Home, Wildland Magazine, Real Brides and VISI, which showed remarkable growth from 11 026 to 15 778.
Magazines showing major declines were Tech Smart, Today’s Child, All About Dogs and HQ Pony.
The ‘home’ magazine category showed some growth, of 31 000 copies, due to a new entrant in the sector. The sport and hobby category dropped by 26 000 copies in relation to Q2. Circulation increased annually by 30.1% (316,000 copies) over the period for travel magazines. The fluctuation was the result of biennial reporting titles. Nevertheless, Q3 declined by 29 000 copies compared to Q2.
The women’s general category continues to be troubled with circulation declining by 3.8% annually (257 000 copies) over the period. Q3 declined by 71,000 copies compared to Q2, partly the result of a discontinued title, O, The Oprah Magazine).
Business to business showed an annual decline of 72 000 copies and Q3 dropped by 40 000 compared to Q2. Titles showing growth were six-monthly Pedmed, the annual MIMS Guide to OTC Products, the annual Debate and Public Sector Manager. Surprisingly, RISKsa declined as did SA’s Top Performing Companies and Fleet.
B2B’s hospitality, catering and tourism magazines drop by 10.7% and custom magazines by 2.8%, that is 1 513 000 annually. Strategic Marketing took a major drop from 16 862 to 11 585 and DStv Compact dropped from 1 304 235 to 99 804.
Some changes to ABC: On the 15 October a multiplatform /total audience certification committee met and agreed the following:
– The need to consolidate the data.
– The need for continued transparency.
– To report unduplicated results per title.
– To include website and title applications (Apps).
– To work towards reporting unique viewers, registered viewers and paid subscribers.
– To include digital only publications.
– Andre van Tonder was elected as Chairman.
– And finally, that the work of the new committee would be a journey rather than a destination in itself.
For a more detailed analyses, Marklives.
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