The Audit Bureau of Circulations of South Africa has just released the data for the Fourth Quarter 2018; they make for gloomy reading, although there are a few shards of light.
To limit the feelings of gloom and doom, I have chosen to focus on the performance of the Fourth Quarter 2018 over the Third Quarter of the same year. During this time, Total Newspaper circulation declined by -1.6%.
Overall Daily Newspapers dropped by a modest -1.9%. Publications that held steady were: Die Burger (Wes Kaap) (+0.6%), Daily News (+0.4%), The Citizen (+0.4%), Sowetan (+0.3%) and The Mercury (+0.2%). The laggards in this sector were Beeld (-6.3%) and Isolezwe (-6.5%).
Weekly Newspapers posted a more notable loss of -6.7%. However, Mail & Guardian (+12.1%) bucked this trend, with the aid of a sizeable portion of “multi copy sales”, whilst The Post (+1.0%) edged forward. Soccer Laduma (-10.7%) lost the most ground.
Weekend Newspapers (-3.5%) suffered less of a loss. Gains were posted by: Saturday Beeld (+6.4%), Daily Dispatch Weekend Edition (+4.8%) and Sunday Mail (+4.3%). At the other end of the spectrum were: Sunday World (-9.9%), Sunday Sun (-10.4%), Isolezwe ngeSonto (-13.6%) and Isolezwe ngoMgqibelo (-13.8%).
Local Newspapers (-0.2%) were relatively steady. Marketing initiatives, including activations at schools in the area, CSI projects within the Lowvelder community and increased visibility of the brand in Nelspruit, paid dividends for The Lowvelder/ Die Laevelder, driving increases across both editions: Tuesday (+15.2%) and Friday (+7.6%). Solid performances were also posted by Mpumalanga News (+7.4%) and Talk of the Town (+7.3%). Conversely sizable drops were experienced by: Bosvelder Review (-8.0%), Graaff Reinet Advertiser (-8.6%), Middelburg Observer, Tues (-8.6%) and Carletonville Herald (-11.9%).
Despite much volatility, the Free Newspaper (-1.1%) category’s total circulation was only slightly impacted. Ten titles were discontinued, three publications resigned from the ABC, one title only published a single issue and another failed to produce even that. Taxi Times (+182.7%) played a sterling role in buoying up this category. It is a remarkable example of a publisher having identified a previously un-serviced niche of captive commuters and providing a welcome and appropriate product for those travellers.
The formula also permits the publisher to work in an accommodating and flexible way with advertisers in terms of their geographic needs. The brand also extends to a well-supported Facebook page. Strong performances were also delivered by Greytown Gazette (+15.8%), Tame Times (+14.2%) and NewsHorn Mpumalanga (+10.5%). Unfortunately, there were some marked losses: Uthukela Eyethu (-22.2%), South Coast Herald Bonus (-49.3%) and Northern Business Review (-50.0%).
The relatively small Hybrid Newspaper sector (-1.2%) also slipped, with the slight uplift of the Excelsior News / Nuus (+0.2%) being offset by the declines of Die Pos (-3.2%) and Zoutpans-berger (-3.2%).
Unfortunately, Magazines fared worse than newspapers, with total circulation down by -8.4% on the previous quarter.
The Consumer Magazine sub category (-3.8%) decreased on the previous quarter. Within the pressured Business and News sector (-17.0%), the Green Economy Journal (formerly Green Business Journal) (+17.4%) grew, as did SA Real Estate Investor Magazine (+8.0%) and Financial Mail (+5.9%). The most significant declines were posted by Business Brief (-12.4%) and Finweek (-6.9%).
In the Celebrity sector, People (+10.6%) disproved the notion that celebrity news is the sole province of the internet. However, the Entertainment category (-5.5%) took strain with lacklustre deliveries from TV Plus both English (-9.3%) and Afrikaans (-6.4%).
The Family Interest sector (-7.5%) was affected by Taalgenoot moving out of the sector, as well as slides from The Ridge (-23.9%) and Drum (-5.5%). The big gun, Huisgenoot (-1.5%) edged down slightly, whilst You was firm (+0.3%). The star performer was the clearly much needed Things To Do With Kids Magazine (+327.2%). This product of a parent-driven business, this is another example of a cannily identified niche which is served with passion and purpose across different platforms. Bona (+12.8%) also performed well, which Caxton Magazines attributes to its thoughtful differentiation from its competitors -in terms of representation and inclusivity, as well as tonality and messaging, and its commitment to local languages.
The Home category (-8.5%) was turbulent, affected by publisher changes, titles moving into different sectors, failure to produce issues, the discontinuation of Plascon Spaces and no submissions from Elle Decoration, a casualty of the collapse of Ndalo Media. On the brighter, both House & Leisure (+9.7%) and SA Home Owner (+6.1%) achieved increases, which were offset by decreases from Lose It (-19.8%), Visi (-11.8%) and The Gardener/Die Tuinier (-10.1%).
Growth in Male magazines (+7.9%) was surprising, given that Tech moved out of the sector, GQ changed frequency, Destiny Man did not submit figures as Ndalo Media closed in December and Men’s Health (-15.0%) dropped significantly. It was Stuff (+72.9%) that performed heroically. Perhaps having an editorial which team lives and breathes technology and how it will evolve, gives this publication an unfair advantage? The publication has evolved in line with the changing way its audience reads, with e-Editions for readers who “aren’t into the dead trees version (and like instant gratification)”, now forming a sizable part of its circulation.
Less healthy was the Motoring sector (-3.5%), which was saw publisher changes, no issues and movements out if the sector. Speed and Sound plummeted (-22.8%), but two publications posted positive gains: Super Bike and SA4x4 (+4.6%) and Leisure Wheels (+ 3.9%).
The Parenting subcategory (-12.5%) was blighted by both the Expectant Mothers Guide and Mother & Child not submitting figures, as well as plunges from Mama Magic Milestones (-70.1%) and Your Pregnancy (-18.2%). More positively Mamas & Papas (+38.1%) upped its circulation and Child Magazine held steady across
The Sport and Hobby sector (-22.5%) was hard hit by resignations, discontinuations, no submissions and sector moves. Both the Bass Angler / Die Baarshengelaar (-25.9%) and
Modern Athlete (-22.3%) struggled; whilst The Bank Angler / Die Oewerhengelaar (+5.7%) and Game & Hunt/Wild & Jag (+4.1%) delivered increases.
This negative trend was also apparent in the Travel, Tourism & Hospitality subsector (-13.4%) with Weg! Kruger / Go! Kruger and Wegsleep Kampgids not being published and Weg! Ry & Sleep Oordgids (-28.0%) and Weg Namibië / Go Namibia (-17.2%) declining.
Gloom was to be expected in the Woman’s General field (-9.2%) with the discontinuation of Destiny Magazine, Marie Claire and Elle. In addition, Finesse and Fitness Magazine resigned, Essays of Africa decamped to digital only editions and Glamour changed frequency. Staunchly countering the prevailing doom were: Woman and Home (+12.4%), Rooi Rose (+11.7%), Cosmopolitan (+10.5%), True Love (+9.6%) whilst Kuier, Sarie and Fairlady remained relatively stable. Caxton Magazines points to the sharp focus and editorial empathy as the driving force behind the success of first two mentioned titles. Unfortunately, Women’s Health ( -8.5%) and Good Housekeeping / Goeie Huishouding (- 7.0%) dropped.
The Woman’s Special subcategory (-8.0%) was hit by the non-publication of Fairlady Bride, Sarie Bruid and True Love Bride as well as the Nubian Bride changing publisher and Forbes Woman Africa adjusting its publishing frequency. SA Wedding Album (+15.5%) seemed to benefit from the decline in competition and Troukoors joined the ABC.
Custom Magazines (-11.9%) also suffered a marked slippage with the Entertainment sector (-92.1%) devastated by discontinuation of the DSTV Premium Mag / Tydskrif. There was some good news in the Home sector (+2.4%) driven by the large circulating Fresh Living / Kook en Kuier (+3.2%) managing to post a positive increase.
The In-flight sector (-3.1%) was driven downwards by Sawubona’s plummet (-21.6%); it was up to the low-cost airlines to provide some uplift: In Flight Magazine (+10.7%) and Mango Juice (+9.6%). Indwe joined the ABC.
The Leisure sector (-16.1%) was affected by the discontinuation of Fancourt Lifestyle and Leisure and Signature: Diners Club. Timeously, The South African Sports Confederations and Olympic Committee (SASCOC) managed to deliver a sizable increase in its Team SA (formerly known as Road to Tokyo) (+60.6%).
The Motoring subcategory was revved up by the performance of Motor (+0.6%), whilst the Professional sector (-4.3%) showed a chequered performance. The Digest of South African Architecture (-2.2%) dipped and the Strategic Marketing Magazine did not pay its fees, but Accountancy SA (+8.4%) and De Rebus (+1.0%) grew.
Retail magazines (-18.4%) slid downwards due to the discontinuation of Ackermans Club and poor performances from Jet Club (-10.9%) and Clicks Club Card. (-19.8%). Fortunately, both Club Magazine (+0.8%) and Edgars Club Magazine (+0.2%) remained steady.
In the Sport and Hobby sector (+2.2%) Soccer Club’s (+4.0%) growth balanced out the downward tip of SA Hunter/Jagter (-1.9%). In the case of Travel, Tourism & Hospitality publications (-4.3%) the increase posted by ahaMoments (+10.9%) was not enough to counter the slips of AA Traveller (-4.4%) and Best of Cape Town Central City (-7.9%)
On a cheerier note, The Foschini Group seems to have a solid hold on the Youth category (+7.0%) with its ClubX (+3.9%) aimed at 18 – 25 year olds and Kids Super Club (+9.5%), directed at 5 –12-year-olds, both showing sound increases.
B2B magazines (+8.9%) performed robustly, thanks to the element of controlled-free circulation.
Sterling performances were posted across a variety of subsectors: DIY And Industrial Trade News (125.6%), Profiles Stock Exchange Handbook (+36.7%), Analytical Reporter (+39.9%), South African Food Review (+30.4%) and The Green Building Handbook (+25.7%). Impressive growth was also achieved by: South African Pharmaceutical & Cosmetic Review (+71.0%), The Specialist Forum Journal (+43.9%), MDR Medical Desk Reference (+26.9%), Plumbing Africa (+32.9%) and Leading Architect & Design (+55.6%).
In summary, while most of the major category headline results support a narrative of doom and gloom, there are some bright individual exceptions, which provide some clues at what is needed to succeed in these turbulent times.
Having spent some decades working in the media agencies, Britta Reid now relishes the opportunity to take an independent perspective on the South African media world, especially during this time of radical research transformation.
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