The Audit Bureau of Circulations of South Africa has just released the data for the first quarter of 2019. While it seems that the first report of the year should be portentous, the rules guiding the reporting frequency of publications results in many smaller and infrequent titles not being required to report in this cycle must be remembered. (For those who wish to understand the details of these rules, the reporting standards are published here.)
As usual, I have chosen to focus on the performance of the current quarter over the previous quarter.
During this time, Total Newspaper circulation declined slightly by -1.4%.
Overall Daily Newspapers dropped more notably by -2.6%. The worst affected titles were: The Star (-5.0%), Son (-6.5%), The Herald (-9.3%) and Business Day (-9.8%). More positively, The Diamond Fields Advertiser (+2.1%) nudged upwards, while a number of publications successfully fought off declines: Beeld (+0.9%), Cape Argus (+0.9%), Cape Times (+0.6%), Sowetan (+0.5%) and Pretoria News (+0.3%).
Weekend Newspapers (-1.6%) suffered less. Indeed, gains were posted by Volksblad Sat (+7.1%), Pretoria News Sat (+6.2%), Die Burger Sat (+6.0%), Sunday World (+3.8%), Son op Sondag (+3.1%) and Beeld Sat (+1.9%). Several publications remained stable: Isolezwe ngoMgqibelo (+0.2%), Weekend Argus (+0.1%), Isolezwe ngeSonto (+0.1%), Ilanga Langesonto (-0.1%), Rapport (-0.1%) and City Press (-0.6%). The biggest title in the category, Sunday Times, dropped (4.0%), while the worst losses were experienced by Weekend Post (-9.1%), Daily Dispatch Weekend (-10.7%) and the Saturday Star (-10.9%).
Overall Free Newspapers (-1.4%) slipped, with some notable variations at a title level. Gains were posted by Hazyview Herald (+97.7%), City Vision (Lwandle/Nomzamo) (+57.1%), Phoenix Sun – including Cornubia, Tongaat & Verulam (+37.0%), Stanger Weekly (+11.9%), Chiawelo Urban News (+10.0%) and Tongaat & Verulam Tabloid (+9.4%). The losers were Mossel Bay Home Ads News (-9.8%), Uthukela Eyethu (-14.3%), Nelspruit Post (-15.8%), Northern News – Kraaifontein, Brackenfel, Kuils River (-17.2%) and Idinga (-24.7%).
The small category, Weekly Newspapers (-0.5%), is dominated by Soccer Laduma, which remained stable (+0.3%), while the Mail & Guardian declined (-8.6%).
More hearteningly, Local Newspapers (+0.2%) stabilised despite the discontinuation of the Tuesday Middelburg Observer due to a solid performance from Mpumalanga News (+25.3%). Both editions of The Lowvelder/Die Laevelder were up: Friday (+23.7%) and Tuesday (+18.9%), together with the Brits Pos (+7.4%), Bosvelder Review (+6.7%), Potchefstroom Herald (+5.9%) and Oudtshoorn Courant (+5.3%). Unfortunately, double digit losses were incurred by Talk of the Town (-10.6%), Stellalander (-10.6%), Polokwane Observer (-16.6%) and The Courier (-22.4%).
The relatively small Hybrid Newspaper (+0.4%) sector remained solid. Mogol Pos/Post (+6.8%) improved its circulation, whilst The Kokstad Advertiser (+0.5%) and Excelsior News/Nuus (-0.1%), remained firm. The Zoutpansberger (-2.5%) and Die Pos (-4.6%) declined slightly.
Overall Magazines (-3.0%) fared worse than newspapers.
However, Consumer Magazines (-0.1%) were relatively stable. The worst performing sub categories were: Motoring (-11.6%), Entertainment (-12.6%) and the niche sector of Arts, Culture and Heritage (-30.9%). The motoring sector was affected by Speed and Sound failing to submit figures and drops from a number of publications: Driven Magazine (-1.5%), Caravan & Outdoor Life/Kamp & Karavaan (-4.2%), Bike SA (-5.3%) and Super Bike (-13.0%). It was not all bad news though, with three titles showing growth: SA4x4 (+21.6%), Car (+2.2%) and Leisure Wheels (+1.7%).
The decline in Entertainment was due to no submission from Hello Johannesburg and negative figures from TV Plus: English (-5.9%) and Afrikaans ( -6.6%). Islam Today KZN did not publish, while Jewish Life (-3.3%) slipped, affecting Arts, Culture and Heritage.
People (-1.8%), which constitutes the Celebrity category, was down. Excluding GQ from the Male (-1.2%) sector because of its change of frequency, results in a small overall drop. This can be attributed to Men’s Health (-9.0%); Popular Mechanics edged upwards 3.1%.
There were mixed performances within the Sport and Hobby (-2.4%) titles. Decreases were experienced by Wildland Magazine (-3.5%), SA Rugby (-5.5%) and The Bank Angler/Die Oewerhengelaar (-16.6%). By contrast, the smaller title, The Bass Angler/Die Baarshengelaar (+26.4%), showed strong growth, as did HQ (+19.1%), SA Flyer (+15.2%) and Modern Athlete (+14.7%).
Landbouweekblad (-1.6%), Veeplaas (-4.7%) and Marktoe! (-18.7%) were responsible for Farming’s (-3.7%) decline, while Farmer’s Weekly held firm (+0.7%).
Growth from Barbie Magazine (+8.6%) ensured that the Youth (+0.3%) sub category held firm, while The Ultimate Braai (+1.8%) buoyed up Leisure (+0.6%). Travel, Tourism & Hospitality (+0.2%) remained stable due to SA Country Life (+4.9%) and Weg/Go (+1.6%) offsetting the losses of Getaway (-0.6%) and go! Drive & Camp and Weg! Ry & Sleep (-4.4%).
While many titles were not due to report in this cycle, Parenting (+0.4%) was supported by growth spurts from Mamas & Papas (+7.5%) and Living and Loving (+3.6%)
In total, the Home category (+1.0%) was slightly up. Whilst many titles are not required to report in this cycle, there was some volatility in the category. Dips were experienced by: SA Home Owner
(-0.9%), Tuis/Home (-2.4%) and The Gardener/Die Tuinier (-6.3%). These were compensated for by Food and Home Entertaining (+2.2%), Conde Nast House & Garden (+8.1%) and by an exceptional performance from House & Leisure (+37.9%).
The solid top-line performance of the Business and News (+2.4%) sector masks a fair amount of movement at an individual level, with declines from Financial Mail (-0.8%), SA Real Estate Investor Magazine (-1.1%) and Noseweek (-6.1%). Entrepreneur was suspended, while Finweek (3.6%) edged upwards. A stellar performance was delivered by Forbes Africa (+21.9%).
Animaltalk (+5.2%) ensured that Pets (+2.8%) recorded positive growth, as did Woman’s General Interest (+3.9%). However, this was a category of mixed fortunes, with modest slippages recorded by Sarie (-1.1%), Rooi Rose (-4.2%), Kuier (-4.4%), Fairlady (-4.6%) and Move! (-4.7%). More significant drops were experienced by Women’s Health (-10.4%), True Love (-12.8%) and Woman and Home (-17.0%). In contrast, respectable increases were posted by Vroue Keur (+1.3%) Your Family (+4.0%) Essentials (+5.1%). The stars of the category were Cosmopolitan (+13.7%) and Good Housekeeping/Goeie Huishouding (+34.2%), suggesting that Associated Media Publishing does, indeed, “know women”!
The Free Magazines (-3.1%) category, largely comprised of iterations of Caxton’s Get It title, declined. Modest gains were posted by the following editions: Northern KZN (+4.0%), Lowveld (+3.0%), Pretoria (+0.9%), Ballito to Umhlanga (+0.7%), Highway (+0.3%) eMalahleni-Middelburg (+0.3%). Gauteng proved more challenging, with three of the four Joburg editions delivering double digit declines: Joburg South (-10.1%), Joburg East (-10.3%) and Northern Suburbs (17.3%).
Custom Magazines (-5.9%) fared poorly, driven down largely by the Retail (-14.7%) and Professional (-19.4%) sub categories. In the case of the former, the major blow came from the discontinuation of the print version of the Edgars Club Magazine, which has “moved from in-store to in-the-palm-your-hand” or, in other words, gone digital. The Foschini Group’s Club Magazine experienced slight slippage (-3.1%). Significant losses in the Professional titles were recorded by Accountancy SA (-23.2%) and De Rebus -45.7%. It should be noted that it was not the reporting period for five of the eight titles.
Health & Wellbeing (-0.7%) titles slipped slightly due to the South African Medical Journal (-1.3%) and Fitlife (-5.0%). Whilst Fresh Living/Kook en Kuier remained relatively stable (-0.9%), Living Space’s drop (-4.0%) resulted in the Home category losing momentum (-1.3%).
Despite Premier’s solid performance (+1.6%), Escapes’ drop (-8.9%) ensured that the Travel, Tourism & Hospitality (-2.3%) subcategory posted a loss. The small Youth sector saw both titles slip: Kids Super Club (-2.3%) and ClubX (-2.4%). The decline in the Industry Specific (-3.9%) sub-category was largely due to Estate Living not making a submission and Servamus (-2.2%) dropping.
The Sport and Hobby category (-4.2%) was dented by some lacklustre performances: SA Hunter/Jagter (-2.0%) and The Foschini Group’s Soccer Club (-2.5%) and Sports Club (-5.8%). Once again, the good news was delivered by the In-flight (+3.1%) sector with a sterling performance from Indwe (+41.2%) and solid achievements from Mango Juice (+4.5%) and In Flight Magazine (+3.9%).
The B2B Magazine (-0.3%) sector performance was muted. It is important to note that this category has a high proportion of titles with low publication frequencies, which do not report in this particular cycle.
Information and Computer Technology (-5.6%) was the worst performing sector, due to the losses delivered by Brainstorm (-7.7%). While Retail (-1.4%) was marginally down due to no figures from Supermarket and Retailer and losses from International Independent Trader (-3.6%) and Trader’s Friend – Convenience Stores, FMCG Franchises and Chain Stores (-11.5%), there were some impressive performances from Trader’s Friend – Independent Retailers and Wholesalers (+20.1%), The International Hardware Retailer (+12.6%), The International FMCG Retailer (+10.5%) and Pharmacy Retailer (+5.4%).
On the brighter side, the Transport and Logistics (+1.2%) sub-category grew slightly, thanks to Freight & Trading Weekly (+4.1%) and Truck & Bus (+2.0%). An increase in Mining & Quarrying (+2.5%) was the result of significant growth by the small title, Mining Mirror (+46.1%) and solid performances from Modern Mining (+5.8%) and Mining Weekly (+4.4%). Similarly, the positive performance of the Health and Wellbeing (+4.4%) category was due to MIMS (+43.5%) and The Specialist Forum Journal (+6.4%) and Medical Chronicle (+4.0%).
In conclusion, while the overall results are not too gloomy, it must be remembered that numerous more infrequent titles were not required to report at this time, which mutes the overall picture. As ever, there are some examples which prove that growth remains possible.
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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