It’s no secret that most publishers dread the release of the latest Audit Bureau of Circulations’ numbers. Not so those involved in Caxton’s Bona magazine. Its Q1 2019 figures saw growth of 10% from 68 665 to 75 219, on top of the Q4 2018’s 13% upward movement, and 7% in the quarter before that.
Bona’s editor, Bongiwe Tshiqi, said the company was confident of positive results in the 2019 quarter one release of ABC data “but were still blown away by the consistent upward trend of Bona’s sales figures”.
Tshiqi reckons Bona, which has a 63-year pedigree, is bucking the trends right now not least due to its ‘Be who you want to be’ positioning.
“As a brand we have worked very hard to celebrate South African women as they are and not force a specific prescription of beauty on them,” she says.
“We feature cover stars ranging from their early 20s to their late 60s, celebrating the millennials entering the industry and disrupting it, like Pearl Modiadie and Thuso Mbedu, while also honouring the amazing work of legends like Thembi Nyadeni and Connie Chiume. Women excelling at any age, size or in any industry are applauded on the covers and inside the magazine.”
This extends to readers too, Tshiqi says, adding that envisioning their readers as a hard working mothers who also influence a lot of decisions with her larger family unit, “it was disturbing to note the limited view in which she is perceived and thus communicated with”.
That had to change in terms of content direction. “We’ve introduced relatable and engaging content especially around finances, parenting, motoring, relationships, careers and health and beauty issues,” she says.
Bona also offers a one-of-a-kind proposition, being the only magazine in South Africa published in English, Zulu, Sotho and Xhosa. This plays a “huge role” in its success, says Tshiqi. “A number of our readers reach out to us to tell us how they use the different languages to help teach/improve their kids’ home languages, which is extremely important to our readers. This also helps to cement us as a proudly South African publication.”
Research plays a key role in helping the editorial team respect their readers with content designed to adapt to their changing needs. “We work with a research company called Opinion Solutions to run regular reader surveys throughout the year to assist us in gaining a much greater understanding of our audience’s changing needs,” Tshiqi explains.
Interests and aspirations
This helps to create a reader profile, detailing her age, interests, income as well as her responsibilities. “We’ve also drawn up a visual mood board that represents this woman’s interests and aspirations. Therefore whenever I’m working on content, I constantly have to ask myself if she will indeed enjoy or find value in what we’re planning. It really helps to keep me objective and ensure that I don’t just create a publication that serves my interests and the interests if those closest to me,” Tshiqi says.
And that means not being “judgemental or preachy”. This editorial positioning means discussing things and sharing experiences with the reader “instead of talking down to her” and approaching her as a “friend rather than a follower”.
Asked how she believes she embodies her readers, Tshiqi says she is “an inquisitive South African woman who is sick and tired of being marginalised and being fed stereotypical ideas of beauty and success”.
“I want to be addressed with respect and am desperate to learn ways in which I can pass on ideas around self-worth, financial stability and personal and professional fulfilment to the children I may one day have as well as my nephews and nieces,” she says. “That, I believe, is the Bona woman. She demands adequate representation, financial wisdom and access to the world, for herself and her children. We endeavour to deliver that and much more to her on a monthly basis.”
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