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First quarter ABC’s - read all about it!


Published on Friday, 06 June 2014 by Tumi Mokgadinyane in Economics

South Africa has seen some of the most newsworthy times over the past six months. Newsrooms have been buzzing and even those who don’t normally read have probably picked up a print publication or two. Events have certainly got us talking; most recently with the miner’s strike, Nelson Mandela’s passing, Oscar, Radovan Krejcir and the culmination of our fourth democratic election.

We are satisfying our thirst for more in-depth knowledge of these 'hot off the press' stories in print media. I don't know about you, but I tend to believe something more if it’s written than when it's said. It costs nothing to say something, but it’s a different story to write it. With that being said, we would assume print media is thriving, right?

Our friends over at the ABC have released 2014's first quarter results summarising the trending shifts and movements within the print industry. The last report made mention of the tough times print publications have been going through, such as the macro-economic factors affecting the states slow GDP percentile growth, which has a direct effect on consumer's available disposable cash. Over the last five years and with the expansion of new media formats, audiences are being consistently stolen from print media.

At this juncture, we need to highlight the ABC's rule amendments as of 1st January 2014.

  1. Paid circulation - circulation is now counted when payment is received for issues distributed.
  2. Free bulk distribution of a publication is now excluded.
  3. Bulk sale - The publishers must prove distribution in terms of a list provided by the purchaser.

With that being said, the first quarter sees two magazine titles and ten newspaper titles added, as well as four magazine and five newspaper titles being removed from a total of 897 publications monitored by the ABC.

One of the significant removals from the men's consumer magazine sector this quarter is that of FHM. Due to the lack of advertising support and apparent declining sales the magazine has called it quits. This popular magazine was ABC certified with a circulation of 25 960 at the end of Q4 2013, as opposed to its heyday circulation of 117 365 per issue in 2005, when I was a school boy.

This is on the back of iconic magazine Sport Illustrated, also closing its doors in the 3rd quarter of 2012 for similar reasons. Last year however, PlayBoy SA opted to rather shut down the traditional print run and go purely digital. That could prove to be an ever increasing trend amongst struggling publications, considering the uptake of digital media.

On a positive note, custom magazines are still showing the highest circulation in Q1. Of its 102 publications, combined circulation is 11 787 596 averaging out to 115 565 per publication. Consumer magazines, all 218 of them, have a combined circulation of 5 888 4456 averaging at 27 011, which is just slightly higher than that of ex-FHM.

Total magazine circulation increased by 0.5% (97 000 copies) over the previous quarter, but has been steadily decreasing since Q4 2010. Consumer magazines decreased by 0.4% over the previous quarter (FHM withdrawal), and its downward trend is confirmed by the annual 1.7% decrease over a four year period (468 000 copies). Woman’s general interest consumer magazines category has also seen steady decline with an annual 3.4% decrease over the last four years. Q1 sees a decline of 48 000 copies due to titles being discontinued in this category as well.

Consumer magazines need to rigorously scrutinise their entire offering by matching how consumers are consuming media. In particular this product gives consumers “soft news” as opposed to hard news offered by their newspaper counterparts. Options of streamlining their integration with new media platforms could be the solution, instead offering an exact replica copy of the magazine online.

Going back to category performance; Weekend papers (29 titles) with circulations of 2 086 611 still out-perform daily papers (28 titles) with a circulation of 1 66 041 in this quarter, and still achieve an average circulation of 71 952 per title which is 24% higher than the Daily’s average.

Even with its higher circulation weekend papers as a whole have steadily declined by 5% over a four year period. English and Afrikaans titles, combined, have decreased by 13.5%, while vernacular titles have bucked the trend increasing by 11.6% over the same period.

Daily newspaper circulation has since 2010 declined by 4.5%, equivalent to 304 000 copies. Ads24 dailies year on year percentage difference has been negative 9.1% from April 2013 to March 2014 with Daily Sun leading the decline by negative 11.1%.

There is however good news for Daily Dispatch and Isolezwe because they have showed the largest growth amongst dailies. Daily Dispatch (Times Media) increased circulation to 30 199, (+18.33%) from the previous quarter. Isolezwe has been showing consistent growth, increasing circulation to 119 846 (+11.8%). Ilanga (the Zulu Weekly) seems to have borne the brunt of the Isolezwe growth as they have shown the largest decline of -13.9%.

The general decline in print publication circulation figures doesn't mean people are not reading, we are just reading on a different platform, mainly digital. The only way for print media to survive is to embrace the new technology and adjust to consumer behaviour. Alternatively, just disrupt the media landscape and introduce something completely innovative.

Source: ABC report 75.0 - first quarter release May 2014

Last modified onThursday, 15 June 2017 15:34