This said, it is not all doom and gloom for the print industry even with the declining year-on-year picture. The quarter-by-quarter details do seem to suggest a slowdown in declining circulations. Plus encouragingly, the number of ABC members has actually increased from 863 to 876. In the first two quarters of the year we have had 37 new members and 24 members leaving, thus a total growth of 13 new members from a previously static membership growth pattern in Quarter 4 of 2012.
But don't get too excited! The following information looks at trended data from 1997 to 2013 and shows how much the print landscape has changed.
Firstly, the adult population of 15+ has increased by 36% over this period which is a story in itself. But, the reality is that although there are more titles and people are spoilt for choice, the number of the available audience is not a factor on the declining circulation as there’s an audience.
If we look at daily papers, they had a peak combined circulation in 2007 with 1 692 010 copies, which is down 29% in 2013 to 1 198 852.
Weekend papers paint a similar picture, with peak circulation in 2007 at 2 409 552 down 18% to 1 979 585 in 2013.
If we look at papers by language, Afrikaans daily papers have gone from 243 915 in 1997 to 149 062 in 2013, a 39% decrease. The English market’s daily papers have declined by 41%, from 717 305 in 1997 to 423 661 in 2013.
The combination of the Daily Sun, Isolezwe, Sowetan and the Son had a total circulation of 225 987 in 1997. This increased by 276%, to a peak in 2009, with a combined circulation of 850 556. However, this has now declined by 26% to 626 129 in 2013.
Afrikaans weekly titles are down 34%, from circulation highs of 619 755 in 1997 , to 409 571 in 2013. Similarly, English weekly titles are down 28% , to 846 647 in 2013.
A combination of Sunday World, Sunday Sun, the Isolewe and Illanga titles, and City Press and Son op Sondag are up 179%, from 251 213 in 1997 to 723 367 in 2013.
Total daily and weekend circulations, from 1997 to 2013, are down 23% while total community papers are up 106% over the same period. Even sold community papers are up 103% over the same period.
Tells you something about the future of newspapers, doesn't it?