SA print industry 'alive and well'

South Africans have a growing appetite for newspapers, but the vast menu of magazines is not as palatable, according to the newly released Amps 2005 readership figures.

However, the print industry, “as well as its brothers and cousins in neighbouring media, is alive and well”, Starcom MD Gordon Patterson said on Friday.

Sceptics who predict the decline of the print industry are not to be believed, he said.

“In fact, print is remarkably healthy, but magazines are cannibalising each other.”

For example, in 2004, relative newcomer Daily Sun had 2,5-million readers.

“The paper now has 3,44-million readers every day.”

The Sowetan has increased its readership slightly in the past six months.

The Citizen is down from 401 000 to 368 000 readers a day, and so is The Star—down from 621 000 in 2003 to 583 000 in 2004 and now to a low of 535 000 readers a day.

In terms of readers per copy, according to Amps, the Sowetan still tips the scales—even with its higher LSM—at 12,3 readers a copy.

“This is the highest among all the papers,” Patterson said.

The Daily Sun has 6,9 readers a copy, while the likes of The Star and Business Day weigh in way down the scale at just 3,2 and 2,5 readers a copy respectively.

Deon du Plessis, publisher of the Daily Sun and newcomer Nova, says older papers get trapped.

“They go for too many markets in one paper, like trying to balance a business supplement with township news.”

He said the world wide web is driving the global market and “papers are starting to double as signposts for the internet”.

“With the collapse of borders comes a globalisation of the mind—and newspapers must keep their finger on the pulse,” Du Plessis said.

In general, magazine readership is down across all sectors.

“Magazines are cannibalising each other,” Patterson said. “This means that, eventually, only the very focused and niche titles will survive.”

Magazines that show an increase in readership are: People, Kickoff, TV Plus, DSTV guide, Fairlady, FHM, Insig, Jet Club, M-Net TV Guide, O (the Oprah Winfrey magazine), Popular Mechanics, Topcar and Wiel.

“Circulation figures give you the vital signs of a publication, its state of health as it were, while readership figures give you the personality of the publication,” Patterson said.

He believes that a flooded market and giveaways have played a major role in magazines’ readership decline, especially women’s magazines.

“There’s too much of the same, so readers never form a relationship with one title. Their readers trawl through the aisles, looking for something that catches their eye ... and you’re left with promiscuous consumption.”

He also says that women’s magazines have hit a slump because “editors think they personify the brand”.

“A professional editor should be able to edit anything.”

Fairlady‘s circulation, however, has gone up from 796 000 to 827 000 readers and FHM has 670 000 readers—86 000 up from 2004.

Patterson predicted that in the near future, the media’s focus will shift from broadcasting to “narrowcasting”, across all media types.

He said interactive TV and personal video recording are definitely the most exciting developments for 2006.—Sapa

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