It’s easy to be distressed about the state of journalism in South Africa. Despite encouraging innovations and growth in other mediums, newspaper houses largely remain the home of in-depth journalism in this country: the kind of journalism made by reporters who go out and get their shoes dirty, bringing readers stories from marginalised communities or the corridors of power, and then investigate and analyse these findings. This kind of journalism goes beyond constant quick updates or desktop analysis. It’s the sort of journalism that keeps a nation on its toes.
And yet, for the past three quarters, all newspaper categories that require a paying audience have fallen in circulation. Devastatingly so. Which makes the Mail & Guardian’s continued growth all the more encouraging – and necessary.
Since this publication went through a shake-up and rejuvenation late last year, we have seen dramatic year-on-year growth in each release by the Audit Bureau of Circulations of South Africa. The first quarter of this year saw incredible growth: we were up 12.1% year on year whereas weeklies, in general, were down 10.3% for the same period. In that quarter, the M&G was the only paper of any kind to show significant growth. The second-quarter results of this year for the period April to June 2016, released on Thursday, showed that the M&G was again up year on year, this time by 6.3%.
This is all thanks to you, the reader. We have thrown ourselves into constantly improving the quality of this publication – and you keep voting with your rands.
But the news for the rest of the industry was, yet again, bleak. Weeklies were down 6.7%. Only three other newspapers were up: the Pretoria News by 0.15%, The Namibian by 1.27%, and the Sunday Tribune by 0.32%.
We are keenly aware that we, too, could suffer dramatic losses and are constantly strategising to refine our offering. We must do much more to reach our readers with news and on platforms that best suit them – and, most importantly, continue to work on ways to keep meaningful journalism alive.