Yes, it is possible to talk about shrinking print revenues, shrinking readerships, and the bruises Covid caused magazines around the world. It certainly changed how we do business at Media24, South Africa’s biggest publisher. These initial difficult realities have been our inspiration. We discovered opportunities that keep our community engaged and keep our teams and innovators busy.
Niche would love to meet you!
We saw a significant increase in niche content consumption (mostly in print) during the Covid lockdowns. This included puzzles, gardening and cooking.
Online consumers want to be updated on current events and entertained with escapist content. This is quite an odd mix for traditional media brands – how do we tick all the boxes for our users on one platform without compromising credibility or entertainment value?
Exactly that drove our niche focus – especially in the lifestyle space. All our 14 magazine titles are now publishing brand extensions that focus on special interests within the core markets that fill the gaps the digital world can’t necessarily capture locally. We also make the content online where possible. We publish more than 100 special interest magazines yearly – serving a multitude of special interest communities.
For example, our leading English female title Fair Lady publishes stand-alone diet magazines that focus on current trends – be it banting or fasting. Hot, a menopause-focused publication, was the one extension that really stood out. This year, we will host reader conferences on the subject.
Dear reader, please show us your money and data
Traditional media face the greatest challenge – changing our business model has resulted in a shift in advertising revenue. To address this challenge, we have refocused our focus on our core concept: Content. Delivering high-quality, relevant and always-fresh content through world-class delivery channels.
Firstly, we increased print products’ cover prices quite significantly over the past few years. Our editors had a hard time with this one – they believed paying so much more would shrink our audiences significantly. Although the print audience numbers fell, revenue was a win.
We also invested heavily in the digital subscription model. PDF copies as well as sharing our brand content on Media24’s top digital news platforms, have ensured our communities have a digital home. This is not for nothing.
It’s no secret: If a user sees value in unique content, they will come and they will pay.
Digital publishers all over the globe miscalculated the resistance of digital content owners to pay for it. Positive signs are being seen in our focus on providing trustworthy content that is delivered seamlessly to audiences. We have seen successes that include Media24’s Afrikaans news paywall platform, Netwerk24, which launched in 2014 and has now almost reached 100 000 subscribers. Netwerk24’s success is largely dependent on its ability to deliver original, compelling and premium content to a targeted audience. We offer a variety of content, including audiobooks and games as well as short-form soapies and video content. It is unique, compelling content.
Establishing centres for content excellence
We introduced a new model for 2020 to ensure that we could maintain and improve the quality content in our magazines. Six of our magazines were outsourced their editorial functions.
Covid, despite the fact that the model is an effective cost-management strategy, highlighted the need for our editorial staff to be more free. Each case involved existing editors forming their own media company and forming a partnership with Media24. Media24 is now focused on the business aspects of the company: Distribution, marketing, advertising sales and distribution. And the creatives can focus on what they love – corporate hassles and red tape are no longer part of their lives. They are able to start their own businesses and put together their own teams. Most importantly, they have the ability to invent and create content that is relevant to their communities. Each of these publications are thriving – creatively and financially.
The more you have, the better!
Our brands’ transition from paper to internet has been a constant process of trial and error for the past 20 decades. More recently we decided to ringfence a few of our traditional print brand’s online presence under a new brand.
SNL24.com, an acronym for soccer news and lifestyle, was launched in September 2022. It is a curated platform that hosts five titles that resonate in the middle-black South African market. It contains two soccer titles, as well as a tabloid and lifestyle title.
SNL24, the new platform, appeals to soccer lovers and those looking for engaging news and entertainment content. SNL24 targets middle and upper-middle market. It has a potential audience of 3.7million and, when combined, a 2.1 million print audience, provides a multi-platform, comprehensive communication opportunity for advertisers. All the brands on the platform have a strong audience credibility and loyalty. This complements each other and helps them retain more eyeballs.
SNL24 taught us that while scale can improve our ability to move audiences to digital platforms, it takes time to build new brands. The platform uses AI to identify brand lovers and keeps them busy with their preferred content – and will then introduce more content from the other brands based on their reading preferences. The unique browser stats for the platform are encouraging, despite its recent launch. With a low-priced subscription model we hope to not just build scale but also grow long-term revenue via paying customers.
(And a side-note – destroying the silos between newspapers and magazines and refocusing content on communities and interest groups, has been much easier than I ever dreamed.)
It’s certainly not bad news for magazines. The world awaits our darlings.
Ferreira will speak at Indian Magazine Congress (March 24).
Disclaimer: The views expressed in this article are solely the author’s and do NOT reflect those of exchange4media.com
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