South Africa: EXCELLENT: Newspapers that deserved to die: End of an era: Media24 to close iconic newspapers


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[It pleases me to see Beeld and Rapport gone. They turned on their own people. The Internet destroyed them! Jan]

October marks the end for the print versions of City Press, Daily Sun, Rapport and Beeld.

In 2000, Rapport’s circulation was around 335 000. Twenty-four years later, the figure hovers around 60 000.

In a development that will shock readers and the South African media establishment, Media24 is set to close several of its mainstream print publications, including City Press, Rapport, Beeld, and Daily Sun.

It is understood that the axe could fall in October.

Four sources at the media company have independently confirmed that a decision has been taken to close them.

It’s further understood that the only print publication in the stable remaining in circulation is the Cape Town-headquartered Die Burger.

Ishmet Davidson, CEO of Media24, responded that “Media24 continuously reviews its operations to protect viability and long-term sustainability within the context of its transition to an increasingly digital media landscape. We will also continue to consult with staff about any potential and subsequent actions and remain committed to following due process. We do not comment on rumours or speculation, nor on the details of any internal processes.”

The decision comes as Media24 and other companies in the print space grapple with financial losses, primarily driven by escalating distribution costs, diminishing advertising revenue and a readership migration to online platforms.

It is unknown whether Media24 will create individual online brands for the newspapers, as their content is aggregated as sub-sections of its News24 and Netwerk24 portals.

One source tells Moneyweb that while the announcement is not common knowledge within newsrooms and advertising departments, there has been “general anxiety” in the company for a long time.

Falling circulation figures for the titles would seem to bear this out. In 2000, Rapport’s circulation was around 335 000. Twenty-four years later, the figure hovers around 60 000. In the past two decades, its Sunday stablemate, City Press, has seen its circulation dive from 233 000 to around 14 000.

At the same time, the highly respected daily paper Beeld has seen its circulation drop from just over 100 000 to 20 000.

These figures are representative of a worldwide decline in print titles as the move to digital news consumption is now fully entrenched.

Rival titles in other media groups, including the Arena-owned Sunday Times and Business Day, are also experiencing pressure.

While declining circulation is one issue, Moneyweb has also been told that increasing printing and distribution costs have led to the closure of discussions.

One explanation for Die Burger’s continued publication could be its more robust financial performance or lower distribution costs compared to the northern titles.

Rapport was established in 1970. Previously, it was called Die Beeld, an Afrikaans Sunday newspaper established in the 1960s. The publication later merged with Dagbreek to become Rapport, and the Beeld brand was re-established in 1974 as a daily publication.

City Press also has a rich history. It was established in 1982 as the Golden City Press by Jim Bailey and the South African Associated Newspapers (SAAN) group. The following year, “Golden” was dropped from the newspaper’s name. SAAN later withdrew from its partnership with Bailey, and the newspaper ran into financial difficulties.

Nasionale Pers, as Media24’s owner Naspers was called then, took over the publication of the newspaper as well as its sister publications, Drum and True Love & Family, in 1984.

The mass market Daily Sun was launched in 2002. It was the brainchild of the late veteran journalist Deon du Plessis, who targeted black readers in and around the major urban centres.

A leading media strategist tells Moneyweb that from a broad advertising perspective, the decision would be “neither here nor there”, as print now accounts for just over 6% of overall ad spend, with digital accounting for between 30% and 40%.

Print media, he says, has sadly become an ‘also ran’, even though it is sad when titles go dark.


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