The Weekender newspaper is dead and buried - officially killed by the recession. Those who enjoyed the 44-month-old newspaper's intelligent and unique content describe the loss as some sort of a drama, while industry watchers dig deep into their expert minds to explain the causes of the newspaper's ‘sudden death'.
“It is sad indeed. This is unexpected and a bit hard to swallow,” accountant Linda Mthembu said, after buying her last copy of the paper on Saturday. This is like a TV drama - in this episode you are enjoying the character's performance and in the next episode you see it disappear, just like that, no warning.”
Personal assistant Esther Moshwane said: “I didn't really like its contents, which I believe was too intellectual and didn't appeal to an ordinary person like me. I just read it because my boss was one of its subscribers.”
Always a bit of a risk
Lesley Cowling, senior lecturer at Wits University's School of Journalism, said the closure of The Weekender is sad for those who enjoy a more reflective quality read and a culture-driven publication.
“However, the newspaper was always a bit of a risky business, as quality media for the educated and literate South Africans has always had difficulty surviving. I think that the demise of the newspaper is also a loss for non-fiction writers, as this was one paper that would publish longer and more creative pieces.”
William Bird, head of Media Monitoring Africa (MMA), said: “Their target was upmarket, intelligent readers. Maybe, the content played a role - in the sense that it didn't appeal to almost everyone.
BD also lost advertising
“The limited market wasn't even the problem. I think it had more to do with distribution issues and convincing advertisers of its value. Its sister paper Business Day has also lost a huge amount of advertising, so in that context its closure isn't that surprising.”
Southern Africa Report publisher and veteran editor Raymond Louw said: “It is indeed sad to see any newspaper closing but especially so with The Weekender which tried to cater for an upmarket audience with quality material.
“It was providing material that was not readily available in other publications, and we will all be the poorer for the hole that its closing leaves.”
Louw added: “It is difficult to explain it, but there is no doubt that the recession was a serious blow and inhibited its chances of growing. When I was editor of the Rand Daily Mail we were aware that our Saturday edition attracted a much lower volume of advertising compared to the other days' editions.
“We tried to create an upmarket aura by running more thoughtful material including the results of our investigative journalism but it did not have much impact on sales or in attracting advertising.
Not on Saturdays
“There appears to be a no-no approach by advertisers to Saturday advertising. The cover price of R12.50 (nearly double that of the Saturday Star, nearly three times higher than The Citizen, though well under the Mail & Guardian's R19.50) may have put some people off, but not when compared to the Mail & Guardian.
“It reached a circulation of 15 000 well below that of the Mail & Guardian. I wonder whether if it lived up to its name and came out about midday on Friday it would have done better.”
But, figures from the Audit Bureau of Circulations (ABC) show that The Weekender grew by 10.69% in the second quarter of 2009, and was the best year-on-year performer (over 15%) in the third quarter of 2008.
A statement issued late last week said: “The board of BDFM Publishers has decided, with regret, to cease publishing The Weekender newspaper, due to what it feels are insurmountable financial difficulties occasioned by the ongoing economic crisis in South Africa and the rest of the world. The final edition will appear tomorrow, Saturday November 7.”
Publisher Karen Bonsall said yesterday: “The only way to describe the feelings of The Weekender team is that we are devastated. We believe it was the best weekend read and our loyal subscribers, readers, contributors and staff have already shown their feelings for the paper through the many positive emails and calls received this weekend!
“It is extremely painful winding down this special paper, produced since March 2006 by a professional and enthusiastic team, and BDFM is making every effort to redeploy the staff. Discussions in this regard begin this week.”
Bonsall added: “We thank everyone who contributed to making The Weekender a fine product and an intelligent and interesting read.
“The process of winding down the publication will obviously involve dealing with readers who have already paid their subscriptions. In the first instance, subscribers should contact me at or call BDFM managing director, Mzi Malunga, on +27 (0)11 280 3512.”
Issa Sikiti da Silva is a winner of the 2010 SADC Media Awards (print category). He freelances for various media outlets, local and foreign, and has travelled extensively across Africa. His work has been published both in French and English. He used to contribute to Bizcommunity.com as a senior news writer.
The Weekender was definitely an intelligent and interesting read. There are so few intelligent options available on Saturday's and Sunday's and I will dearly miss my beloved paper. Farewell my friend. Posted on 9 Nov 2009 08:43
..because online reach is a more cost effective solution.
more and more people are not buying printed newspapers because most of the information (news) can be found online.
that being said, there is a definite demand for well written and thought out articles online. Perhaps the journalists who worked for the Weekender should start an online version... Posted on 9 Nov 2009 12:52
If the Weekender was target at eduacted and literate South Africans and the paper has had to close, the only logical conclusion that can be made is that there are few educated and literate people in South Africa. How will we ever progress into the future if a project/initiative like this fails? Very sad indeed. Posted on 9 Nov 2009 13:20
The comment from " Personal assistant Esther Moshwane" says it all, really.
You only have to look at the inane claptrap that passes for insight from our so-called leaders be they business, political or cultural to see why well considered opinion is not in demand in SA. Look at the comments section on sites like News24/M&G and you'll see what the market is. The Weekender was clearly wasted on a dim-witted, knee-jerk-reaction loving country. Sad, sad, sad. Posted on 9 Nov 2009 14:08
The death of the Weekender suggests a dearth of quality readers-
The Personal Assistant is not wrong to hate the late weekender, but she is wrong to judge. This is waaay out of her league for starters. Try People Magazine sister.
I think "Film" has summed up my feelings. I was a subscriber from the beginning. It is the only newspaper i would read on a weekend and i would still feel extremely enlightened about local and global affairs. The week before the closure there was an interesting article on Art in the CBD's new BRT station. Oh how I will miss Alexander Parker's well written car reviews which always had an interesting social insight intro that always related to his choice of reviewed car.
To the Weekender Team, please do not think that nobody appreciated what you did. It is sad Julius Malema was not a reader, otherwise he would rally his troops to prevent the closure by at least buying each a copy before "Glenfiddich"
What a shock & a shame. The only 'light' intelligent read for the weekend. Books, travel, food, even motoring was worth a read. And what's left - The Saturday Star & The Citizen? I don't think so Posted on 9 Nov 2009 16:28
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