Isolezwe, the country's only isiZulu daily newspaper, has passed the milestone of 1million average issue readers, according to the All Media and Products (AMPS) survey results presented earlier this month.
"The latest AMPS figures reveal that 1,049,000 people read our newspaper daily," says editor, Sazi Hadebe. "This is the result of consistent growth since we started out in 2002. Titles come and go but these latest figures point to a bright and long future for Isolezwe."
With over 70% reading at least three out of five copies a week off a low subscriber base, there must be something about the isiZulu daily that keeps readers coming back. According to recent focus group research it's the catchy headlines, relevant content, credible unbiased reporting and an empathy and respect for readers. Because it's published in isiZulu, readers get 'all the detail' and through the title, people are 'encouraged to do things that make them better'.
"Readers see it as a quality newspaper - well laid out with the latest news and attention to grammar and spelling," Hadebe says. "Among our columnists we have Fred Khumalo, who has a national profile, and Thulani Mbatha, a former Isolezwe editor. Contributors write about a wide range of subjects from isiZulu culture to politics and humour and periodic changes keep the content fresh."
Updates to the population estimates used in the AMPS survey have impacted on regional populations and audience sizes. Because of these changes, the South African Audience Research Foundation (SAARF) has cautioned against comparing previous results. The national (age 15+) population estimate has increased by 6.5% year-on-year to 37,214,000 while the estimates for KwaZulu-Natal and Durban have decreased slightly. The economic pull of the main metros is driving large scale migration.
"This makes Isolezwe's growth in the rural areas even more impressive," Hadebe says. "We are a predominantly rural province," he continues, "logistically, getting copies out to readers every day is no easy task so we rely on an extensive network of over 3000 outlets to get us into readers' hands while the news is still hot."
Sales in Durban make up just under half of the title's total daily sale while AMPS indicates that 37% of readers are in Durban.
Isolezwe's weekend offspring are also doing well. Readership of the relatively new Saturday title, Isolezwe ngoMgqibelo, is 523,000 and the Sunday paper, Isolezwe ngeSonto, has 704,000 readers.
Isolezwe has considerable influence in the Zulu market, with a combined unduplicated readership of 1,662,000 across the three editions and a 'past six month' readership of 5,627,000 for the daily.
"We have a system in place at Isolezwe that is working well and achieving remarkable results," Hadebe says. "Looking to the future, our aim is to keep the momentum and motivation going and build on our success."