The latest quarterly circulation figures released by the Audit Bureau of Circulations (ABC) show an impressive year-on-year growth in Independent Media's share of the daily and weekend newspaper market in South Africa.
Year on year, Independent Media grew its share of the dailies market by 2.7%, i.e. from 31.6% in the first quarter of 2016 to 34.3% for the period January to March 2017 and a healthy 2.5% of the weekend market, from 27.3% to 29.8%, for the same period.
This is in stark contract to the results of competitors like Times Media Group which lost 2.3% of the dailies and 2.4% of the weekend market. Media24 and Caxton’s performance remained fairly static during this period.
Since the acquisition of Independent Media by a Sekunjalo-led consortium in 2013, the company clawed its way back from a 28% share of the dailies market to its current 34%, a mere three and a half years later
In the quarter under review, Pretoria News put in an impressive performance with a growth in circulation of 3.6% - from a circulation of 14,515 copies in Q4 2016 to 15,038 in the first quarter of 2017. This was boosted by the increase in single-copy sales. Sister publication The Star stood firm with a slight increase of just under 1%.
In the Cape, the Cape Times recorded a circulation growth of 1.4% (from 30,781 in Q4 2016 to 31,212 in Q1 2017). Of significance is the growth in its single-copy sales which increased by 1,208 copies. This is particularly significant in an environment where Cape Times has been under continued criticism from sceptics and Independent Media naysayers.
Isolezwe, South Africa’s largest daily vernacular publication which reaches millions of Zulu-speakers every day, grew by a whopping 5.2% (from 90,724 in Q4 2016 to 95,430 in Q1 2017) while its sister Saturday publication, Isolezwe ngoMgqibelo, surged ahead with a growth of 7.2% (from 69,387 copies in Q4 2016 to 74,365 in Q1 2017).
“To achieve this kind of performance in an environment where Times Media Group, Media24 and Caxton titles are all showing a decline, is indicative of the strategy that we have put in place," said executive chairman of Independent Media, Dr Iqbal Survé.
Since the acquisition of Independent Media by a Sekunjalo-led consortium in 2013, competitors and industry sceptics were doubtful whether the company and its stable of titles would thrive under the new ownership.
Over the past three and a half years, Dr Survé has systematically implemented a new business strategy, employed industry specialists, invested in technology, skills training and development and embarked on an aggressive transformation drive throughout the organisation.
“The good performance can also be attributed to the editorial leadership which has changed significantly over the past few years. Our editors are in touch with their readers and have introduced innovative ways to connect them," said Dr Survé.
Other strong Independent Media performers are:
KZN: Year-on-year, The Mercury grew by 460 copies while Independent on Saturday’s quarterly growth showed an increase of 701 copies.
Cape: The duo of Weekend Argus publications showed a quarter-on-quarter increase of 1.7% (from 52,005 to 52,870).
Gauteng: Pretoria News Saturday showed a very encouraging 19% year-on-year increase in circulation of 1,425 which was boosted by a positive increase in business subscriptions.
“While our online platforms are showing increasingly good, consistent growth, we continue to value our print readership and tremendously appreciate their interaction with us so that we can offer them tailor-made news, information and entertainment,” said Survé.
Independent Media is a leading multi-platform media company with a stable of 25 newspaper and magazine publications in South Africa and a print and online audience of approximately 10 million.