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The Highs and Lows of the ABC’s

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The Highs and Lows of the ABC’s

Gordon Patterson, Group MD of the Starcom MediaVest Group (SMG) and Vice Chair of the ABC’s takes a look at the health of the print industry.  


Times remain tough in the print industry. Current GDP projections indicate that we will achieve a 2.5% GDP growth albeit that CPI inflation is just over 6%.


The Daily Newspaper category continues to decline with several sharp drops in total circulation. That said, vernacular circulation growth continues its upward trend and Weeklies have posted a solid growth.


Local Newspapers, while down overall, have several titles that reflect strong growth including The Tembisan. Free Newspapers are stable overall but it would be remiss not to mention the startling growth of the Zululand Eyethu, up 303%.


While overall consumer magazine circulation is down sharply we still see strong growth from titles such as Kuier: up 67%, Tuis: up 35%, Kick-off up 34% and Living and Loving: up 33% while Playboy dropped 64%. Overall, Business to Business titles dropped slightly.


The Custom category grew marginally overall, and we noted several postings reflecting strong growth, including; JSE Annual (+101%), Mercedes-Benz Annual (+72%) and Foschini Sport (+68%).There is no doubt that while some titles continue to grow, overall the general poor health of the economy and cost cutting measures by publishers will increasingly shape the print landscape.


In terms of Media Inflation for January to June 2012, MIW inflation has remained stable at 10.4% while print rate inflation is stable at just under 5.5% and circulation declines have pushed MIW inflation to just under 12%.


All categories of print have improved their MIW inflation with the exception of Community (Local) Newspapers which increased as a result of a slight decrease in category circulation. Daily Press leads the print MIW table with 15.6%.


Interestingly enough the debate continues overseas on the relationship between circulation and readership. Specifically, The Boston Herald claimed that its print readership has increased 15% over the past year to almost 500 000 but circulation numbers dropped 16%! While statisticians will claim that there is no relationship, common sense says there must be. Sure readership and circulation measure two different things but one must impact on the other.


Alan D. Mutter, a new media consultant stated that "The long-standing industry rule of thumb is that you get about 2.5 pass-along readers for every copy sold but, in an age when 50% of cellphones are smart phones, I have serious doubts that the number is as high today as it has been in the past.”


It would seem that for many titles the goal today is to have circulation revenues rising rather than just circulation numbers rising. We’ve seen this locally as incentivised sales / deal driven circulation have been slowly removed from title performance.


All in all publishers are in for tough times, consumers will be more selective when it comes to spending their money and advertisers want to partner with products that innovate and show positive growth.

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