South African newspaper and magazine bloodbath

South Africa has seen a massive decline in the circulation numbers of its print magazines and newspapers as industry roleplayers struggle to remain competitive in the digital era.

The Audit Bureau of Circulations (ABC) of South Africa recently released its magazine and newspaper circulation statistics for October to December 2023.

These statistics revealed significant declines in the circulation numbers of popular magazines and newspapers

The ABC listed the circulation numbers for consumer magazines, daily newspapers, and weekend and weekly newspapers.

This includes popular titles like Huisgenoot, YOU, Fairlady, The Citizen, Sowetan, Business Day, Sunday Times, Rapport and Beeld.

These statistics show that only two of the publications in these categories showed a year-on-year increase in their circulation numbers.

For example, the top consumer magazine in the country, Huisgenoot, saw an over 18% year-on-year decline in circulation.

In the fourth quarter of 2013, the magazine had a circulation of 261,224. Ten years later, In Q4 2023, its circulation was 105,296 – an almost 60% decrease.

The ABC said this declining trend aligns with a 5% annual decrease in its membership. 

“The collective circulation of all members shows a year-on-year decline of 7.4%,” the organisation said. 

This corresponds with ABC’s membership, which decreased by 10%, dropping from 448 in 2022 to 403 by Q4 2023.

However, not all print publications saw a decline in circulation in 2023.

ABC revealed that the Financial Mail, Forbes Africa, Africa Birdlife, Landbouweekblad, Food & Home, SA Home Owner, Rooi Rose and True Love have all increased their circulation year-on-year.

This could indicate that niche publications focusing on specific interests and smaller target markets may perform better than publications with wider appeal.

Going digital

This significant decline in circulation for print publications can be largely attributed to the digitalisation of news and entertainment media over the past few decades.

In the past 10 years, media has largely moved online and found ways to become profitable that differ wildly from how print media generate revenue.

The two main ways print media generate revenue are advertisements in the newspaper or magazine and the sale of that newspaper or magazine.

However, for digital media, there are far more options available to generate income.

This includes adverts on the publication’s site, sponsored articles, paid subscriptions, and adverts in newsletters.

In many cases, running an online publication is also far less expensive than print.

Over the past 10 years, many print publications have kept with the trends and shifted to digital platforms – some wholly, while others have taken a hybrid approach.

For example, many Media24 titles like Huisgenoot and Die Burger still circulate print copies while also being available to read online.

South Africa’s top 10 consumer magazines by circulation

TitleQ4 2013 Total CirculationQ4 2023 Total CirculationYear-on-year percentage change
Rooi Rose96,84429,1990.47%
Woman & Home Magazine89,19522,150-26.38%

South Africa’s top 10 daily newspapers by circulation

TitleQ4 2013 Total CirculationQ4 2023 Total CirculationYear-on-year percentage change
Die Burger60,51226,110-6%
The Citizen58,73522,914-6%
The Star100,89817,834-35%
Business Day33,66713,605-6%
Daily Sun297,61412,616-55%
Daily Dispatch25,52110,091-7%
The Herald22,62110,021-3%

South Africa’s top 10 weekly & weekend newspapers by circulation

TitleQ4 2013 Total CirculationQ4 2023 Total CirculationYear-on-year percentage change
Sunday Times411,18662,202-43%
Soccer Laduma307,27548,188-27%
Die Burger (Sat)75,85334,584-6%
Beeld (Sat)58,41123,018-10%
Isolezwe ngeMpelaSonto88,02620,810-6%
Son WeeklyN/A19,629N/A
Sunday Tribune68,27716,696-14%
Ilanga LempelaSonto56,07416,0643%


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