Sun­day, bloody Sun­day

Com­pe­ti­tion tight­ens in the week­end news­pa­per mar­ket

Finweek English Edition - - Advertising & Marketing -

A YEAR into the job and Fe­rial Haf­fa­jee has done what new editors do: re­designed her news­pa­per. But the change at City Press is more than cos­metic, sig­nalling a new out­break of hos­til­i­ties in South Africa’s Sun­day news­pa­per mar­ket. “My brief was clear,” she says. “Af­ter 30 years it was time for City Press to be more than a lead­ing black Sun­day paper. It had to be a lead­ing Sun­day paper.”

In­evitably, that brings it into con­flict with the Big Daddy of them all, the Sun­day Times, po­si­tioned as City Press would like to be, with read­ers among all race groups. “We’re mak­ing a solid chal­lenge for a much larger share of the Sun­day read­ing mar­ket,” says Haf­fa­jee. “We ex­pect a fight back from the Sun

day Times.”

Haf­fa­jee’s cir­cu­la­tion tar­get is a big ask: 300 000 within five years. To get there from its cur­rent 176 000 (Jan­uaryMarch 2010) will re­quire growth of 12%/year – un­prece­dented for a large, es­tab­lished pub­li­ca­tion. Cur­rent growth leader Ilanga langeSonto has man­aged 16%/year for four years – but off a low base.

Me­di­ol­ogy MD Ana Oxlee-Moore doesn’t be­lieve it’s achiev­able. “It’s a big shift, and it will take a long time to turn read­ers. Un­der a new edi­tor the Sun­day Times will also get some fresh think­ing. It al­ready has more black read­ers than City

Press. It make mores sense to tar­get that seg­ment.” With 13 Sun­day pa­pers and 12 week­end edi­tions pub­lished on Satur­days, SA’s week­end mar­ket is un­doubt­edly the most com­pet­i­tive of all news­pa­per seg­ments – and get­ting more so.

But many pa­pers are strug­gling. “Many peo­ple who used to buy two news­pa­pers on Sun­days have cut back to one,” says Me­di­aShop MD Vir­ginia Hol­lis. Six of the nine es­tab­lished ti­tles have ex­pe­ri­enced cir­cu­la­tion losses over the pe­riod, but with three new en­trants the to­tal num­ber of news­pa­pers bought ev­ery Sun­day rose by 8,4%.

For Hol­lis, the most ex­cit­ing po­ten­tial is to tweak the tail of the Sun­day Times. “It’s a good idea to give them a hard time,” she says. “They’ve stran­gled the in­dus­try for long enough.”

Of Haf­fa­jee, she says: “I was very im­pressed. She cer­tainly knows her stuff. She’ll do the world of good for that paper. She’ll take it to the next level. Peo­ple will start talk­ing about the ed­i­to­rial and that will lead to cir­cu­la­tion growth.” The most strik­ing ev­i­dence of change at City

Press has been the colour­ful new de­sign by Sin­ga­porean de­signer Peter Ong. But Haf­fa­jee says: “Con­tent must lead de­sign. You can make it pretty but if the con­tent doesn’t de­liver what the reader wants, no amount of de­sign will sub­sti­tute.

“We want to be a qual­ity Sun­day read, char­ac­terised by qual­ity of de­sign, writ­ing and pho­tog­ra­phy. Qual­ity doesn’t mean long, bor­ing screeds of copy.”

“If any­body can re­po­si­tion the paper, Fe­rial can,” says Johan Prins, of me­dia agency new­comer Space. “ City Press has the un­der­dog ad­van­tage of be­ing able to fo­cus on a niche. It will be dif­fi­cult for the Sun­day Times to counter that.”

We tried for a re­sponse from the Sun­day Times

but edi­tor Ray Hart­ley didn’t re­turn our calls.


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