Finweek English Edition - - INSIGHTS -

Given that we are now f irmly en­trenched in the ‘ digita l age’ – with eye­balls in­evitably glued to some sort of screen most of the day – we have be­come ac­cus­tomed to hear­ing about the ‘ death of print’, the end of books and news­pa­pers, and the sad demise of any­thing paper-based. News­pa­pers, in par­tic­u­lar, are re­garded to have a l l but died out. Yet amid all this doom and gloom, we ap­pear to have a star per­former in the form of lo­cal, com­mu­nit y news­pa­pers. Un­like t heir na­tional coun­ter­parts, these com­mu­nity pa­pers, ac­cord­ing to re­cent re­search, are ex­pe­ri­enc­ing phenom­e­nal growth.

T h e Compa s s 2 4 lo­cal news­pa­per study – c om­mis­sioned by Ads24 and con­ducted by i nde­pen­dent mar­ket re­search com­pany Ask Afrika – def ined lo­cal news­pa­pers as free news­pa­pers cir­cu­lated within specif ic com­mu­ni­ties. In con­trast to na­tional pa­pers, these lo­cal news­pa­pers ref lect con­tent that is “in­di­vid­u­alised and rel­e­vant to each re­spec­tive com­mu­nity they serve”. The con­tent is sel­dom na­tional, and fo­cuses on what is hap­pen­ing within a spe­cific com­mu­nity.

“Lo­cal news­pa­pers are very much alive with both breadth and depth in terms of read­er­ship,” says Sa­rina de Beer, MD of Ask Afrika. “Com­mu­nity print is see­ing dou­ble- digit growth, which more than makes up for de­clines in na­tional pa­pers.”

So what makes these com­mu­nity pa­pers so ap­peal­ing, apart from the fact that they are free? COM­MU­NITY- CEN­TRIC EN­GAGE­MENT “Be­sides t he z ero cost as­so­ci­ated with up­take, the top three sec­tions of in­ter­est to read­ers (com­mu­nity news; crime and polic­ing up­dates; mu­nic­i­pal and lo­cal Govern­ment news) ref lect the rel­e­vance of com­mu­nity-cen­tric en­gage­ment,” e x pl a i ns De Beer. “Read­ers want to be in the know with re­gard to the im­me­di­ate com­mu­ni­ties they live in.”

Ac­cord­ing to Ask Afrika, the need for com­mu­nity-cen­tric en­gage­ment, which is both a lo­cal and global trend, is cre­at­ing a mas­sive op­por­tu­nity for mar­keters and ad­ver­tis­ers.

I ndeed, t he Com­pass24 s t udy re­vealed that read­ers are very in­ter­est-

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