There has been a continued, serious decline in South African newspaper sales. DMMA (Digital Media & Marketing Association) reports that of 44 newspapers studied, core circulation was down in 41.
Some lowlights, over a 3-year period, include:
- The Star: -40.6%
- Pretoria News: -34%
- The Daily Sun: -33.7%
- Cape Argus: -31.3%
- Beeld: -30.4%
- Son: -24.3%
- Business Day: -18.1%
Core circulation is the “actual paid for readership of a publication – copy sales plus individual, business and lately digital subscriptions.” Which is what one would expect so why state such? It’s because some newspaper falsely prop up their circulation by selling newspapers in bulk to 3rd parties who then give them away (or, even, possibly trash them).
Gaining advertising has always been key but in the case of newspapers such as the Knysna-Plett Herald, adverts have so overwhelmed the news so as to make the newspaper a glorified flyer.
As DMMA had previously published, the South African attraction for digital content has been exceptional. Unfortunately this does not result in an informed public as there is little commitment to reading a whole article or clicking through to other pages on the website first visited.
On News24, the most accessed website by South Africans, the average reader stays on for 2 minutes 9 seconds which is insufficient to complete, let alone absorb a full article. And that includes commenting time. The situation worsens when non-hard news sites such as dstv.com and sport24.co.za are amongst the main competitors.
Online marketing spins the scenario as readers knowing what they want but it’s far more likely, considering the dumbing down of the average conversation, that readers look at vastly more topics whilst storing superficial versions. It lacks commitment to reality. Without deliberation, how can the reader become a force for change over serious matters affecting his or hers community? A look at online media shows that many commentators lack insight into the topic supposedly being discussed. Worse is when insight is replaced by the sheer need to vent their own personal (i.e. bias) frustrations on other anonymous commentators.
The decline in South Africa’s newspaper sales and the increase in uncommitted readers to digital content results in miseducation. An ignorant public can only become a danger to itself.