BUSINESS NEWS - Audit Bureau of Circulations data for the fourth quarter of 2020 is harrowing: there will be no rebound for print, and newspapers in particular.
The long, slow structural decline of the sector in South Africa has reached the point of no return.
Circulations for daily newspapers are down by 40%, on average, over one year. Not included in this drop are the two titles that ceased publication as dailies during 2020: Die Volksblad (Bloemfontein) is now “digital only” while the DFA (Kimberley) now only publishes on Fridays.
In extreme cases, including many titles in the Independent Media stable, the declines are over 60%. Total circulation for the Pretoria News is down 80% since 2019. It sells just over 1 900 copies a day now.
Certain titles have fared better, with year-on-year declines of under 20%. Die Burger, which seems to be thriving in the vacuum being produced by the regression of the Cape Times and Cape Argus (both down 62%), saw circulation down only 7%.
Of course, the decline is not new, nor is it unique to the South African market. Daily news has become a commodity and is freely available on the internet. Weekend papers have hardly fared much better. Circulation of the Sunday Times is down 44% over one year.
Certain titles have done themselves few favours and are suffering material issues around credibility.