Media24’s Johannesburg daily, Beeld, is using weekly regional supplements to expand into communities with large Afrikaans-speaking audiences, writes Bate Felix.

Already, four regional papers are produced weekly
and inserted into the main paper.

The Tshwane Beeld, catering for the Pretoria metro area, was
launched five years ago, and also covers nearby towns like Brits and

Others followed for the West Rand and East
Rand in Johannesburg.
In June last year, the Mpumalanga Beeld was lunched, and plans are afoot for
another to be launched in a neighbouring province. But Ingrid Pepler, coordinator of the
regional papers, wouldnot give details of which one would be targeted.

Pepler was appointed six months ago to
“keep an eye” on the various papers and coordinate them editorially as they

Though the company does not yet have statistics
on how this has impacted on the circulation of the main paper, she said, the
regional papers have been very successful, with a lot of positive feedback from
the readers, especially the most recent addition, the Mpumalanga Beeld.

These regional papers are not separate
newspapers from the main Beeld paper, they are weekly inserts carried by the
main paper, and cover mainly community news, said Pepler.

“The regional papers serve as an added
value to Beeld as they build on its brand, while we grow new audiences,” she
said. Market research revealed that the community wanted more local news, she

The recipe for success has been local news
“school news, school news, and more school news which for some reason the
community seems to want, and also, soft stories about local heroes providing
services to the community,” said Pepler.

“We focus less on crime, except community
policing service warnings and announcements, the main focus is more on various
school activities and reports, local club activities and sports.

“We try to make it more fun and relaxing
while still providing the readers with the news and information that they need.”

Reports are written by local staff, who
know the communities on which they report.

Even though there is competition in the
market, in the form of existing independent community newspapers, Pepler said
they are not threatened nor do they see themselves as a threat to these local

“An agreement was reached with local
community papers not to compete directly with them, but serve as a complement,”
she said, though she would not elaborate on the nature of this agreement.