The latest circulation figures for newspapers and magazines provide further evidence of the tough times being experienced by the sector, writes Jocelyn Newmarch in Business Day.


Almost 70% of daily newspapers have seen circulation dropping since last year, according to the third-quarter figures from the Audit Bureau of Circulations (ABC).

Although the global media industry is in turmoil, consumers continue to support specific titles, the data show.

The only categories to show growth were community newspapers, free newspapers, and custom magazines, all of which are distributed free or at nominal cost to consumers. However, community newspapers grew as a result of additional new titles, rather than growing existing ones.

The data come as no surprise to industry analysts.

“The vast majority of magazines and newspapers are aimed at the middle market — and these are the guys feeling the pinch of the credit crunch. Magazines and newspapers are very often luxury items. When times are tough, the luxury items are the first to go,” said Chris Botha, a director of the Media Shop.

“The declining circulations will continue to put massive pressure on print media owners as this is very often the currency they use to determine rate setting.”

Botha said print media owners would have to contend with massively increased costs, as paper is purchased in euros and dollars. “On the other hand, they don’t have too much ammunition with which to hike their rates.”

Consumers are opting to watch TV and read retailers’ magazines. The custom magazine category is now larger than the entire consumer magazine category in terms of circulation.

It grew 17% overall with real growth of 7%. TV guides in particular are driving growth.

Despite the poor performance of weekly and daily newspapers, Gordon Patterson, vice-president of the ABC, said specific titles still delivered significant growth, which, he said, was evidence of continued consumer vitality and support.

But the fourth quarter, which traditionally provides a lift in circulation, will be crucial for the industry.

Daily newspapers performed worse than expected in the third quarter, dipping 2% below figures reported for the same period last year.

Click here to read the full report. posted on Business Day's website.