Online publications in South Africa have seen tremendous growth over the last two years, and advertising budgets have subsequently moved from print to digital.
Magazines and newspapers were already experiencing a decline in readership and distribution before 2020, but the Covid-19 lockdown accelerated its decline.
The strict lockdown in March 2020 was a deadly blow to many print publications.
Associated Media Publishing, which published Cosmopolitan, House & Leisure, Good Housekeeping, and Women on Wheels, shut its doors on 1 May.
Shortly afterwards, Caxton announced it was withdrawing from magazine publishing and associated businesses in South Africa.
This decision, Caxton said, was needed because of the steady decline in advertising spend in the magazine media sector.
In June 2020, Media24 announced big changes to its magazine and newspaper operations, which resulted in significant job cuts.
As part of these changes, Media24 shut down numerous magazines and newspapers. These include prominent titles like Son op Sondag and Sunday Sun, Men’s Health, and Women’s Health.
The magazine and newspaper sections in retail outlets like Spar, Checkers, and Quick Shops have shrunk to a fraction of what they used to be.
Online news revolution
While print publications suffered during the lockdown, online publications experienced tremendous growth.
The Covid-19 pandemic and lockdowns pushed South Africans to online news publications to keep updated with the latest developments.
The behaviour change — regularly checking online news sources — became permanent.
Online news publications in South Africa experienced record readership numbers in 2020, and these audiences are still there.
The growth in online news audiences resulted in companies spending a more significant percentage of their advertising budgets on online media.
The growth in revenue means online publications had more money to invest in their operations and journalism.
The result is that South Africans now enjoy the best online news offerings ever in South Africa and that these are set to continue to improve in years to come.
Online readership trends
South Africa’s top news and business publications – News24 and BusinessTech – illustrate online readership growth since the lockdown hit.
The charts below show the readership, in unique monthly browsers, of News24 and BusinessTech between January 2018 and May 2022.