Local newspapers continue to outperform their weekly, weekend and daily counterparts, making them an effective platform for brands wanting to communicate with communities.

Local newspapers’ commitment to delivering hyper-local content that cannot be found in other publications means they remain relevant to their readers despite a rapidly changing media landscape.

The Q2 Audit Bureau of Circulation’s (ABC) results released in August show that local newspapers account for 84% of all audited newspapers.

“Local newspapers now circulate more than five times as many copies as daily, weekly and weekend newspapers combined (5 731 683 vs 913 503 copies in Q2 2022),” says Jacqui Hansen, head of marketing at Spark Media, Caxton Local Media’s national print sales division.

“This is because local newspapers provide news that people in each community want to read,” says Irma Green, Caxton Local Newspapers’ group editor. “We have become the go-to place for trusted, pertinent news specific to each community.”

Caxton Local News publishes 116 newspapers, with a print order of 2.9 million copies, and has 61 news websites.

Free local papers

ABC president Celéste Burger says free newspapers performed as well in Q2 as they did in the first quarter of 2022, when they were the ‘rising heroes’.

Growth in some free local titles has been offset by declines in others.

Titles showing the biggest growth in the free local newspaper category include Chatsworth Tabloid (10.99%) Helderberg Gazette and District Mail (11.61%), Overport Rising Sun (5.9%) and Chatsworth Rising Sun.

Year-on-year declines were recorded for Tygerburger Eersterivier/Blue Downs (8.01%), Citi Vision Langa/Gugulethu (6.58%), Go & Express (7.58%), Highway Mail (5.8%) and Maritzburg Echo (6.2%).

Sold local papers

Sold local newspapers face similar pressures to sold daily, weekly and weekend titles. But the 3% year-on-year decline in this sector is much lower than their daily and weekly counterparts.

“These papers have localised content and regional news as their foundation and, as such, they are still in demand,” says Hansen.

The sold local titles that have shown the largest growth include Caxton Local News’ Witbank News, Middelburg Observer (8 812 and 6 307 copies respectively) and Mpumalanga News.

The papers showing the largest decline include The Weslander, Limpopo Mirror, African Reporter, George Herald and Mossel Bay Advertiser. The average decline is around 1 000 copies.

Hybrid local papers

This category is a mixed bag, with some papers growing while others declined.

Lowvelder Friday / Lowvelder Express has grown from 34 325 copies to 35 554.

South Coast Herald Ugu District News has dropped slightly from 14 915 in Q2 2021 to 14 504 in Q2 2022.

The Daily Maverick has changed sector, moving from hybrid to weekly. This accounts for the biggest decline in this sector.

Weekly and weekend newspapers

Weekly and weekend newspaper sales continue to decline. Since Q2 2021, their sales have declined by 15.9% and 13.3% respectively. This is a total decline of 96 446 copies.

In Q2 of 2022, no weekly or weekend newspapers showed year-on-year growth.

The biggest declining weekly newspaper is Soccer Laduma, with a loss of 18 000 copies. Significant declines were also recorded by Ilanga (6 592 copies), Mail & Guardian (3 578 copies) and The Voice (2 317 copies).

Among weekend titles, declines were recorded by Rapport (10 792 copies), Sunday Nation (7 988 copies), City Press (7 554 copies), Isolezwe ngoMgqibelo (7 294 copies) and Sunday Times (6 976 copies).

Daily newspapers

As a category, daily newspapers have declined by 12.4%.

Daily Sun showed the largest decline in this sector, with a 29.74% decline (13 822 copies). Daily Sun now sells only 32 661 copies, says Hansen.

Other big losers in the daily newspaper category include Isoleswe (9 536 copies) and Son (5 392 copies).

There were daily newspapers that recorded slight growth. The Star and Business Day sales increased by 662 and 660 copies respectively. Daily Dispatch has also seen a slight increase of 348 copies.

Local papers remain popular

“In 2022, local papers continue to provide better coverage than daily, weekly and weekend newspapers.

“A press schedule which includes every audited daily, weekly and weekend title provides just over one million copies, countrywide,” says Hansen. “In contrast, a local newspaper strategy can distribute ±5.7 million newspapers a week.”

She says that being distributed and sold in geographically defined areas makes local newspapers an effective route to market for more targeted, niche campaigns.

*This article incorporates a Spark Media press release originally printed by Bizcommunity on August 25, 2022.

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