Publisher Media24 has announced a number of closures and restructuring in its newspaper and magazine portfolio, which will affect 1,100 positions.
The group said that it will consider the closure of five magazines and two newspapers, outsourcing and reducing the frequency of its remaining monthly magazines, taking two newspapers digital only and reducing staff in related support services.
Up to 510 positions will be impacted by the restructuring process involved with consolidating some titles and shifting others online, while 660 positions will be reduced, the group said. The company will start consultations with staff on Tuesday (7 July).
It said that the Covid-19 pandemic in South Africa has accelerated the pre-existing and long-term structural decline in print media in the country, and has resulted in “a devastating impact on our own already fragile print media operations”.
It pointed to significant declines in both circulation and advertising since April.
“For many of our print titles the benefits of prior interventions to offset the structural declines and keep them on the shelf no longer exist and they’ve run out of options in this regard,” the group said.
“Even with a return to pre-Covid-19 economic levels, the impact of the pandemic on our print media operations will be unrecoverable. Sadly, we have no choice but to restructure our business now to curtail the losses in our print portfolio and allow us to focus on keeping the retained titles sustainable and in print for as long as possible.”
The restructuring and closures will largely impact staff in the print media and distribution channels, it said. The group has a total staff complement of 2,971.
The changes are outlined below:
- Move! and the Hearst portfolio (Men’s Health, Women’s Health, Bicycling, Runner’s World) are closing.
- DRUM will be published in digital format only.
- A licensing agreement is in place with editor Helen Schöer to publish the parenting titles (Baba & Kleuter and Your Pregnancy) independently.
- Outsourcing the editorial production of the remaining monthly portfolio (Fairlady, SARIE, SA Hunter/Jagter, True Love, tuis | home, Weg! | go! and Weg! Ry & Sleep | go! Drive & Camp) as well as the fortnightly Kuier.
- Reducing the frequency of the monthly magazines to six issues per year, and eight issues for tuis | home, SA Hunter/Jagter and Man Magnum.
The flagship weeklies Huisgenoot, YOU and Landbouweekblad will continue to be produced and published in-house.
- Son op Sondag and Sunday Sun are closing.
- The Eastern Cape edition of Son is closing.
- PVolksblad and Die Burger Oos-Kaap will be published as weekday digital editions only, available as complete PDFs on Netwerk24.
- Four community newspapers in KwaZulu-Natal are closing: Amanzimtoti Fever, East Griqualand Fever, Hillcrest Fever and Maritzburg Fever.
- Noordkaap and Kalahari Bulletin will be consolidated into a single newspaper, Noordkaap Bulletin
- Kroonnuus and Vrystaat Nuus will be consolidated into Vrystaat Kroonnuus.
- Theewaterskloof Gazette will be incorporated into the Hermanus Times.
- The digital transition of The Witness will be accelerated.
Other parts of the business impacted will reduce staff in the group’s media distribution business as well as in divisional and corporate services departments related to the proposed reduced print media operations, the group said.
The announcement from Media24 follows a similar move by Caxton Publishing in May 2020, where it announced that it would exit the print media business.
The closure of its magazine division impacted 10 well known publications in South Africa, namely: Bona, Country Life, Essentials, Food & Home, Garden & Home, People, Rooi Rose, Vrouekeur, Woman & Home and Your Family.
Caxton cited the same reasoning as Media24 in the announcement: declining revenues in the print media space as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic, which exacerbated the steady decline seen in the sector before the crisis hit.
“In view of these challenges, the group has decided, in principle, to close its magazine division. Whilst this has been a difficult decision it has been unavoidable in the interest of the group as a whole,” it said tat the time.
“The company is in the process of consulting with its employees. The group would be keen to engage with any other parties and publishers who would be interested in taking over any of its titles.”