Media24 considers closing 5 magazines, 2 newspapers, as Covid-19 slashes circulation

Media24 has announced it will start consultations with staff about the possible closure of five magazines and two newspapers as well as outsourcing and reducing the frequency of its remaining monthly magazines, among other interventions, as the Covid-19 pandemic cuts into advertising and circulation. 

The publisher will also consider taking two newspapers digital only and reducing staff in related support services. 

“The pandemic has accelerated the pre-existing and long-term structural decline in print media, resulting in a devastating impact on our own already fragile print media operations with significant declines in both circulation and advertising since April,” said Ishmet Davidson, the CEO of Media24, in a statement on Tuesday morning. 

“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.”

Media24 says the planned interventions are expected to affect around 510 staff members, with a proposed reduction of close on 660 positions out of a total staff complement of 2 971.

In the magazine portfolio, the interventions include plans to:   

  • Close Move! and the Hearst portfolio publications, which include Men’s Health, Women’s Health, Bicycling, Runner’s World.
  • Publish DRUM in digital format only.
  • Enter into a licensing agreement with editor Helen Schöer to publish the parenting titles (Baba & Kleuter and Your Pregnancy) independently.
  • Outsource the editorial production of the remaining monthly portfolio of Fairlady, SARIE, SA Hunter/Jagter, True Love, tuis | home, Weg! | go! and Weg! Ry & Sleep | go! Drive & Camp, as well as the fortnightly Kuier.
  • Reduce the frequency of the monthly magazines to six issues per year, and eight issues for tuis | home, SA Hunter/Jagter and Man Magnum.

Media24 says its flagship weeklies Huisgenoot, YOU and Landbouweekblad will continue to be produced and published in-house.

In the group’s newspaper portfolio, it intends to 

  • Close Son op Sondag and Sunday Sun.
  • Close the Eastern Cape edition of Son.
  • Publish Volksblad and Die Burger Oos-Kaap as weekday digital editions only, available as complete PDFs on Netwerk24.
  • Close four community newspapers in KwaZulu-Natal: Amanzimtoti Fever, East Griqualand Fever, Hillcrest Fever and Maritzburg Fever.
  • Consolidate Noordkaap and Kalahari Bulletin into a single newspaper, Noordkaap Bulletin, and Kroonnuus and Vrystaat Nuus into Vrystaat Kroonnuus. At the same time, incorporating Theewaterskloof Gazette into Hermanus Times.
  • Accelerate the digital transition of The Witness.

The group also intends to reduce staff in its media distribution business as well as in divisional and corporate services departments related to the proposed reduced print media operations.

“We are fully committed to managing this highly sensitive consultation with compassion while following the process as prescribed by law. Unfortunately, we cannot share any further details until the process has been concluded,” said Davidson.

The economic shock of Covid-19 has wreaked havoc on parts of SA’s print industry, contributing to the closure of Association Media Publishing, which includes the magazines Cosmopolitan, Women on Wheels, and House and Leisure. Caxton & CTP Publishers & Printers, meanwhile, announced in early May that it has begun the process of withdrawing from magazine publishing, although Living & Loving and Farmer’s Weekly may be accommodated elsewhere in its stable. 

* Fin24 is part of News24, a subsidiary of Media24

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