Soccer Laduma is the biggest-selling sports publication in the country, as well as the biggest-selling male interest publication. It’s also the second biggest-selling weekly paper and the third biggest-selling newspaper in South Africa (after the Daily Sun and the Sunday Times). Not too shabby for a publication as niche in its content as Soccer Laduma.

Back in ’97, there were no publications dedicated to the game of soccer in sport-mad South Africa. Peter du Toit, spotting the gap, founded the newspaper that year, with sales averaging around 27 000 copies per issue. Today, that circulation figure stands at 314 130 copies (ABC Q1 2011) a week. According to AMPS, the sales figure translates into a readership of around 2 925 000 (AMPS 2010B).

Needless to say, omnipresent publisher Media24 holds a stake of 74% in Soccer Laduma, while Du Toit retains a 26% stake. Last year, the business saw a total turnover of R67.5 million and an advertising turnover of R40 million.. The editorial team consists of around seven journalists, led by editor Clint Roper (@soccaclint), out of a total team of 24.

Zizi Hollander, GM at Soccer Laduma, says the paper has a pass-along rate of around nine readers per copy. This varies from province to province, as three readers might read a copy in Gauteng, while that figure is closer to 20 readers per copy in Limpopo (distribution and disposable income both play a role).

Du Toit launched the paper as a platform for players and coaches to talk with fans, and with fans to talk with one another. It’s a conversation that is booming; the letters page receives as many as 1000 contributions a week, as the paper has a full-time staffer dedicated to editing the letters pages and responding to fans. It also publishes the email addresses of fans alongside their letters, so readers can talk directly with one another.

All this allows the team to get to know who they work for, says Hollander, who edited the letters page herself for eight years. Readers also have access to the journalists and editor, and Roper says he often fields calls from readers wanting to provide feedback on an angle a story might have taken.

They make an opinionated bunch; as Roper notes, every one of his readers has an MBA in soccer.

The paper is leveraging mobile technology and the web to turn the once-a-week conversation into one that’s on going 24/7 and its mobisite, which recently relaunched after several false starts (it never managed to scale for the amount of traffic the site received), has a current user base of 201 079, generating 7.9 million page views a month.

The website has around 121 000 unique users, generating 2.77 million page impressions.

With its web and mobile platforms now stabilised, Soccer Laduma (@Soccer_Laduma) expects great leaps in traffic through these platforms, and for them to make a sizeable ecommerce play going forward.

According to Hollander Soccer Laduma has contributed to the professionalisation of SA soccer as readers have finally found a platform on which to hold those in charge accountable. It has also upped both the quality and quantity of soccer coverage in the daily press.

Roper says his readers are all soccer fanatics, and he is seeing increased interest in European leagues and games, while local players are becoming stars (and front page news) in their own right. At the moment Kaizer Chiefs, Orlando Pirates and Mamelodi Sundowns players dominate the covers, which he often chooses based on who supporters voted for with for their feet by attending games and filling stadiums.

Roper says the 2010 FIFA World Cup didn’t improve the quality of local football; instead, it was never showcased as it should have been, and the broader media didn’t pay it the attention it deserved. All this helped Soccer Laduma build its audience.

As play analysis moves directly to readers through social media, Roper says the paper needs to take them beyond the game and behind the scenes, where they are unable to go themselves.

Hollander adds that her readers are aspirational, and increasingly made up of the growing middle class. Nearly a quarter of them are students – pointing to increased future mobility – even if it means dips over exam periods in the short term.

On the revenue front, advertising flows in cycles, and the paper, along with other soccer media, saw spend dry up immediately after the world cup (it got so bad that Avusa decided to shutter its soccer magazine SoccerLife 442). Spend is only now recovering, says Hollander.

Hollander says a lot of brands don’t look past the soccer to see the market. More than 32% of Soccer Laduma readers have a household income of R8000 or more per month, 50.9% R5000 or more and 72.5% R2500 or more per month.

The Cell C Soccer Laduma Readers’ Player of the Season campaign generated 1.5 million votes off its mobile and web platforms (the official vote count at the time of closing was Andile Jali 35298, Jimmy Tau 29873). A campaign by Black Label, meanwhile, in which readers can play coach and select the players to clash in the Carling Black Label Cup game between Kaizer Chiefs and Orlando Pirates on 30 July 2011 at Soccer City has resulted in more than a million votes on the Chiefs’ side and another 740 000 in that of Pirates (as of the 22 June 2011 issue). The readers decide who makes the field and who the bench.

It all points to a level of engagement between Soccer Laduma and its readers (and the brands that support their read) that must leave most media owners spitting. The level of integration between the print and mobile platforms, meanwhile, could serve as a learning school for many publishers.

Marketers and media planners make a mistake if they believe Soccer Laduma is simply another soccer read. It’s a sophisticated media brand that respects its readers. And deserves your respect.

Bizcommunity Originally published on Marketing & Media | South Africa – click to see more comments.


Published by Herman Manson is edited by Herman Manson. Follow us on Twitter -

Online CPD Courses Psychology Online CPD Courses Marketing analytics software Marketing analytics software for small business Business management software Business accounting software Gearbox repair company Makeup artist