Media Redefined: The future of news? Build a wall & make them pay!

by Martin MacGregor. The future might mean less publishers but those that survive will be the ones that invest in their journalists and the technology that will be required to actually make the consumer experience enjoyable.

“Die Burger’s almost like Riaan Cruywagen” says editor Bun Booyens

by Gill Moodie (@GrubstreetSA) Media24’s Die Burger joined an elite group of newspapers this year that are showing signs of arresting circulation decline, which is really something to crow about in this grim market.

As sales were falling across the board, the ABC circulation figures for the second half of last year showed that Die Burger – which has Western Cape and Eastern Cape editions (the latter grew out of Die Oosterlig) – was slowing its downwards trajectory. Then in the latest set of ABC figures – for the first quarter of 2013 – Die Burger (Western Cape) netted 51 516 compared with 51 232 in the same period of 2012. It’s Port Elizabeth-based Eastern Cape sister posted 10 721 circulation compared with 10 748 the corresponding period of the previous year.

So stability in a devastating quarter for newspapers, in which the Daily Sun lost 20% of circulation, The Star fell 14% and the Pretoria News shed 12%.

I’m sure the excellent reporting and run of exclusive breaks on the Oscar Pistorius story in the first quarter that Die Burger carried (from its sister paper Beeld) helped to buoy sales. And indeed, Die Burger’s Cape Town-based editor, Bun Booyens, is cautious about singing his newspaper’s praises.

“Let’s be sober about this. I think a lot of these are lapsed subscribers that we’ve won back,” he told Grubstreet last week. “We suffered some real subscriber damage with the Cycad software problem (Media24’s CRM programme that governed subscriptions and distribution). I suspect the gains we made were lapsed subscribers, among others, who we won back – which is in itself encouraging.”

Paywalls an act of desperation

A move by Rupert Murdoch to stash the content of his global media empire behind a paywall*, and the rather unseemly rush with which any number of publishers desperate for new revenue sources followed him, serves as but another indication that all is not well in the world of media.

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