Obviously the performance of South Africa’s only national daily newspaper, This Day, is interesting in this regard. Alas it has only been available for three months and there is very little research available. However it is interesting to note that the newspaper positions itself towards a readership that is, ‘sophisticated, politically and economically engaged South Africans from the age 25 plus…’ So once again the only engagement with young people is the vague hope that some of them will be ‘aspirational’ readers.
The weekly Mail & Guardian has a readership of 248000 (Amps 2003b), of which just over 12% fall into the age bracket 16-24. Although their readership is said to be determined by mindset rather than any demographic. When asked if the newspaper directly targets the youth market, Matthew Krouse, the Arts Editor, answered ‘Well 20-24 possibly, certainly those over drinking age – because we have the most comprehensive gig guide in the country, that rounds up all the music gigs in the three centres, Gauteng, KwaZulu and the Western Cape. Beyond that there is no exclusion of the youth in the content we present. From stories on local hip hop to film and music reviews it is very important that we engage youth culture as well as popular culture. Other sections of specific interest to the youth market would be the M&G’s Career and Tertiary supplements.’
Out of all the newspapers in Msanzi, The Sunday Times has a far better record of engaging the youth market directly not just through the wide variety of their content and the tabloid pulp on the Back Page. The Sunday Times Magazine’s features are directly targeted towards the 16-24 market and they publish youth orientated educational supplements such as Activate, so it is not surprising that their youth market share makes up 25% of their 3.5 million readership (Amps 2003a).
Adding to this youth coverage, the Sunday Times also carry Love Life publications like Thetha Nathi and S’camto which, despite their half-baked content and somewhat confusing Aids awareness message (is Aids a lifestyle or is it a brand?), must in some way serve to directly engage the youth reader. However the most interesting youth publication packaged with the Sunday Times, and probably the biggest thing to hit the youth market through newspapers in South Africa, is the Supa Strikers cartoon series.
‘Supa Strikas™ is a serialised soccer comic that centres on the action and drama of a top local soccer club.’ Says Supa Strikas creator, Oliver Power. ‘The goal is to provide socially responsible, relevant and uplifting content that encourages people of all ages to follow their dreams and work hard to succeed.’
Interestingly they sell advertising in a similar way to product placement in movies. The result is unobtrusive marketing to a media saturated and savvy youth market acutely aware of, and bored with, traditional advertising.
‘We don't sell "advertising" but instead sponsorship packages that are akin to sponsorship arrangements with "real" clubs. eg. Vodacom's sponsorship of Kaizer Chiefs. Our sponsors are included in the fabric of the story and they receive exposure in exchange for the sponsorship funds.’
Moreover, Supa Strikers circulation is huge, it is distributed through Newspapers in South Africa, Botswana, Namibia Uganda and Kenya and is sold directly in Zambia and Nigeria. Throughout Africa it has a circulation of 990 000 copies and a readership of around 10 million, which is quite simply staggering.
Free 4 All is a youth newspaper which has also innovated new ways of reaching the young end of the South African youth market. Based on an educational platform (the newspaper’s purpose is to encourage teenagers to read), Free 4 All is delivered free to over 300 high schools across the country - ranging from
private to township schools. Seugnette Comber, Free 4 All’s publisher, argues that because ‘Free 4 All manages to trigger a 10% written readership response every month (consisting of 25 000 responses).’ Advertisers are immediately interested in their captive and highly responsive audience, ‘which allows Free 4 All to print 250 000, 48 page, full-colour tabloid newspapers and deliver them free to high schools across the country every month’.
‘It’s a win win.’ Says Seugnette. ‘The schools are delighted to find a product that the teenagers respond to and actually read. The teenagers have a publication that they have a 'strong sense of ownership' over - and really look forward to its arrival.’
Not to mention the advertisers.
However as far as mainstream newspapers go, Greg Potterton from South African youth trend forecasters, Instant Grass, argues that young people tend to use newspapers in radically different ways than would be expected.
‘The majority of kids aged between 16 and 24 will be getting their news from different mediums: the radio, internet or television. Where newspapers are important to this sector is the listings of what is happening and the classified sections, looking for things they may want to buy, places to rent, job opportunities etc. I think you will find the classified sections and dedicated papers like Junkmail, Cape Ads and Autotrader have much larger youth readerships than would otherwise be expected.’
Cape Ads confirms this with 24.2% of their readership between the ages of 16 and 24 (ABC Jan-Jun 2003).
Khumo, a 21 year old hip hop fanatic, concurs: ‘I’ve started reading the Argus – cos I need to check their classifieds. Apart from that, it’s the Sunday Times, cos I’ve grown up reading it – and it has a lot of variety. It would be nice if it had a classified section. Anyway, I hardly read the papers because I normally have other things on my mind.’
Pride, a bright young mind, studying marketing at Tuks agrees: ’The most frequent newspapers I read are Job Mail and Junk Mail, if those count?’
That young people in South Africa largely snub the newspapers is to be expected since the spread of daily papers consistently fail to direct any of its regular content or column space towards the youth market, and therefore loses out on that market share. Which makes the environment ripe for a daily paper that takes the youth market, and its advertisers, seriously.