Insure your car, home and valuables with iWYZE
Newspapers, the prophets of doom notwithstanding, are not dying – but they are changing and adapting to a new world.
The days of the old “newspaper of record” – the thundering broadsheet which carried news from all over the world – are over.
In their place we find a new, more thoughtful, more analytical communication medium which takes the trouble to understand its community, which recognises and flags the issues that will make a difference to the lives of its readers, and which offers a platform for insight into the meaning of local trends and events.
Independent Newspapers (SA) chief executive Tony Howard believes our future newspaper will add “real value on top of the short bites that is the way of serving news on the new platforms.
“If that sounds terribly worthy, a newspaper has the privilege, too, of entertaining its readers, inspiring them, and telling them all kinds of things they didn’t know.
“Newspapers in South Africa still have great opportunities with wonderful niches ready for exploration, and significant readers still to come on stream.”
Nowhere is that new opportunity more in evidence than in the new, compact version of Cape Town’s legendary (155-year-old) Argus newspaper, which will hit the streets next Friday.
Not only will the paper be in a smaller, more user-friendly format, it will also appear in the mornings in addition to its current distribution, which starts in the afternoon. The all new Cape Argus will be available in the morning and in a refreshed update edition in the afternoon from next Friday.
Howard says the move follows the trend in a number of other countries. It began in London in the early 2000s when upmarket broadsheets moved to the compact format and several US titles have followed suit, although in the latter market the Berliner format remains dominant. Most who tried the new format found that readers responded favourably.
He adds: “In the case of the Cape Argus it is driven by an added desire to bring something new and refreshing to a market that has indicated a desire for a change.”
The compact format provides greater design flexibility and “enables us to produce more lively layouts which are important in an age which demands much easier and quicker reading platforms”.
Compact newspapers also lend themselves better to taking a new editorial approach with more, easier-to-read stories per page in a tighter format, better ways of depicting and pictorially explaining the news of the day – without affecting the customary standard and level of journalism that readers want and have always enjoyed in a quality newspaper.
“The usual news quality of the broadsheet is maintained but only better depicted,” says Howard.
While the smaller paper is more “commuter-friendly” it is also more manageable for readers who like to pore over their newspaper in a coffee shop or at their desk.
“Research has shown that the readers’ eyes track information on a page in a compact format more easily than a broadsheet.”
The change to compact format and move to morning distribution gives Independent “an opportunity to reinvigorate a newspaper that has been successfully produced and embraced by a loyal readership in a broadsheet format for 155 years”.
Howard adds: “Our market research has indicated that existing and lapsed Argus readers are highly receptive of the new format and advertisers have responded warmly.”
He says “the impact of every element on a compact page has more punch: this is true for both editorial and advertising elements.”
He continues: “The Argus has always been a title that speaks to its readers in an accessible voice and the move to compact is a logical extension of the paper’s identity and a shift into a new era.
“The compact format suits our writing style. We also have a fantastic photographic team and the image-driven displays we are planning will give us an opportunity to showcase this talent.
“The Cape Argus is a newspaper in conversation with its city and in conversation with a community that reaches well beyond the municipal boundaries.”
Asked whether the reconfiguration and new distribution of the Argus would not affect its sister newspaper, the Cape Times, Howard notes that the Cape Times “has a very clear identity of its own”.
“It sits proudly in a space it has long claimed in the morning market, speaking to a very different readership to that of the Cape Argus.”
The two papers have quite distinct voices and each has its clear fanbase.
“The Cape Times has a much stronger focus on matters affecting politics, business and the economy – and it tackles these issues in more depth than the average Cape Argus reader particularly wants.
“Cape Times readers have a fierce loyalty to the title, which suggests we are delivering a product that they can claim as their own.”
The planning has made sure that a Cape Argus edition in the morning will continue to complement and strengthen the strong bouquet of titles the group offers in Cape Town and Western Cape markets.
Independent Newspapers publishes the Cape Times, Daily Voice, Weekend Argus and 14 suburban newspapers in the Western Cape.
Says Howard: “We believe a dawn Argus, aimed at the middle market, will complement our existing morning titles and add another dimension to our bouquet of offerings where the Cape Times aims at the top end, the Daily Voice caters for the lower LSM market and our suburban titles cover most of the region.”
While the outcome of this exercise will be closely watched, there are no immediate plans for changes to other titles.
“The newspapering fraternity across the globe is constantly sharing new insights and we are always looking for ways to serve our readers better – and make our brands attractive to new and younger audiences.
“Our objective is always to deliver best practice to our community. In some cases what we learn from others may prompt change over time.
“(But) we’re careful with what we do at our titles as we are well aware of the special place that newspapers occupy in our social fabric, and we value the relationship we have with our readers and the advertisers who trust us with their brands and their offerings.”
Howard says the pressure on newspaper titles all over the world – in part thanks to shifting social habits and lifestyle changes, but more particularly the competition from a host of new media platforms – has “precipitated some wonderful innovations”.