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Dispelling myths about newspapers

What is a newspaper? This may seem like a rhetorical question, but perhaps the answer lies at the core of what its future holds. Is the 'heart' of a newspaper black ink on white paper, or is it the content in a format that can be read, does it really matter if it is read on a screen or on paper?
Dispelling myths about newspapers
© Knipserin via
So perhaps what the media industry should be asking is will people continue to consume news through the written word or will this become redundant? Have people been reading less in the past few years and if so, is it to the extent where print is becoming obsolete?

"There is talk that in the near future we will see a significant decrease in newsprint offerings as most people will have a tablet, but on the whole this is a perception that has been created amongst the higher income earners who can afford tablets, laptops, computers and smartphones. Most media professionals form part of this group and forget that these digital devices, never mind the high data costs in South Africa, are not generally within the reach of the middle-classes or mass market.

"According to the Target Group Index (TGi) and Ask Afrika's TGi Icon Brand research, the middle class can be defined loosely as individuals who have average income and assets as compared to the rest of their country. This normally represents about 30% of the population which means there are a fairly high number of people without digital access," says Vimla Frank, head of Marketing and Business Strategy at Ads24.

The question that needs to be answered

The middle market in South Africa is defined as LSM 4-7 consumers. So the question that really needs to be answered in South Africa is whether LSM 1-7 consumers read the news? The majority of our population will still be reading news in a print format. LSM 8-10 are the segment that is most likely to be migrating to digital formats and mobile platforms in their newspaper consumption habits. Yet the myth persists that digital is detrimental to newspapers.

"Newspaper advertisements are preferred above any other advertising according to 43% of South African consumers (TGi 2012C). The effectiveness of print advertising has been a hot topic of debate among brand and media owners. Despite the myth that consumers do not notice advertising anymore, research results show the contrary," says Dr Amelia Richards, client services director at Ask Afrika.

Ask Afrika, puts the most recent figures behind the facts, it owns the local license for TGi (Target Group Index) research. These research results are based on 15,000 interviews conducted among consumers across the country and illustrate why brand owners continue to opt for print advertising. This sample is big enough to be representative of the entire South African population.

Personal and relevant

Richards continues, "The myth that print advertising is not effective continues, even though in South Africa print audiences continue to represent a large portion of society. Brand owners should invest where the research proves that there will be return on investment (ROI). Print offers advertisers the opportunity to inform consumers about products and brands in a personal and relevant manner."

Newspaper owners are not lemmings jumping off a cliff, they are, on the whole, savvy business people who are taking the necessary steps to transform with society and remain relevant.

There is no evidence to show that our great grandchildren will not know what a newspaper is, perhaps the term may change, but we have always shared and as soon as we gained the ability, recorded stories about our reality. When reading and writing (even if it is typing or swiping) go out of fashion, then newspapers may indeed lose their impact, relevance and credibility.

"There is no doubt that we operate in an environment that is transforming with the advent of new technologies and all newspaper owners worth their salt are investing in the best ways to offer their consumers news to read in the most up-to-date and accessible formats. Drops in circulation cannot be seen as the end of newspapers, we need to bear in mind the migration to a different way of consuming what is essentially still a newspaper," comments Frank. "Newspaper owners will offer advertisers the most solid ROI and that is, at the moment, a combination of print and digital. In the present economic climate in South Africa the focus is still on print to obtain the greatest reach. As the media landscape transforms so will our offerings to advertisers, but we remain committed throughout this transformation to providing our advertisers the best solutions available."

Path to persuasion

Ads24 commission annual media neutral research, Path to Persuasion, conducted by Freshly Ground Insights (FGI) with the intention of offering media strategists and planners the best possible media mix for over 21 product categories.

"More than 4,400 respondents were recruited over four waves of fieldwork and interviewed at consumer convergence points throughout SA in the Path to Persuasion research," says Brad Aigner CEO of FGI.

"We do not claim that newspapers are the best advertising medium for every single product category under all circumstances, but there are many categories, like passenger cars and banks, where the research shows that newspaper advertising is highly likely to assist in persuading a customer to purchase a product, therefore providing the advertiser with the best ROI," says Aigner.

Path to Persuasion research is available on Telmar or on the Ads24 widget.

About Daya Coetzee

Stone Soup is a public relations consultancy specialising in business to business communication and is a part of the Iconic Group which includes Wag the Dog Publishers (The Media, The MediaOnline, The MOST Awards and EASYDIY), Ideaology and Snippet Video.

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