South African media conglomerate announces significant closures and restructuring

Media24, one of the largest publishers in Africa, has announced the closure of a number of newspapers in its portfolio and the restructuring of several brands.

The South African media conglomerate is best known for publishing Drum, True Love and Women’s Health magazines, Daily Sun and the Sunday newspaper, City Press. It also owns a range of assets in its digital portfolio including News24, Fin24 and Business Insider South Africa.

In a statement issued on 7 July, the Chief Executive Officer of Media 24 Mr Ishmet Davidson, said the Covid-19 pandemic precipitated the restructuring.

“The pandemic,” he said, “has accelerated the pre-existing and long-term structural decline in print media, resulting in a devastating impact on our own already fragile print media operations with significant declines in both circulation and advertising since April.”

When Media24 released its annual results in June, it was upbeat about its performance, but cautious about what lay ahead. The company announced a 2% growth in revenue, a 54% reduction in trading loss and sufficient cash resources to continue funding its operations amidst the Covid-19 crisis. While it outperformed its expectations, Media24 said it would likely continue to be affected by the impact of a strained economy and revenue declines that have affected media worldwide.

The company is considering the closure of five magazines and two newspapers, outsourcing and reducing the frequency of its remaining monthly magazines, and several publications will only be available in digital form.

Drum magazine, which started in 1951 and was heralded for its representation of black voices during the apartheid era, will no longer exist in print form. Four community newspapers, Sunday Sun and the Afrikaans weekly, Son op Sondag will be closed. Media24 also intends to outsource the editorial production of a number of monthly publications.

Davidson said that an end to the pandemic will unlikely mean a return to business as usual.

“Even with a return to pre-Covid-19 economic levels, the impact of the pandemic on our print media operations will be unrecoverable,” he said in the statement announcing the closures.

“Sadly we have no choice but to restructure out business now to curtail the losses in our print portfolio and to allow us to focus on keeping the retained titles sustainable and in print for as long as possible,” he added.

Media24 is just one of several media conglomerates in South Africa feeling the pinch of Covid-19.

In April, Associated Media Publishing, publisher of Cosmopolitan SA, Good Housekeeping and House & Leisure closed its doors permanently. Shortly thereafter the board of directors of Caxton and CTP Publishers and Printers Limited announced that it would withdraw from magazine publishing and associated businesses.

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