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3D Illustration of an orange typewriter as the title image for our blog on South African print media

The State and Stats of Print Media in South Africa

Katherine McInnes

Jan 19, 2024

Print media has been around for centuries. It has helped shape society and culture across the world and in South Africa.

The history of print media in South Africa has deep roots in global and political history, and the industry has evolved over the years.

In this blog piece we cover:

Tip: Learn more about the state of print monitoring.

What Does South African Print Media Encompass?

Any sort of wide communication or marketing material that exists on paper sits under the umbrella of print media. This includes (but is not limited to!) newspapers, magazines, books, and brochures.

When Did Print Media Start in South Africa?

The colourful history of black and white print goes all the way back to the 1800s.

A publication launched by slave traders, the first recorded reports of South African print media are the English/Dutch Cape Town Gazette and the African Advertiser (the Kaaspche Stads Courant en Afrikaansche Berigte).

When the political landscape began to formalise, the government began to head up the printing. Just over a year later, the first recorded newspapers were launched.

3D Illustration of bars and a positive trend line

What is the State of Print Media in South Africa?

Over the past few years, the South African print media industry has experienced massive changes. With the global pandemic, the increase in digital media, and the rise of artificial intelligence, there has been a shift in how readers look for their news and information - often reaching for digital media first.

With these changes, many print publications have suffered, facing a decline in circulation and shrinking subscriber bases.

Within the last year, one of the leading publishers in the print news industry, Independent Media, has had to assimilate some of its publications and completely discontinue other smaller publications.

The magazine industry has also taken blows. Huisgenoot stands as the top-selling weekly magazine in South Africa and yet it has faced a decline of nearly 20% in circulation over the last few years. The industry also suffered the loss of South African TV Plus magazine, a publication which ran for 23 years.

While newsprint has taken a toll, not all print media is dead - nor is it even in the red. Retail South African print media has grown. Magazines such as FTG Media (owned by retail group TFG), Man, and Sports Club have all seen growth in circulation.

The changes seem to point to the changing landscape of news and entertainment. Readers are looking for news as soon as it breaks; which is easier to do from a digital outlet. On the other side, from an entertainment and advertising space, print media is still a strong contender in the overall industry.

Who Owns Print Media in South Africa?

The ownership of print media companies in South Africa spans across some heavy-hitter independent publishers in the country. Many newspapers are owned by media companies that also own magazines.

The leading print media publishers in South Africa are:

  • Mail and Guardian
  • Avusa
  • Naspers
  • Independent News and Media, owned by Sekunjalo Investment
  • CTP/Caxton

The leading newspaper chains that form South African print media include:

  • Argus Newspaper, which makes up 45% of all daily South African newspaper sales, owns:
    • The Johannesburg Star
    • The Argus
    • The Cape Times
    • The Daily News
    • Natal Mercury
    • Pretoria News
    • Sunday Tribune
  • Times Media, previously known as South African Associated Newspapers, owns:
    • Business Day
    • The Eastern Province Herald
    • The Evening Post
    • Sunday Times
  • The Sowetan, established in 1981, circulates primarily in Soweto
  • Beeld, owned by Naspers
  • Die Burger, owned by Naspers
  • The City Press, owned by Naspers


How Beneficial is Print Media for Marketing in South Africa?

Many perceive print media as a space exclusive to newspapers and magazines. As a result, the print industry is often overlooked by companies in their marketing efforts.

Despite headlines declaring the decline of print, printed media is very much alive and offers a surprisingly strong performance for those who take advantage of the gap. According to the CMO Council, a massive 79% of readers take action after seeing printed advertising.

This stands as one of a number of reasons why companies should consider adding print media to their marketing mix. Others include:

  • Physical media is memorable
    Physically interacting with paper engages the brain’s memory section more than a visual. Combining print with digital can give companies with smaller marketing budgets an edge on companies targeting only one channel.
  • Printed news is seen as more credible than its digital counterpart
    With the rise of fake news circulating online, print media is widely considered as a more credible outlet than digital. Readers subscribe to magazines and newspapers because they see the information as accurate and credible. 
  • The retail media industry is growing
    The retail print media in South Africa is growing year-on-year. Companies looking to buy space for marketing material in retail magazines or launch their own will likely see gains from the effort. Combining retail print media with digital advertising can add a serious boost to marketing efforts.

How Meltwater Can Help You Monitor Print Media in South Africa

PR, marketing and communications professionals need to prove the ROI of their earned media efforts. Tracking news clips is not enough. Our comprehensive media monitoring tool allows you to track and analyse data across print, social media, broadcast and online news as well as provide custom reports, dashboards and a broad range of analytics on keywords and media mentions related to your company and topics that matter to you, helping you to prove the value of your work. 

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Our Media Monitoring tool covers both traditional and digital media, and aggregates all public and editorial content that mentions you and your keywords.

Get a better view and understanding of everything out there online or on the printed page with Meltwater: