Ishmet Davidson, CEO of Media24, says, "From the earliest days of the pandemic in South Africa, everything we've done focused on two main priorities. Firstly, the health and safety of our people, and secondly, business continuity, by implication also protecting employment for as long as possible."

"However, the pandemic 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," adds Davidson. 

"For many of our print titles, the benefits of prior interventions to offset the structural declines and keep them on the shelf no longer exist and they've run out of options in this regard," Davidson says.

"Even with a return to pre-COVID-19 economic levels, the impact of the pandemic on our print media operations will be unrecoverable. Sadly, we have no choice but to restructure our business now to curtail the losses in our print portfolio and allow us to focus on keeping the retained titles sustainable and in print for as long as possible," Davidon adds.

"At the same time, Media24 is reshaping to further accelerate its transition to an increasingly digital world. In a very competitive landscape that includes major international brands, News24 and Netwerk24 are digital news destinations of choice for South Africans," Davidson says.

Davidson reports that News24 averaged 1.6 million daily unique users for the year to date, 63% growth on the 2019 average. By the end of June, Netwerk24 had almost 67 000 subscribers, which was up by 36.5% on June 2019.

The planned interventions are expected to affect around 510 staff members (with a proposed reduction of close to 660 positions). This is out of a total staff complement of 2 971, largely across the print media and distribution divisions. It includes:

Magazine portfolio
  • closing Move! and the Hearst portfolio (Men's Health, Women’s Health, Bicycling and Runner's World)
  • publishing DRUM in digital format only
  • a licensing agreement with editor Helen Schöer to publish the parenting titles (Baba & Kleuter and Your Pregnancy) independently
  • outsourcing the editorial production of the remaining monthly portfolio (Fairlady, SARIE, SA Hunter / Jagter, True Love, tuis | home, Weg! | go! and Weg! Ry & Sleep | go! Drive & Camp) as well as the fortnightly Kuier, and
  • reducing the frequency of the monthly magazines to six issues per year, and eight issues for tuis | home, SA Hunter / Jagter and Man Magnum.
The flagship weeklies Huisgenoot, YOU and Landbouweekblad will continue to be produced and published in-house.

Newspaper portfolio
  • closing Son op Sondag and Sunday Sun
  • closing the Eastern Cape edition of Son
  • publishing Volksblad and Die Burger Oos-Kaap as weekday digital editions only, available as complete PDFs on Netwerk24
  • closing four community newspapers in KwaZulu-Natal, comprising Amanzimtoti Fever, East Griqualand Fever, Hillcrest Fever and Maritzburg Fever
  • consolidating Noordkaap and Kalahari Bulletin into a single newspaper, Noordkaap Bulletin, and Kroonnuus and Vrystaat Nuus into Vrystaat Kroonnuus. At the same time, it will be incorporating Theewaterskloof Gazette into Hermanus Times, and
  • accelerating the digital transition of The Witness.

Media24 will be reducing staff in its media distribution business as well as in divisional and corporate services departments related to the proposed reduced print media operations.

"We are fully committed to managing this highly sensitive consultation with compassion, while following the process as prescribed by law. Unfortunately, we cannot share any further details until the process has been concluded," concludes Davidson.

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