People have been debating about whether or not print is dead, but having a print publication such as Hot Rods SA coming back from the dead just shows how print is still here to stay.

This is especially true considering the closing of Associated Media Publishing, Caxton news withdrawing from the magazine publishing business and Media24 considering closing five magazines and two newspapers.

However, Hot Rods SA overcame adversity and is back in business!

media update’s Talisa Jansen van Rensburg had the opportunity to talk to Joe van Zyl regarding Hot Rods SA magazine and the new challenges that it faces.

Hot Rods SA announced the closing of its print magazine in May and is now back with its August / September issue. How exactly did the magazine manage to get back into business?

It was touch and go for us at one stage; losing the company that managed our distribution was a massive blow and then seeing other magazines fold around us made us think that maybe it’s time to put the magazine to bed.

We spoke to [our] readers and we spoke to our advertisers who depend on the magazine. We found that closing the publication would create a vacuum in an industry that still has huge potential in South Africa.

We found new distributors and started the process in exactly the same way as we did 13 years ago when we started the magazine. [We are] starting small and building from there.

There are endless debates surrounding the idea that ‘print is dead’, and yet here Hot Rods SA is — back in business and bringing magazines to over 1 500 stores countrywide. Do you think this proves that print is, in fact, not dead?

Print is not dead, it is just changing — like everything else around us.

Yes, large media and publishing houses are closing titles because they are not pulling in huge profits like they used to; however, we are seeing smaller publications popping up worldwide brought out by small publishing companies like ourselves.

I believe magazines will become like music. It is nice to download music but it is not as engaging as owning a CD or Vinyl.

Why do you think readers still want to read printed versions of their favourite publications?

Studies have shown that humans consume information differently on screens as opposed to when it is on paper. A person’s attention span is much shorter on-screen because there is normally so much more going on — ads flashing and so on — and we try to take everything in that we can.

With print, all you are focussing on is the story and the images. You can smell the paper, you can feel the texture of [it] and [you can hear] the soft sound of turning a page. It is a unique experience these days.

For us, there is the fact that people [enjoy collecting] our magazines [and] our articles are timeless. For example, a car that was built 10 years ago is just as interesting as a car that was built a year ago. We are still selling back additions to readers who want a full collection.

What advice can you give to publishers who are facing a hard time at the moment?

Listen to your readers and your advertisers. Don’t be scared to try different things. You never know what possibilities are out there.

Heraclitus, a Greek philosopher, once said, “Change is the only constant in life”.

Where do you see the future of media going in South Africa?

That is a tough question to answer because the word ‘media’ covers so much. The options are endless. I don’t think we have seen the end result with regards to the impact that COVID has had and will have on the media industry in South Africa.

Lockdown has changed how people consume information and it is going to take time to see where all of this leads.

All we can do is see what the future holds and [roll] with the punches.

Do you still purchase magazines? And if so, which ones do you normally buy? Be sure to let us know in the comment section below.

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Do you want to learn more about where the media in our country is heading? Then be sure to read What does the future hold for the media industry in South Africa?
*Image courtesy of Canva