Sunday, 08 November 2009

'Economic crisis' cost the closure of another SA publication

In what was not expected and what some industry commentators in the country were not expecting, well, it is here and we must accept it and not be as defensive as the ANCYL.

This time, it’s not the cost of food going up or the cost of newspapers like Mail & Guardian going up. But instead, it is the closure of one of South Africa’s widely read weekend paper The Weekender.

Politicsweb and South African Press Association reported on the closure of the publication of The Weekender this Friday.
Yesterday’s publication of the newspaper was the last, Peter Bruce, the paper’s editor was quoted as saying.

It was just costing too much money. The board decided, Bruce told SAPA on Friday adding that ‘most of the few permanent Weekender staffers would be given other jobs’.
The weekender’s articles, according to Bruce, ‘were written by Business Day reporters, or bought in’.

The weekender was published by BDFM Publishers (Pty) Ltd.

Below is a statement “Tomorrow will be the last edition of the Weekender” posted Friday on The Weekender web site regarding the publication’s closure:

The board of BDFM, which owns the Weekender, has decided that the paper should be closed due to the ongoing economic crisis and difficult trading conditions.
Media companies have been hard hit by the recession and BDFM, which is 50% owned by media and entertainment group Avusa, is no exception.

In a trading statement released this week, Avusa said advertising revenue was down 20% between April to September. Headline earnings would be up to 65% lower for this period, compared to the same time last year.

Mzi Malunga, the managing director of BDFM, said the decision was not an easy one to take. “The worst thing that ever happens, for anyone who works in media, is the closure of a newspaper. Because it feels like part of you is dead,” he said.

Malunga said he hoped to minimise job losses at the Weekender, which is run by a small team from Business Day’s newsroom.

In a statement the board thanked the Weekender’s readers, advertisers and staff for the faith shown in the newspaper. “Unfortunately the recession lengthened the financial breakeven point to a dangerous extent and the board felt that its first duty was to protect BDFM's established core products, Business Day, the Financial Mail and Summit Television,” the statement said.

Peter Bruce, editor in chief of Business Day and The Weekender, was saddened by the decision. “It was a great paper. We will all learn lessons from this, about journalism and about trust,” he said.

Founded in 2006, the paper was intended to fill a gap for an upmarket, quality read on Saturdays.

However the paper struggled with high distribution costs, as it was printed only in Gauteng. “The recession was not something you could plan for and it caught us in a development place,” said Bruce.

Bruce said there is still room for new newspapers in South Africa, “but publishers have to realise it takes between 5 and 7 years to break even, not three”.

Several local media titles have had to close due to the recession, among them business magazine Maverick, women’s magazine Real Simple, and Men’s Health Best Life.

The Weekender is not the first publication to be affected by the economic ‘crisis’.

Several publications in some parts of the word have been affected, including ‘The Observer, to name just one.

Given all this and many other instances, I wonder if all the decision we will be taking as of now - whether good or bad - are due to this 'economic crisis' no matter how much sense, at times, they do not make.

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