Blood bath in publishing industry begins… Newspapers and magazines close down

Editors Note

It was talked about for years in media circles as something that was certainly coming, and now the blood bath in publishing has begun for real.

It was talked about for years in media circles as something that was certainly coming, and now the blood bath in publishing has begun for real.

Though the media industry has in recent years lost some of the most senior and experienced hacks who were either retrenched or jumped ship and joined the more paying private and public sectors at senior level, the disruption of the industry has never happened so suddenly and at a large scale like this time around. Though the outbreak of the coronavirus has precipitated this development in the publishing industry, it is honestly not the cause of the collapse of a very important institution in a democracy. The emergence of digital technology is. People have simply stopped consuming content in the same way as we have known for centuries, and prefer to do so in new ways that the media industry had not prepared for, and as a result money has followed the crowd into digital space. Brands prefer to advertise on digital platforms rather than spending their adspend on traditional media.

Although this week the industry was shaken to the core when media giant Media24 announced the closure of two newspapers and several magazines, this tragic journey had long begun, and the events of this week were inevitable, and unfortunately, this is not the end of this unfortunate trajectory.

This same week a progressive publishing house with an illustrious track record of publishing some of the most interesting reads in post apartheid South Africa, Jacana Media, sent out a distress call, indicating that its liquidity situation was getting dire.

The independent publishing house enlisted the support of some of the country’s best writers, novelists, authors, intellectuals and academics to speak for it as it called for the general public to come to its rescue by way of a monthly donation of R30, and donors would be recognized for their support in its future books to be published this year. Jacana Media has identified the outbreak of the coronavirus as the culprit for its current precarious financial situation that threatens to unravel an illustrious literary legacy. The well respected publisher faces a real existential threat as a result of the slow business of selling books during this time of social distancing as a result of the coronavirus, which has affected the whole value chain of the publishing business.

Media 24 indents among other measures to stop printing Drum magazine, a publication with a historical heritage of black journalism excellence, especially in its prime time of the 1950s and 1960s. It is the same publication that produced talented writers such as Can Themba, Bloke Modisane, E’skia Mphahlele, Henry Nxumalo and Nat Nakasa among others. Now it will only be available digitally. Its stable mate, youth magazine, Move! is gone, and so is tabloid Sunday Sun, among others.

Last year another popular tabloid Sunday World was saved from meeting the same fate by the timely intervention of construction mogul David Mabilu who bought it from its  then owner, Tiso Blackstar, and repositioned it in the market as a publication that carries upmarket news and business content, and right now it seems to be on solid ground as its circulation has shot up, becoming the second biggest Sunday publication in the country.

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