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SANEF launches COVID19 Impact on Journalism Interim Report

Today, 1 June 2020, the South African National Editors’ Forum (SANEF) is launching its “Covid19 impact on Journalism” report. Our hope is that this desktop research will be a starting point to assist us in developing a way forward – leading to practical projects to assist journalists and the industry. We will be announcing our plans for the second phase shortly.

The report will be launched at a webinar that will be held today at noon.

Please register to participate at: https://us02web.zoom.us/webinar/register/WN_7JLUOOwfRVe5-omYa2OZnA

Some of the important conclusions of the report point to the following:

  • The biggest upside of this dark period for the industry has been the massive surge in traffic to credible online news sources. Traffic to news websites increased by 72% in March, while these sites saw a 44% growth in unique browsers. Many news websites saw double-digit growth in their audience numbers, with News24, Business Insider, The Citizen, Fin24 and EWN growing their traffic with more than 50% in March. In terms of the SABC, the average audience for Zulu language TV news on SABC, the week after the national disaster was declared, increased 40% and Xhosa News audiences rose by 60%.
  • That the print industry has been placed under particular pressure. The first and most visible casualty was the magazine industry with the closure of two magazine publishers with the loss of 97 jobs at the one publisher and up to 250 at the other. Away from the limelight, small, independent, hyperlocal print publications were also ravaged. This was in the first phase of the lockdown as small publishers were unable to access emergency funding, resulting in the loss of an estimated 300 to 400 journalist jobs. Also, workers at three of the so-called Big 4 print media companies were forced to take salary cuts of up to 45% and temporary lay-offs have been widely implemented.
  • That neither the regional and national newspapers of the Big 4 South African publishers nor broadcasting was immune to the plunge in advertising, which varies from an estimated 40% to 100%. Added to this was the disappearance of third-stream revenue from such sources as the hosting of events. Subscriber revenue has never been more valuable.
  • That the crisis brought on by the Covid-19 lockdowns has pushed over the edge operations that were imperiled or survivalist, and arguably have highlighted fissures in the news media industry. How well the news media will emerge from the crisis will depend on the speed of the economic recovery and the attendant increase in advertising revenue. The outlook is that the economy will shrink by at least 6% and 16% in the worst-case scenario, the biggest economic contraction in South Africa’s history. Best case is a sharp, short recession followed by a sharp, short recovery.
  • That some of the ills of the news media will not wane with the crisis, such as the conundrum of print publishers migrating to a less profitable online environment, and the damage wrought by the change in news media business models and the problem of Google and Facebook soaking up the lion’s share of online advertising revenue. In any event, the crisis has shown the need for thinking about emergency funding for the news media in the short term and sustainable funding models as it adapts to the new digital realities of the 21st century in the long-term – and the world after the coronavirus.

SANEF welcomes rigorous engagement around these findings – and what is to be done. The starting point for this debate is our webinar at noon. Please read the report here :SANEF Covid Impact Research Final Report9 (optimized)

Note to Editors: The South African National Editors’ Forum (SANEF) is a non-profit organisation whose members are editors, senior journalists and journalism trainers from all areas of the South African media. We are committed to championing South Africa’s hard-won freedom of expression and promoting quality, ethics and diversity in the South African media. We promote excellence in journalism through fighting for media freedom, writing policy submissions, research and education and training programmes. SANEF is not a union.

For more information please contact:

Mahlatse Mahlase – SANEF Chairperson, (083) 399-2852

Katy Katopodis – SANEF Deputy Chairperson (082) 805-7022

Moipone Malefane – SANEF Secretary General (082) 772-5861

Mary Papayya – SANEF Media Freedom Chair (082) 379-4957

Judy Sandison – SANEF KZN Convenor (082) 571-3334

Sbu Ngalwa – SANEF Eastern Cape Convenor (073) 404-1415

Janet Heard – SANEF Western Cape Convenor, (078) 041-9528

Hopewell Radebe – SANEF Gauteng Convenor (083) 582-1734

Kate Skinner – SANEF Executive Director – (082) 926-6404  

Twitter: @SAEditorsForum

Email: director@sanef.org.za Website: www.sanef.org.za

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