By Moses Charedzera.
While the travel and tourism industry has been one of the worst-hit by COVID-19, the media industry has not been spared. Particularly vulnerable has been print media, significantly driven by circulation which has been disrupted by COVID-19.
While print media has suffered through reduced print run and advertising, radio has regained its golden age status while new digital media has grown its numbers and influence. The coronavirus has thus created a new dynamic in the media.
With most communities around the world under some form of lockdown restricting newspaper circulation and movement of people, many have turned to radio and digital media platforms to keep informed, educated, and entertained.
With reduced print runs and sales, newspapers have rushed to protect the bottom line through the time-tested approach- laying off workers.
In South Africa, Naspers’s Media24 recently announced that it planned to retrench more than 500 people and close some of its magazines as the Covid-19 pandemic hits its operations.
Media24 said it planned to cut about 510 jobs and close 660 positions across its print media and distribution divisions.
Media24’s head of research, reporting, and communication, Egbert de Waal, said the company had tried all means necessary to avoid job losses, but the outbreak has had a negative impact on the group’s revenue, leading to the unfortunate decision to lay off workers.
The print media in South Africa has been hard hit since the national lockdown was implemented in March, with advertising and sales revenue having declined by 40 percent since the beginning of the lockdown.
Locally the situation is similar with revenues understood to have dipped by about 50 percent. All the major publishers from Zimpapers, ANZ and Alpha Media Holdings have all reportedly taken a knock in revenue figures with reports of layoffs due to COVID-19.
The Media24 announcement comes after Associated Media Publishing, publishers of Cosmopolitan, Women on Wheels and House and Leisure, closed. The situation has been acerbated by falling print figures in the last few years and COVID-19 has accelerated the decline in revenue for print publications.
South African national broadcaster SABC last week announced that it was planning to lay off about 600 full-time employees and 1 200 freelance workers.
With print media suffocating under COVID-19, radio has become the medium of choice. Its appeal has been enhanced by the medium’s ability to maintain social distance and cost structure which simply needs the listener to acquire a set, then you are good to go.
With the advent of the new mobile phone technology, even mobile phones a have radio functionality, meaning more people tune in to radio broadcasts than those who have radio sets.
Researchers Mary Myers says radio is still the dominant mass-medium in Africa with the widest geographical reach and the highest audiences compared with television, newspapers, and other information and communication technologies (ICTs).
Her research has been confirmed and validated by the BBC. What this means is that going forward in the new normal, organisations and advertisers wishing to convey messages should now focus on disseminating their messaging through radio.