Nerisa Coetzee of Media24, South Africa on the company’s entrepreneurial culture, pandemic opportunities and print-as-luxury

“Our division is reaping the rewards of the interventions introduced amid the global pandemic to remain a sustainable magazine publishing business.”

Two and half years on from the start of the Covid-19 and the world’s media companies are starting to assess what impact the global pandemic has had on their business models.

For some companies Covid-19 was a catalyst to accelerate digital transitions programmes, changing the way that they functioned and the products they offered. For others it offered a period of respite, a chance to mull over future plans and tweak their brands.

One company that certainly “didn’t waste a good crisis” is South Africa’s Media24. At the FIPP Congress the company’s, GM: Lifestyle, Nerisa Coetzee, will outline the changes that were made in response to the pandemic and how they have impacted the company’s bottom line. Here Nerisa also talks more generally about the publishing environment in South Africa, and the way Media24 is monetising both its mainstream and niche brands.


Part of our: Meet the Speaker Series

Nerisa Coetzee, Media24


Tell us a little about your career trajectory – how did you end up as the GM of Lifestyle at Media24?

I studied journalism and knew I wanted to end up on the business side. I started my career as a promotions writer at one of Media24’s daily newspapers. From there I ventured into marketing at magazines, where I was exposed to sales, digital and publishing, before being appointed to various publishing management positions. I was appointed to my current position in April 2021. I have a keen interest in revenue diversification and turnaround strategies.

Can you give us some insight into the lifestyle content market in South Africa – what are the key challenges you face and are there any that are peculiar to your territory?

Media24 Lifestyle is fortunate to have a 77% share (paid circulation) of the local market, with seven brands among the top 10 in the consumer category. We are faced with the challenge of less retail space available as a number of titles (published by other publishers) are being revived after they closed during the pandemic. Moreover, our print product will be impacted by European paper price increases in 2022.

“Our division is reaping the rewards of the interventions introduced amid the global pandemic to remain a sustainable magazine publishing business.”

What drives most of your revenue now? Is it advertising? How do you think that will develop in the future? Also, how important have subscriptions and memberships as well as events become to your portfolio?

For years the revenue model for magazines in South Africa has been a 50/50 split between circulation and advertising, with the exception of a few niche titles that carried high cover prices and very little advertising.

However, over the past 3-5 years there has been a clear shift towards circulation revenue as the structural decline in print media advertising started to accelerate and we offset these, as well as the declining circulations, by significant cover price increases. The print mastheads are definitely, and increasingly, positioned at luxury products. At the same time, there is a notable increase in the contribution from diverse revenue – both from brand-related and brand-agnostic initiatives. Before the pandemic, Lifestyle presented more than 100 events per annum. We are slowly seeing interest in the sponsorship of live events returning, although most clients still steer away from large crowds and prefer micro experiences.

We are also fortunate that the brands in our portfolio form part of our company’s two online news paywall offerings, Netwerk24 and News24. Our Afrikaans agricultural magazine, Landbouweekblad (“Agriculture Weekly”), launched a standalone paywall in October last year, Landbou.com, which is a comprehensive agriculture ecosystem on the web. Paywall readership now makes up nearly a third of our print readership.

What impact, if at all, did Covid-19 have on your business? Are there any changes that it brought about that you feel will become permanent?

Our division is reaping the rewards of the interventions introduced amid the global pandemic to remain a sustainable magazine publishing business. We closed loss-making brands, introduced an outsourced model for our Glossies (all content production, under the existing editors who now work under contract), launched a paywall for our niche agricultural content, Landbou.com, and increased our diverse revenue projects to be less reliant on events, given that live events have been impossible since the start of lockdown in March 2020.

Lifestyle’s culture of entrepreneurism is delivered through expanding our revenue verticals to include conferences and events, but also virtual events, custom-published magazines, affiliate partnerships, video, third-party content initiatives and brand extensions. Simultaneously we moved to a hybrid working model, coming to the office only a few days a week and for important group meetings.

You have innovated with video content in recent years. How successful has that been and what are your longer-term plans in that area?

Media24 Lifestyle has had recent success with advertiser-funded platforms (AFPs) such as a fifth and sixth season of African Farming and Season 16 to 20 of Landbouweekliks (our agriculture television show). Media24 TV – the dedicated television unit at Media24, which includes two television channels and a full production unit with an inhouse studio – works closely with our Lifestyle division, enabling us to grow video revenue and develop more television opportunities for the channels they have on our local broadcaster, while also creating video content for clients in our in-house production studio.

Where do you see growth coming from in the future for Media 24 Lifestyle? New brands? Acquisitions? Platform extensions or something else?

Lifestyle will continue to accelerate revenue diversification, which is critical for our longevity. We do this by producing multiplatform, niche-interest products (Christmas, large-print crosswords, school homework, Bible crosswords, jubilee magazines) as well as positioning print as a luxury product. We are also excited about the potential offered by the return of live events. We continue to monetise several niche content offerings – for example, teaching readers a new hobby with Take Better Photos, or health and wellness products such as Walk Yourself Fit or 6 Weeks to Lose It. Video also forms an important part of this content offering.


🗣 To see the latest speaker line-up for this June’s FIPP World Media Congress, along with details of the schedules, click here.

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