How COVID-19 has changed South Africa’s media landscape

The COVID-19 outbreak and subsequent lockdown in South Africa has dramatically changed the media landscape.

Many online publications have seen a dramatic increase in readership during the lockdown as people look for the latest coronavirus news.

Print publications, in comparison, have suffered. Caxton has ceased certain printing operations in Gauteng while other media houses have implemented salary cuts or even closed down.

Associated Media Publishing, which published Cosmopolitan, House & Leisure, Good Housekeeping, and Women on Wheels, shut its doors on 1 May.

Arena Holdings, which publishes the Sunday Times, Business Day, and The Sowetan, has asked its staff to take a 30% pay cut for three months.

This was necessary because of the impact of the coronavirus pandemic on advertising revenue.

They were not alone – Independent Media and Mail & Guardian are also implementing salary cuts and other measures to ensure financial sustainability.

Big growth in online readership

While print publishers are suffering, online publishers have seen a big increase in readership during the lockdown.

The April 2020 Narratiive statistics showed News24 attracted 11 million unique browsers last month – a year-on-year increase of 62%.

TimesLive is the second-largest news website with 8.2 million unique South African browsers, followed by IOL on 8.1 million.

The table below shows the top 20 websites in South Africa, based on South African unique browsers. It also shows the year-on-year change in readership.

Only IAB-affiliated websites running Narratiive’s tracking code are included in the table.

South African Online Readership
Website April 2019 April 2020 Change 6,796,570 10,978,640 62% 5,481,149 8,193,661 49% 3,458,741 8,137,007 135% 3,743,968 6,407,726 71% 2,478,103 5,910,517 139% 2,176,357 5,339,567 145% 4,417,904 4,351,863 -1% 1,221,717 4,246,012 248% 3,920,891 4,154,725 6% 891,145 3,856,712 333% 514,267 3,702,095 620% 3,097,004 3,499,262 13% 1,057,864 3,408,618 222% 2,527,544 3,029,580 20% 2,131,289 3,025,490 42% 4,323,676 2,922,324 -32%
BBC Sites 3,276,525 2,635,943 -20% 1,724,950 2,445,784 42% 1,736,948 2,414,292 39% 658,235 2,385,874 262%

Business publications

Online business news publications in particular have seen a big increase in their readerships during the COVID-19 pandemic.

South Africa’s prominent business publications have all seen a year-on-year increase in readership of over 100%.

South Africa’s biggest publication, BusinessTech, has seen a 139% increase in traffic. The second-largest publication, BusinessInsider, has grown by 145%.

Fin24, BusinessLive, and Moneyweb have all experienced a year-on-year readership increase of over 200%.

The table below shows the year-on-year change for South Africa’s top five business publications.

South African Online Business Readership
Website April 2019 April 2020 Change
BusinessTech 2,478,103 5,910,517 139%
Business Insider 2,176,357 5,339,567 145%
Fin24 1,221,717 4,246,012 248%
BusinessLive 1,057,864 3,408,618 222%
Moneyweb 505,273 2,302,731 356%

Business publications readership change

The chart below shows the readership change of BusinessTech, BusinessInsider, BusinessLive, and Moneyweb over the last year.

Now read: South African ICT and banking share prices – The biggest gains and drops during lockdown

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How COVID-19 has changed South Africa’s media landscape