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Operational review

Paarl Media

Paarl Media made progress in improving productivity and efficiencies to ensure the sustainability of its core operations, while expanding its footprint and diversifying into new market segments. Paarl Coldset’s printing capacity was strengthened to cater for extra printing work. The company expanded its African footprint by securing printing work for literacy and democracy projects in a number of countries.

News

It was a year of highs and lows for our news division. Cost savings were insufficient to offset shortfalls in advertising and circulation sales. However, circulation has stabilised in recent months and our local newspaper footprint was expanded in the north. Subscriptions are higher year on year and Media24 News now ranks as the second largest digital news publisher in South Africa. Good progress was also made to transform the business into a 24-hour news service across print and digital platforms. Growth in digital publications for our mainstream Afrikaans dailies – Die Burger, Beeld and Volksblad – was encouraging and video recording studios were established in Johannesburg and Cape Town.

Magazines

Magazines performed well the past year. They launched several initiatives to counter the ongoing decline of both traditional advertising and circulations. We retained the leading print and digital circulation and advertising market share among the top five publishers in the country. The division reported strong growth in its digital footprint across web, tablet and mobile platforms – access via mobile now overtakes desktop/personal computers and was boosted by several new mobi-sites. Our content aggregation app MyEdit is gaining firm traction among users and advertisers alike. Sales of digital editions grew by over 120% year on year. On the print side, our investment in new and emerging market segments continues to perform well – both Kuier and Move! grew circulation by 15% year on year.

On the Dot

Amid declining newspaper and magazine volumes and rising input costs due to the weakening of the rand, our distribution business focused on improving its network to reduce the distribution costs of newspapers and magazines. During the past year we distributed approximately 82m magazines and 209m newspapers. Sales via our online fulfilment platform, www.mysubs.co.za, are growing steadily. On the Dot also made progress in expanding its warehousing and online fulfilment business and secured new retail clients during the year.

Books

Educational publisher Via Afrika Publishers benefited from the final implementation of the South African school curriculum, and was named Sefika Educational Publisher of the Year for the third consecutive time. Jonathan Ball Publishers re-established itself as the market leader on the back of two new agencies, while NB Publishers improved its leading position in the trade publishing market, again scooping 33 literary prizes. On the digital front, ebook sales are growing fast and our publishers released new apps in the iStore and Play Store.

24.com

24.com, the leading digital publisher in Africa, grew average daily page views across its network by 15% and average daily visits by 16% year on year. It recorded strong mobile audience growth and now reaches 350 000 daily active users via its tablet and mobile apps. The publishing business continues to focus efforts on expanding its content offering, and established a video production unit that is experiencing good uptake in terms of viewership. Our recruitment classifieds business Careers24 jumped from fourth position to market leader (according to Actionable Analytics for the Web (Alexa)) over the period. News24 and Careers24 also expanded their operations in Nigeria.

Ecommerce (Spree)

Media24’s efashion business, Spree, which is closely linked to some of our biggest magazine brands, established itself as a leading player in South African online fashion since launching in April 2013. In addition to women’s apparel, several new categories, including home décor and a children’s department, were launched.

INET BFA

McGregor BFA, our financial data services business, acquired I-Net Bridge in November 2013 and is now known as INET BFA. I-Net Bridge’s core products service most asset managers in South Africa and it leads the market in number of users. The combined entity is well positioned to become the leading provider of African data to investors and businesses in South Africa and around the world.

Spree