Sunday Times increases circulation quarter on quarter while online readership soars
The Sunday Times's circulation grew 5.2% in the last quarter of 2020 despite tough trading conditions in the newspaper sector brought about by the Covid-19 pandemic, while the paper's rapidly growing online audience has contributed to record-breaking traffic for the TimesLIVE website.
The latest figures released by the Audit Bureau of Circulation (ABC) show that the print edition of the paper remains SA’s biggest Sunday read, way ahead of its competition.
In January, South Africans’ appetite to be kept well informed via breaking news, in-depth reporting and insightful analysis also attracted a record number of digital readers to TimesLIVE, which includes the Sunday Times.
The new year got off to a turbulent start with anxiety and uncertainty for many after the resurgence of the coronavirus pandemic and its impact on lives and livelihoods. Trusted sources of news became the go-to destination for those seeking credible information as misinformation and speculation circulated on social media.
TimesLIVE was up 17.9% from December to 8.3 million SA readers — including 2.3 million readers of the main Sunday Times content and 1.4 million (also a new record) clicking on quality Sunday Times Daily content carried on the TimesLIVE website.
The digital figures are based on Narratiive data used as SA’s industry standard for comparison of digital audiences.
The impact of the pandemic on traditional ways of news distribution, such as via newspapers, has accelerated the switch by many of the Sunday Times’ loyal readers to the paper’s digital platforms.
Richard Goussard, general manager of circulation at Arena Holdings, said some of the logistical hurdles encountered at the height of the national lockdown included newspaper vendors having to significantly curtail their operations. The impact on the informal sector has been significant. In addition, the closure of airports, hotels and borders, particularly with Zimbabwe, also had a knock-on effect on the distribution of the Sunday Times.
The Sunday Times’s circulation, however, still outshines that of its rivals, at a time when trading conditions remain difficult for the print sector in general.
“Like many other sectors, the print media industry has been negatively affected by the spread of the coronavirus and the imposition of a hard lockdown,” said Sunday Times editor Sthembiso Msomi.
“We are however encouraged by the most recent statistics showing that the Sunday Times’ circulation ended the last quarter of 2020 in a stronger position following the easing of some of the restrictions. We remain the country’s biggest weekend publication and are confident that, as the fight against the pandemic succeeds and the country opens up some more, we will see our circulation climb further again.
“In the meantime, Sunday Times staff are working hard to improve the product and bring readers cutting-edge journalism. We are also encouraged by record-high growth in our readership on our digital platforms.”
“The record-breaking numbers for TimesLIVE are a result of hard work by many members of the TimesLIVE family. It is the beginning of great things to come,” said TimesLIVE editor Makhudu Sefara.
According to the latest ABC report, circulation figures for other Arena Holdings titles are also looking positive. Business Day showed quarter-on-quarter growth of 7% and the Sowetan 2%.
On the digital front, BusinessLIVE readership shot up 16.9% in January, while SowetanLIVE had its best month since March 2020 with growth up 10.6% on December and 6.4% year on year.