Thursday, July 13, 2006

Magazine Wars

It’s good for us

I was in Woolworths yesterday and noticed, again, Wegbreek and Getaway (with identical covers) right beside the media24 owned publications, Weg and go! (also with identical covers). All four magazines have stories about Namibia. It’s a war, all right, and the winners are the readers and subscribers out there.

At the moment Weg (formerly calling themselves Wegbreek until Getaway sat up and howled: “Foul!”) seems to be winning the war. Weg has not only outsold Getaway, but was voted (at the annual ADawards) the best magazine in South Africa. Weg’s editor, Bun Booyens received the award for best editor for 2006.

My father has bought one or the other magazine depending on content. He is currently in Botswana (has traveled recently to Madagascar, Greece and the USA), and often buys travel and wildlife magazines for their informative and useful articles and insights. After buying Getaway for many years he has switched to Weg, even though it is an Afrikaans magazine and he is English speaking.

Weg’s success may be because Afrikaners travel more than other South Africans (who possibly prefer to stay in 5 star hotels). Weg suits its audience because when Afrikaners travel it often involves camping or really roughing it in the bush.
The articles are aimed more at the common man, the writing is practical, accessible and interesting. Booyen’s style and format is visually fresh, with many simple blocks of informative text, eye-catching landscapes or creature pictures, snippets, and chunk sized articles (a style pioneered I think by FHM, the Men’s magazine with the highest circulation figures in South Africa).

While Weg is colorful, it’s not pretentious, and that’s the style the real outdoor types appreciate. It’s not about staying in ritzy hotels. Yet it is a high quality magazine, and one that can be read and reread on the coffee table over the course of a month. It’s also got a more tasteful selection of advertising. Getaway seems to have become overwhelmed with advertising, where the whole second half of the magazine is given over to page after page of advertising. If Weg does that it is far less intrusive.

Now that Weg is available in English, my father has switched to go! The first issue came out this month. My money is on Weg and go! to win the magazine wars.

Meanwhile, Ster Kinekor and Nu Metro are slashing prices to steal away customers. When I went to watch Superman Returns with my girlfriend at a Nu Metro cinema, my shadow rubbed hands in glee when the ticket price came to only R12 (R6 each). I’m not sure why, but Ster Kinekor (at least in my area) always seems to sell better popcorn and have ice, and that’s reason enough (for me) to not go to Nu Metro more often than I have to. I hope Nu Metro is taking notes.

SABC3 and eTV have the news in the same time slot (7pm) theoretically to compete directly against each other. By doing the same with other programming (including reality shows, soapies etc) the television watcher just gets a better selection to choose from.

The same company makes Sprite Zero and Coke Light for the weight conscious customer. For me these two products present quite a tough choice. I used to hate Coke Light, but recently the taste (and number of calories) has been improved. Ice teas (especially Lipton’s raspberry flavour) and the array of flavoured waters have totally opened up the non-soda pop market. Once upon the time the fridges in shops were filled with just Coke, Fanta and Spar Letta, now there is a lot more to choose from.

Last and best of all, Telkom will soon have to clean up its act when the second operator enters the market. It will be partially financed by an Indian company (Tata). I think all Telkom customers should abandon Telkom as soon as they can just to punish them for at least a decade of abusing their customer base. Once they’ve repented we might consider coming back.

Yes, it’s good to see an increasingly competitive environment in this country, simply because competition is always going to be good for us.

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