A heartening BBC2 This World documentary last night on the success of South Africa’s Daily Sun newspaper (watch again for the next week) is a reminder that across large parts of the world print journalism is doing very well indeed. A BBC story about the documentary is here.
Improved education combined with increasing wealth is a fertile combination for the growth of print journalism. The documentary looked at the Daily Sun as it approached its 1,000th edition with a 500,000 circulation making it the largest paper in sub-Saharan Africa.
The publisher, Deon du Plessis, sidelines the black editor as the paper goes after the popular approach to every story. “I feel very white” he tells the 1,000th edition party, but it makes no difference. He seems to have a feel the stories Daily Sun readers want.
There was the story of the small boy who saved two people from a crashed aircraft. The photographer realises the boy has been loaned a school uniform and gets him dressed in his own clothes. The boy was too poor to have a uniform and that shapes the whole story. It was a beautiful example of good popular journalism.
The documentary did not deal with the media company behind the Daily Sun and that is another story. Naspers was founded in 1915 in Cape Town to print and publish a daily newspaper. In 1916 it published its first magazine and two years later went into books.
In the 1980s Naspers got into pay-TV and in the following decade moved into mobile phones and started its international expansion with FilmNet, a pay-TV operator in Europe.
Three years before the end of the century it was into the internet as a an ISP and later as a content provider. It now has a series of websites including News24, founded in 1998.
In 2002 is acquired a 46.5% holding in QQ which is now the largest instant messaging service in China and has expanded into a range of other mobile and internet services.
Naspers is quoted in South Africa and the US and had revenues of over $2.5bn in its last financial year, up 17% on the previous year. Its last reported operating profit was just short of half a billion dollars.
Reading Naspers’ corporate website a picture emerges of a newspaper company which has changed with confidence to adopt new media as it comes along. Having discovered this apparently sure-footed company led by Ton Vosloo who was a journalist for 27 years before becoming managing director in 1983, I want to know more about it. Vosloo is now the non-executive chairman.