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COVID-19 impact on print media in South Africa [news and social media analysis]

COVID-19 has impacted numerous industries globally, and this analysis by Meltwater explores the impact the pandemic has had on print media in South Africa, and the ensuing paradigm shift to digital.

COVID-19 has highlighted the need for change in certain sectors, and all things online and digital have been accelerated throughout the pandemic.

One such sector to have experienced this rapid change is the media industry. With a number of publications announcing closures or a move to digital, Meltwater, tracked and analysed trends on the impact COVID-19 has had on this particular industry.

The answer, the data seems to indicate, is not the end of print media, but rather, a “new normal” for the media industry. 

Saying goodbye to a beloved print magazine

In April 2020, South Africans said goodbye to independent media house, Associated Media Publishing (AMP), following challenges it faced due to COVID-19. This resulted in the closure of magazines such as Cosmopolitan SA and House & Leisure. 

South Africans shared their appreciation for the much loved Cosmopolitan magazine, with online users sharing their “#COSMOAppreciationTweet” posts after news of the magazine’s closure. Trending themes that emerged from online users engaging with “#COSMOAppreciationTweet” include:

  • “last covers” which refers to a tweet from a former Cosmopolitan SA employee sharing the first and last Cosmopolitan SA magazine covers. 
  • “great content” which refers to online users sharing their thoughts on the content and information that the magazine provided.
  • “influencer issues” which refers to some online users sharing how the “influencer” edition of the magazine was one of their favourites. 
  • “love & support” which refers to a tweet from @jennifer_su who shared a post remembering special moments that she had with the team. 

Trending Themes on Social Media for #COSMOAppreciationTweet: April 1 and July 14 2020

While the closure of the print magazine was a sad one for many, the overall sentiment surrounding the Cosmopolitan SA name was predominantly positive with 85% of social media mentions on “#COSMOAppreciationTweet” highlighting the positive impact the magazine had on its readers. 

The goodbye from the beloved magazine was a bittersweet moment as the last person to grace the magazine’s cover was Miss Universe 2019, Zozibini Tunzi. 

Shared on social media on April 22, the hashtag “#COSMOxZozi” garnered a global social media reach of over 28 Million people, with top posters, by reach, engaging with the hashtag including “@boity” and “@DJZinhle” on Twitter and “Cosmopolitan SA” on Facebook.

Global Social Reach on #COSMOxZozi on 22 April 2020

While Cosmopolitan SA went out in fashionable style, the impact of COVID-19 on print media has seen more local magazines close their chapters or make a move to being strictly online. But with social and physical distancing measures still in place, not only in South Africa but globally, what could be next for remaining publications?

A ‘new normal’ for print media

In April 2020, instead of using models and celebrities for its cover, Vogue Italia opted to have a plain white cover for the first time in the history of the magazine. 

Over 1 000 global news articles mentioned “Vogue Italia” during the month of April, with Italy naturally dominating much of news media mentions, followed by the United States of America and Russia. 

Global Heat Map of News Media Mentions on ‘Vogue Italia’: April 1 to 30, 2020

Much of the global news media mentions on “Vogue Italia” began to question the impact that the coronavirus has had on the fashion industry, and how that has translated into fashion magazines, such as Vogue. This particular edition of the magazine, however, gained an overall positive response from the global news community. Articles mentioned how this magazine cover managed to speak volumes, using the colour white as a symbol of hope, to honour frontline workers during this time, and a blank canvas to determine the ‘new normal’ in a post-COVID world.

Sentiment on Global News Media Mentions on ‘Vogue Italia’: April 1 to 30, 2020

Vogue Italia’s magazine cover was not the only topic of discussion in the news during April. With self quarantine and stay-at-home regulations in place, the magazine also enlisted supermodel, Bella Hadid, for a photoshoot created and styled via FaceTime. 

Some of the trending themes that emerged from this particular Vogue magazine issue include:

  • “Instagram” which refers to the magazine using their Instagram account to share how they created this particular photoshoot without Bella Hadid or the stylist physically present in the same room
  • “FaceTime” which refers to the platform used for the photoshoot in order to still maintain social and physical distancing measures. 
  • “fashion industry” which refers to what the ‘new normal’ could look like in a post-COVID time for this particular industry. This analysis has been put together
  • Note: This insightful analysis has been put together by the media intelligence firm Meltwater South Africa. Edited by NOWinSA.


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