Media24 achieves strong growth in ecommerce, digital media

30 August 2017

Media24’s digital media and ecommerce businesses recorded double-digit growth in the past year, the company told shareholders at the Welkom Yizani annual general meeting (AGM) in Cape Town on Monday (28 August).

Welkom Yizani is a 15% shareholder in Media24, South Africa’s leading media company, and the biggest broad-based black economic empowerment scheme in the South African media industry.

24.com, Media24’s digital media division which includes household brands such as News24, Fin24 and women’s portal W24, grew monthly unique visitors by 35% and revenue by 31% in the financial year to March 2017 while Spree, the biggest efashion site in South Africa, saw a 75% increase in orders and 84% in revenue.

Media24 CEO Esmaré Weideman told the AGM Media24 was well on its way to transform from a print media giant to a company built on content, commerce and technology. “We no longer see ourselves as a legacy media company, but as a media, tech and ecommerce company,” she said.

Its print media operations remained profitable but were facing the same disruptions experienced by media companies around the world, with advertising and circulation declining. “Some of our print titles remain very profitable, but others are facing structural headwinds. In our publishing businesses, the big job is to ensure that the excellent journalism we produce migrates successfully to the internet,” she said.

“A free media is critically important in any democracy. We have to protect it, and as a company we are helping both readers and advertisers move to new platforms. If you think about it, News24 is now the biggest newspaper in South Africa.”

Andreij Horn, head of Media24’s digital media operations, said 24.com had 16,7 million unique users a month with a leading 47% market share among South African publishers. “We are focused on building super brands, with News24 on the English side and Netwerk24 on the Afrikaans side.” News24, with nearly 470 000 average users a day and 2,9 million average daily page views, is the biggest news site in South Africa while Netwerk24 – which launched in 2014 – is the largest subscription news site in the country.

Both Weideman and Horn emphasised the importance of engineers and software developers in creating great user experiences. Media24 is growing its engineering capacity and has already deployed artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) on new apps such as News24 Edge, a personalised version of News24, as well as aggregator apps Sliced and DailyKick. Sliced lets you select your interests and then curates content from top local and global sources while DailyKick pulls together soccer content and news from Soccer Laduma, Daily Sun, Kick Off and Sport24 as a one-stop shop for sports lovers.

“At Media24 engineers are now as important as journalists,” Weideman said. “We now employ one computer scientist for every five editorial staff, where two years ago we only had one computer scientist for every ten editorial staff.”

Spree was also using AI and ML to serve shoppers better and recently launched its image search function, a first for online shopping in Africa, said Vincent Hoogduijn, CEO of Media24 Ecommerce. “The function lets shoppers upload an image of a clothing item they like. The app then uses image recognition technology to search for similar items on Spree.”

Spree was leading the local efashion market and 60% of sales now came via mobile, he added. “Spree has grown its audience faster than its competitors and aims to continue this growth path.” While online retail currently formed 1% of the South African retail market, this number was projected to grow to 3% by 2020, a R27 billion opportunity, Hoogduijn said.

  • Shareholders received the news that Welkom Yizani will get a special cash dividend following the unbundling of Novus Holdings. In compliance with directions from the Competition Tribunal, Media24 is reducing its stake in Novus Holdings from 66% to 19% and Welkom Yizani shareholders will get a 15% proportional share of the proceeds of the unbundling which will be not less than R14,79 per ordinary Welkom Yizani share.