Prior to mid-2015, Independent Media’s Sunday publication, The Sunday Tribune, enjoyed a long-standing agreement with real estate agents in the Kwazulu-Natal (KZN) province of eastern South Africa.

The Sunday Tribune has a circulation of 58,000 copies with a readership of 290,000 in KZN, mainly in the city of Durban and its surrounds. A further 15,000 copies are distributed in baskets at real estate agents’ offices and shopping malls.

That agreement was disrupted when the estate agents were lured to a national opposition Sunday publication by substantially lower rates and a promise to dominate the property advertising market through a major marketing campaign.

To counter this, in July 2016 we launched a new lifestyle and property supplement in The Sunday Tribune titled HOME.

Some of the many advertisers in HOME magazine, attracted to its well-produced layout, competitive rates, and growing audience.
Some of the many advertisers in HOME magazine, attracted to its well-produced layout, competitive rates, and growing audience.

Although initially the opposition supplement attracted all the larger estate agents’ advertising, within six months a third player entered the market with an A4 magazine. This left the market divided by the two tabloid newsprint supplements, which were carried in competing Sunday publications, and an A4 glossy magazine distributed in baskets at estate agents’ offices and malls.

As we fought for market share, the rock bottom advertising rates that agents were charged resulted in all three publications running close to or at a loss, while the agents benefitted from low costs.

However, the agents were not happy that there were now three different publications they had to advertise in. They were placing the same advertisements in all three publications and felt that they were now forced to increase their advertising spend.

In consultations we had with various agents, it became clear that they wanted a single marketplace for their print advertising, and their preference was for a glossy publication that had a broad reach across the area.

But the biggest obstacle was price. The pricing model at the time was based on lower rates for higher volumes. This meant that the smaller agents were paying a higher rate for their advertisements than the larger agents, who took more space and therefore enjoyed volume discounts.

To make the publication profitable, we needed large volumes. We had to convince both the large corporate agents and the small, one-person offices to come into our publication. In the end, we gambled on a single rate for all, regardless of volume.

We then concluded an agreement with the magazine publisher to launch a single glossy magazine in place of the Sunday Tribune Home tabloid supplement and incorporating the existing magazine.

The new Sunday Tribune KZN HOME magazine, as it is affectionately known at Independent Media, was born.

Within six months, KZN HOME magazine established itself as the market leader in high-gloss, weekly print advertising, and within six weeks had captured 90% of the property advertising in the area. It quickly established itself as the household name for real estate, with potential buyers to showhouses regularly arriving with a copy in hand.

The unique layout appeals to both seller and buyers, and allows a perfect and easy home guide to properties available for sale in each suburb of KZN.

The number of pages has grown from 80 tabloid newsprint pages to 144 glossy A4 pages each week. Revenues have doubled, and the upfront lifestyle section is attracting other advertisers, such as motor dealers, to our audience.

Despite a crowded and contentious marketplace, KZN HOME magazine is holding its own against the property portals and estate agent Web sites.