INTERNATIONAL: Medium of the month

Elizabeth Kinghorn examines the popular South African title, Drum

Elizabeth Kinghorn examines the popular South African title, Drum

According to the latest official figures, black readership of magazines

rose 5 per cent in the first five months of the year, and one of the

shining stars is Drum, a general interest magazine aimed at black urban

men and women.

So successful has Drum been in capturing the flavour of the new South

Africa, that since 1993 the magazine has doubled its circulation to

200,000 and went weekly for the first time last month.

Founded in 1951 by a white liberal millionaire, Jim Bailey, Drum

achieved a cult-like following in the emerging black market. This was

formed by the hundreds of thousands of young men and women from the

rural areas who had come to seek their fortunes in the cities. During

this period, Drum became world-renowned for its brilliant photography

and reflection of vibrant township life.

Times were not good for Drum in the 60s and 70s, however, as competition

in the black magazine market increased and general unrest and state

censorship took their toll.

In the 80s, though, the monthly title was bought by National Magazines,

part of the South African media giant, Nasionale Pers, and Drum now

follows the same editorial mix that has made its two weekly sister

publications extremely successful. Targeted at the Afrikaans market,

Huisgenoot has the highest magazine circulation in the country and the

younger You, in English, is one of the few white magazines to show

significant growth in recent years.

By going weekly, Drum has become part of a unique triumvirate of

magazines offering advertisers unequalled print reach across South

Africa. National Magazines offers extremely good value for advertisers

who take advantage of the special combination rates for placements in

all three magazines.

With cover stories like ‘Thabo Mbeki’s love child’, ‘Madiba and his true

love’, ‘New archbishop’s wife pumps petrol’ and ‘I [Miss South Africa]

want to be black like my mom’, Drum aims to ‘give readers what they


Drum’s leaps in circulation are shaking established and new black

titles. This market may grow, but adspend is not getting much bigger.

Casualties are expected in the short term, but the current activity in

this sector indicates the potential of the growing black market.

Elizabeth Kinghorn is an independent marketing consultant and freelance

journalist in Johannesburg


Key facts


Circulation         192,130 (July-December 1995). Circulation

                    subsequently broke the 200,000 barrier, but is

                    expected to drop to around 120,000 for each issue as

                    a weekly

Language            English and Zulu editions

Format              A4

Editorial           A mix of human interest, glamour, sport, cooking,

                    informative features, children’s educational

                    features, fiction and advice



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