An interview with the mother of the Sun
If DEON DU PLESSIS is the father of the Daily Sun, then JOS KUPER must
be its mother. Below is an interview between Bizcommunity.com
journalist, Gill Moodie and Jos, of Kuper Research...
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Bizcommunity: The Daily Sun created a market of new newspaper readers, which
by my reckoning not many in print know or understand.
Jos Kuper: What's not generally understood about this market is the
degree of social mobility there is within the market and the fact that, where in
the US it takes four generations for a poor family to reach the average income
of the average family, in South Africa it is considerably less than that. A lot
of people have done it one generation. The degree of social mobility makes for
huge aspiration and what we are finding is actually a complete shift in the mind
set from the day when there was a kind of entitlement mindset to one now of 'we
need to do it for ourselves'.
I don't know if you've read a book by a Nobel Prize-winning economist called
Amartya Sen. He wrote a book called Development as Freedom. He's wonderful and
he's written a number of very interesting books on identity and violence. But
Development as Freedom has been seminal in my life in terms of understanding
this market really well and we've used it very extensively in the Daily Sun
because it's been confirmed in all the research that we've done.
One of the things that he talks about is how important certain freedoms are in
people's lives - the freedom to get a good education, good medical care and free
media and democracy that enable people to start taking control of their own
lives. If you want to unlock the Daily Sun, that is the key to this market
because is what [the paper] has done right from Day One. When we conceived the
paper in its fullness, [the idea] was to find a way in which it talked the
people's language in a way they could understand but helped them to take control
of their own lives.
Biz: So is taking
control of your life the greatest aspiration?
Kuper: It is a very great aspiration. Now, I'm not talking about people
from LSM [Living Standard Measure] 1-3. Remember that's not the Daily Sun
market. The Daily Sun's market is basically LSM 5-7.
Biz: Are these people
nurses and teachers, then?
Kuper: Yes, and right across the spectrum. If you take a look [at the
numbers], they have more black LSM 8-10 readers than any other publication. But
that's irrelevant because Deon does not focus on them at all.
Biz: You've got to
choose your market.
Kuper: Yes, but many people tend to dismiss the paper as being the
Tokoloshe-dominated tabloid but, in fact, if you look at the paper on a daily
basis, you'll see that those kinds of stories and very few and far between.
Because the market had moved on from those times and, even if there are many
people who do believe it [witchcraft], and others are not denigratory of them
when they do believe it - a lot of people are more cynical. A lot more don't
believe in it or don't want their children to read that stuff.
So the Daily Sun has moved off it to a very large extent because it keeps in
touch with its market all the time. One third of the paper was actually
conceptualised to be 'how to' - how to get a driver's licence, how to open a
bank account, how to understand what interest means. If you have a look [at the
paper today], there is always a page that is very enabling, which says: "Do it
for yourself, take your power into your own hands." This is coming through very
strongly [in the research] now that a lot of people are understanding that they
can't wait for the government to provide.
Biz: So do you do a
lot of focus groups for the Daily Sun?
Kuper: All kinds of research for them... this market is changing very
rapidly... A lot of people got very unhappy during the recession but there were
interesting ramifications of this that Deon could use...
Some people didn't sit around and wait for others to provide. They got stuck
into it and started doing it for themselves. One of the guys in the focus groups
said: "I've begun to realise that after years of waiting for government
intervention that it's DIY time now. We must stand up and find a way to do
things for ourselves." Now that's a very healthy thing.
Biz: So do you think
that because things got so dire in the recession, it prodded some people into
doing things for themselves?
Kuper: Absolutely. Well, a lot of people decided that they weren't going
to just sit around even though they couldn't find a job. A lot went off and
volunteered for various things where they learned new skills. And, you know, a
lot of economists are saying that our Gini coefficient [that measures inequality
of distribution] isn't as bad as Stats SA makes out because Stats SA doesn't
take into account things like free electricity and subsidised this and that and
the [social] grants.
Biz: Are most of the
readers only buying the Daily Sun when it comes to newspapers?
Kuper: Well, no, the Sowetan (owned by Avusa) has a certain constituency
and people buy The Star [owned by Independent Newspapers] on a Wednesday for
Work Place. But, by and large, when we looked at the impact of the [nationwide
public-sector] strike on circulation - with its effect on transportation -
people weren't moving to another newspaper at all. So this is a very entrenched,
very loyal market. People who feel it is their friend.
Biz: Is that how most
people view the papers - as their friend?
Kuper: Oh yes, there are even criminals who hand themselves over to TK [(Themba
Khumalo] the editor, and he takes them to the police station because that's the
level of trust in the newspaper. You know, there's that page called the
'Department of Horror Affairs' which highlights people who've had difficulties
at Home Affairs - so the paper is doing a lot of good. They call it 'SunPower',
where they help the people take the power for themselves.
Biz: Talking about
social mobility, surely the children of today's readers - if not some of these
readers - will move up the LSM ranks and start reading other papers. What does
the Daily Sun do about that? Try keep them in some way or go after the new
entrants to LSM 5- 7 as urbanisation grows in South Africa?
Kuper: You mustn't forget that usually more than one generation is living
in a home and under these circumstances you've got a lot of young people still
reading the paper... If they say [in our research] that they don't buy it for
themselves, that they are buying it for their parents; you find they still read
it. That is happening...
We looked at whether the Daily Sun should move up [the LSMs] and if you have a
look at the projections of the Bureau of Market Research up to 2015, you'll see
that they are predicting that the three biggest LSMs will be 5,6 and7. While 4
is plateauing, 5 is growing, 6 will be massive - it will be the biggest in the
country - and, of course, you also get growth in LSM 7,8,9, and 10. So you are
getting substantial numbers of the black elite in LSM 10 but the fact is that
this market is going to be enormous for the Daily Sun for a long time to come.
Biz: And you can't
discount loyalty to a paper. Lots of very educated people in the UK, for
instance, continue to read the Daily Mail [tabloid] because it's always been
their family paper.
Kuper: Yes, and the reason for that loyalty is that instead of focusing
on a variety of broad-ranging issues, they hone in on the things and issues that
are preoccupying their market.
Biz: Do you think then
it's vital to do market research with tabloids?
Kuper: I think all media needs to do research... You need to know these
people in your tummy. But I always say it's all very well to have great research
- but that's only one step of the way. You also need editors and the publishers
for whom it resonates in their tummies. Great editors know how to interpret the
research so that it translates into the product.
about 4 hours ago from SunPublisher, Deon du Plessis