Keeping Ahead of the Game

Keeping Ahead of the Game

South Africa’s media dynamics are unlike those anywhere else and it’s this knowledge of the local market that has enabled the Junk Mail stable to stay ahead of its online and print competitors.

While Junk Mail’s future is online, there is still a huge and lucrative market for print publications that has helped to fund online development.

Understanding trends

We embraced the Internet very early, in 1996, and 71% of all our ads are now placed via the web. But we also still sell over 100 000 copies a week of our print publications. Even at R20 a copy, it’s still much cheaper than the Internet for millions of South Africans – and for a lot of people it’s much faster too. This digital divide is still the reality of the local media landscape.

Understanding the needs and buying patterns of the South African market has been key to Junk Mail’s success. We have 20 years of experience in the classified ads business, we know this market intimately, and we’ve designed our categories, our publications and our online sites around that knowledge. That’s why we’re not unduly worried by the influx of global competitors. Someone planning their company out of Seattle or London would never dream of publishing print classifieds because that’s not how their world works.

What global competitors miss, is that while print is no longer in its heyday, it’s never declined at anything like the rate people predicted. Our print publications are still a good, profitable business.

Shifting models

In 2010 we took the bold step of removing pay walls from all our online properties, and separated the online business completely from print. We still want to optimise all the opportunities that remain in print, without diluting the focus of the online team. So our print and online teams are often competing for the same customers, which keep them on their toes.

We are also ramping up Junk Mail’s mobile presence, recently relaunching a much faster version of our mobile sites. Mobile is a completely different environment from the desktop and people use it in a very particular way. Mobile ad placements have gone from zero three years ago to 17% now, and we expect that to take off in the next few years.

Classified advertising is a ruthlessly competitive business. What has kept us ahead for 20 years is understanding that it’s also extremely local. Whatever medium our customers find most convenient, that’s what we give them. We’re also a very results-driven organisation – we look after what works, even if it’s not trendy.

So, who are your customers, what are their needs, and how are you delivery a product or service that matches those needs? If you want to stay ahead, these are the questions you need to asking yourself.

Felix Erken

Felix Erken

Felix Erken is the MD and co-owner of Junk Mail, the largest local classifieds exchange in South Africa. His agility and tenacity ensured Junk Mail’s early adoption from purely traditional print to include digital and mobile platforms to ensure his customers were best served, no matter where they were or how demanding the digital rules. Junk Mail launched mobile offerings as early as 1999 and extended its digital footprint into East and West Africa.