HAVE WE GOT NEWS FOR YOU Allied Publishing Pty Ltd www.alliedpublishers.com +27 11 248 2400 Written by Chris Farnell
Allied Publishing Pty Ltd
In South Africa Allied Publishing is a news delivery powerhouse. We talked to their Managing Director about the ways they go the extra mile to keep South Africa informed. The story of Allied Publishing Ltd goes way back. It has its roots in the idea of two entrepreneurs, Michael Davis and Albert Lindbergh. In 1896 these two teamed up to start up a paper delivery service throughout Johannesburg. Using teams of newsboys on bicycle and on foot, their company, the Central News Industry delivered The Star, The Standard and Diggers news to people across the city.
preferred media outlet for the whole of South Africa. “Those two companies have a 50/50 shareholding in Allied Publishing,” Paul Peters, Allied Publishing’s Managing Director explains. “Between them they distribute all the English newspaper titles in South Africa. Through us they distribute papers such as the Daily Star and Sunday Times alongside another 18 other titles.” It’s a big job, but Allied Publishing is up to the task thanks to a large fleet of vehicles that serve outlets across the country. “We have 264 vehicles, and we cover all 9 provinces in South Africa,” Peters says proudly. Allied Publishing’s distribution network isn’t just limited to putting out what its shareholders print, however. The company has an impressive reach any many publishers, both of smaller publications or big name imported ones, have chosen to make use of that reach. “With our distribution network we also offer a service to smaller publications such as the Mail & Guardian, Economist, Newsweek, International Express and Daily Telegraph. We have a vast and diverse logistics setup for all these newspapers and magazines,” Peters says.
CNA as it became known grew into the biggest stationary store in South Africa, selling newspapers, records, toys and of course, stationary to the whole country. As the company grew it moved away from the publishing and newspaper distribution end of the business, which split off in 1976 to form the company we now know of as Allied Publishing Ltd. Today the company is owned by two major newspaper houses. One is Independent Newspapers, a subsidiary of Independent News & Media (INM). That company is responsible for 30 national and regional newspapers, including lots of South Africa’s most popular titles. Independent Newspapers’ lists include a huge array of specialist entertainment, motoring, business and personal finance publications put together by an editorial team based throughout South Africa and drawing from the world’s top wire services. Allied Publishing’s other shareholder is Avusa Ltd, a publically listed media and entertainment company on the Johannesburg Securities Exchange. This company is made up of Media, Books, Retail Solutions, Entertainment and Digital sectors and it’s aiming for nothing less than becoming the
Powering the Network While “distribution network” can sound like a very grand term, at the end of the day it comes down to two fundamental components. Those components are the people that keep the business turning over, and the fuel that keeps its engines running. These are both components to the business that can be a challenge, Peters admits. “Ensuring we keep our labour force in the best possible shape is our biggest challenge,” he tells us. “The workforce is very unionised here so we’re in a constant state of negotiation with them. In our distribution network we have it under control so there are rarely any big disagreements, but it’s an ongoing challenge to keep our labour and transport costs down.” Newspapers, by their very nature, need to be delivered at the most unsociable hours, so finding people willing and able to work during the hours necessary to get the papers where they need to be is a challenge. Peters believes that work needs to be rewarded. “Due to the hours we work it’s difficult to find labour
at a reasonable price,” Peters says. “So we offer our staff financial incentives based on efficiency targets to ensure we get the best work out of them. We also have a number of training schemes. In South Africa we have an obligation to train our staff so we have several programs partly subsidised by government.” These training courses serve an important purpose, as Allied Publishing Ltd strongly believes in investing in its staff. “Wherever possible we try to promote from within the company,” Peters says. “We find the company benefits from having senior staff that have seen the company at every level.” As well as trying to get the best out of its people, Allied Publishing also has to work hard to keep its vehicles fuelled. “The rising price of fuel, with continuous increasing petrol prices, is a big challenge,” says Peters. “We’ve looked at our total distribution network with a view to seeing which supply outlets have major sales. We’re being careful to make sure we continue supplying outlets that are viable while looking at the whole network and cutting back on unviable areas.” Entering the Digital Age Of course anyone in the publishing industry has become aware of another challenge over the last decade. The paperboy is gradually giving way to the web browser, and while South Africa hasn’t felt the full impact of the Internet yet, everyone is aware that the change is coming. “10 percent of our population has Internet access and six of those percent are accounted for by large institutions and big business. So the general population at this stage has very little access,” Peters says matter-of-factly. “However we’re still recognising the threat from digital news. Each of our newspaper publishers has its own digital edition behind a pay wall. Originally these were given for free but we were losing print copy circulation. People would discontinue their subscription because they could get it on the Internet. We’re seeing the same thing happen all over the world.” Despite this, the system that Allied Publishing has put in place seems to be working. “The digital versions of our papers are offered at half the cover price. There is a slow uptake because not many in the population have easy access to the Internet yet. However we believe that will improve as South Africa develops its online infrastructure, broadening its bandwidth to compete with the rest of the world.” Things are looking bright for Allied Publishing, and we’re not the only ones to think so. In this tough economic climate many companies are turning to the reassuring presence of a big name in the industry to help them through this tough time. Peters says, “Because of the pressures in the economy, worldwide labour costs and fuel prices increasing we’ve got a lot of smaller distribution companies coming in and joining us. So we’re growing. Because we’re so solid and owned by two major industry giants we have lots of the smaller companies and magazines coming along and asking us to do their distribution. We do the legwork for them and charge a distribution fee to offset costs. It’s a growing section of the business.” It looks like Allied Publishing has plenty of good news in store!
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