The Southern Cross is alive and kicking at 101 years old, despite the many challenges of the last year, and the new monthly magazine has been very well received. This was the message coming out of a catch-up session between those directors who were able to meet face to face in Cape Town on 15 September with the three freelancers who have kept the publication alive. Gunther Simmermacher (Editor), Claire Allen (Digital Editor) and Pamela Davids (Business Manager) have been working for over a year now, on half their previous remuneration, in order to ensure that this much-loved publication continues to serve its readers. We would not have reached this milestone without their personal sacrifices.
The Southern Cross transitioned from a weekly newspaper to a monthly magazine last September. This transition had been in the planning stages, but the Covid crisis meant it had to happen very quickly as the parishes (the major points of sales) were closed under lockdown. The last printed version of the paper appeared in March 2020 but continued to be published weekly in digital format until the first issue of the magazine in October of that year.
We currently have over 4 000 people buying the magazine at their parish or subscribing. While this is good for a new product launched during such difficult times (the intermittent lockdowns and restricted numbers allowed to attend Mass), we are doing all we can to grow this figure.
Alongside the magazine, The Southern Cross also provides a daily news service on our website and Facebook pages and this has proved very popular. We have 3 800 recipients of our free email service: The Weekly Southern Cross Roundup. This alerts them to stories they may have missed on our website. We average 28 posts per week on the website, including news articles, daily prayers and reflections and features.
Since the onset of Covid the number of people following us via these platforms has increased and we now have an average of 6 080 weekly visitors to our website and 8 300 followers of our Facebook page. With social media the great advantage is the exponential effect, so even though we have 8 300 Facebook followers, because they have their own followers our reach can be as high as 64 000 people in a month.
The Southern Cross has been very blessed with regular donations from our loyal associates – readers who do not want to lose their favourite publication. We also received R60 000 from the SACBC at the height of the Covid crisis when all of our reserves had to be used to pay retrenchment packages to our outgoing staff at the end of July 2020, a very sad and traumatic time for the company.
Our next step is to find the funds to run a comprehensive promotions campaign. There are so many parishes that stopped taking the weekly newspaper due to problems with post office delivery. It is much easier now for us to ensure the magazine reaches the parishes on time and can be sold throughout the month.
We have yet to secure the missing 2 000 parish sales lost to us since the hard lockdown began last March. There are also many parishes that are not familiar with The Southern Cross and are missing out on a unique Catholic publication. Parishes only pay for the copies sold and keep R5 per copy as commission. Unsold copies are given to the housebound or those who cannot afford it.
We have been supported by Missio in Germany and the Catholic Media Council (CAMECO), which works internationally, and have received very encouraging feedback from them both concerning the new magazine. They point out that the number of national Catholic publications worldwide has dwindled dramatically over the years and the Church in South Africa is blessed to have its own.
We ask all our bishops, clergy, religious and lay structures please to join us in promoting the magazine and growing it from strength to strength. In this age of social communication the Church must do far better in reaching out to people, both within its ranks and those who have left for various reasons. It is our sacred duty to bring God’s word and teachings into people’s homes.
By: Rosanne Shields
The Southern Cross contact details:
Our mailing address is: The Southern Cross, 12 Bouquet Street, Cape Town, Western Cape 8001, South Africa
The Southern Cross Magazine