South Africa’s media and marketing industry has been using Living Standards Measures (LSMs) to plan advertising spend since 1989.

But South Africa’s incredibly complex society, with its extraordinary levels of inequality, needed something that would better reflect the country’s reality, a population that ranges from those living on social grants to the very wealthy and everything in between.

Something had to be done. The answer lay in the development of Socio Economic Measures (SEMs). When the Publisher and Broadcast Research Councils of South Africa first launched the Socio Economic Measure (SEM) to replace Living Standard Measure (LSM) it comprised 10 groupings. This was a familiar number, as the LSMs had ranged from one to 10.

To make the SEM’S more understandable, two Supergroup formations were developed, one of five and another of three segments, which make the SEMs more user friendly, and give life to the SEM continuum. At the same time, the initial grouping of 10 remains in place, but is supplemented by the SEM Supergroups, which makes understanding the measures easier.

Groupings were developed to encompass a low, medium and high classification, and provide the option of breaking the upper and lower groups into two, i.e. three broad groups could break into five. The idea was to give the industry a common starting point to feel comfortable using the SEMs.

“Essentially, the SEM Supergroups are based on where changes in lifestyle are found in the segment profiles, and deliver the granularity required by agencies and publishers.” says CEO of the PRC, Josephine Buys.

For example, within the category ‘Read any newspaper or magazine’, where Supergroup 1 is the mass market and Supergroup 5 is the top end, 77% of Supergroup 5, 64% of Supergroup 4, 51% of Supergroup 3, 40% of Supergroup 2 and 36% of Supergroup 1 read newspapers or magazines.

If one looks at the income of the groupings, Supergroup 1 earns an average of R4 417 a month, while Supergroup 2’s salary is around R5 988. Supergroup 3 moves to R8 913 per month, while Supergroup 4 earns around R19 593. At the top, Supergroup 5 makes an average of R43 308.

Advertisers don’t tend to define their target markets with a single metric. The LSMs, after all, mostly talked about and commonly used groups such as 8-10 or 7-10, or 5-6/5-7. Underlying these groupings were inflections in terms of access and habits. So the SEM Supergroups, as shown above, delve deeper into the groupings, giving planners and publishers granular information on consumers. How often they read and how much they earn are intrinsically tied together.

“Standardised buying targets make it easier for both the sell and buy side of trade. Publishers give these profiles and demographics on rate cards and presentations.” says Buys, adding that it was essential for the media sector to adopt SEMs as historic measurements such as LSMs are misrepresentative of the population.

PRC Supergroups at a glance


Supergroup 1 – R4 417

Supergroup 2 – R5 988

Supergroup 3 – R8913

Supergroup 4 – R19 593

Supergroup 5 – R43 308


Supergroup 1 – 40%

Supergroup 2 – 47%

Supergroup 3 – 53%

Supergroup 4 – 63%

Supergroup 5 – 68%


Supergroup 1 – 33

Supergroup 2 – 33

Supergroup 3 – 35

Supergroup 4 – 39

Supergroup 5 – 43


Supergroup 1 – Primary or less 14%, some high school 51%, matric 32%, university/post matric 2%

Supergroup 2 – Primary or less 9%, some high school 42%, matric 44%, university/post matric 5%

Supergroup 3 – Primary or less 5%, some high school 36%, matric 49%, university/post matric 10%

Supergroup 4 – Primary or less 2%, some high school 46%, matric 46%, university/post matric 32%

Supergroup 5 – Some high school 11%, matric 42%, university/post matric 47%


Publisher Research Council (PRC) DNA

The Publisher Research Council (PRC) of South Africa provides innovative ‘gold standard’ Reader Audience Measurement founded on global and local best-in-class practice, expertise and resources. It conducts large scale, representative audience and reading efficacy research on behalf of its members. As a non-profit company representing the interests of print and online publishers in South Africa, the PRC’s research is conducted to gain an understanding of published media usage in South Africa, providing information to individual titles for internal use by members, as well as insights vital to advertisers and their agencies.  It was established as a Joint Industry Council in 2016 with representation from advertising and media agencies who continue to provide important feedback and advice on technical committees. The council is held by publishing companies that collectively own over 700 titles. Current members include Tiso Blackstar Group, CTP Caxton, Independent Media, Media24, Mail & Guardian and Associated Magazines.

Issued on behalf of PRC by Stone Soup Public Relations

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