BACK in 1983 a 2-litre tub of Country Fresh Ice-cream at the Pick â€™n Pay Hypermarket in Hunters Retreat, Port Elizabeth, was on special for R2,49. Everyone was watching the A-Team on their TV screens and dancing to the movie Flashdance. The top song of the year was Every Breath You Take by The Police; Microsoft Word was first released and McDonaldâ€™s introduced McNuggets.
On Wednesday, November 16, 1983, the first edition of Port Elizabeth Express was delivered into the post boxes of residents across the city, the first ever free newspaper for the town. And 35 years on, just like Country Fresh Ice-Cream and McNuggets, the Port Elizabeth Express has not only stood the test of time, but has grown and changed with the times, to become an essential part of our readersâ€™ households.
Port Elizabeth Express, which is to this day known to many as the Apple Express, due to its first masthead sporting a big green apple on a bright red background, was established by Naspers, publishers of the former Die Oosterlig, which, at that time, was located in Cawood Street, North End. The concept of a free community newspaper was not new, as it is a sister publication of UD Express, formerly known as UD News, which is the oldest, registered free local newspaper in the country.
UD News, which is 47 years old this year, was launched in 1971 to serve the residents of Uitenhage and Despatch. In 2017 its name was changed to UD Express.
â€œComparing editions of PE Express in 2018 to those 35 years ago, one will see a newspaper that has changed with the times, but which has remained true to its roots in giving the local community a platform for their news and being a voice for ordinary people doing ordinary and extraordinary things, and keeping them in tune with the community in which they live,â€? said EP Media Regional Editor, Bettie Giliomee-Rossouw.
While print media has globally been defending itself against the onslaught of the digital age and social media, the Port Elizabeth Express bucked the downward trend and instead grew its print footprint, not only in Port Elizabeth, but across the Eastern Cape.
In addition, it has an online presence to bring its content to even more people.
The year 2004 was one of the biggest milestone years for PE Express, which grew its print order to 90 000 copies weekly, in addition to getting a sister publication, Kouga Express, for the people of Jeffreys Bay, Humansdorp and surrounds.
Due to the growing demand for the newspaper, in 2015 the PE Expressâ€™s print order was increased to 100 000. And yet there was no end in sight. Exactly a year later, in September 2016, the print order was increased to 120 000 copies to incorporate the PE Express Indaba, which had been distributed in some of the cityâ€™s major townships. This ensured that the PE Express and its advertisers now reached even more areas in the metro.
While the Port Elizabeth Express was growing in leaps in bounds in the Nelson Mandela Bay metro, the management team was not sitting still and has since 2006 launched Express newspapers across the Eastern Cape serving a common need, namely a free source of reliable, relevant, local news and advertising material, to a very diverse market.
The year 2007 saw the launch of Mthatha Express, formerly Mthatha Fever, which is currently one of EP Mediaâ€™s trophy newspapers and of which 60 000 copies are distributed every week on a Thursday. Other popular EP Media publications that were launched in recent times, are the Queenstown Express and Mid-Karoo Express.
Launched in February 2016, Queenstown Express boasts a distribution figure of 20 000 copies in Komani and surrounds. Mid-Karoo Express was established in October 2017, servicing the towns of Cradock, Graaff-Reinet, Middelburg, Somerset-East, Bedford and Fort Beaufort.
Initially Graaff-Reinet was not a major distribution area for the Mid-Karoo Express, but the huge demand for it, necessitated that the initial print run of 12 000 copies had to be increased to 15 000 to better serve the Graaff-Reinet residents and advertisers.
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