SA’s first free sheet newspaper

2016-09-15 06:00
: =This is a copy of the first ever edition of the Uitenhage Despatch News, distributed in 1971.

: =This is a copy of the first ever edition of the Uitenhage Despatch News, distributed in 1971.

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Records indicate that the first free-sheet newspaper registered in South Africa is none other than the UD News.

The success story of the UD News started more than 45 years ago when Uitenhage was without a local newspaper and had to rely on out-of-town papers for snippets of news and advertising.

Winning concept from Canada

Canadian Gordon Strevett, immigrated to South Africa and decided to make a living in Uitenhage.

Here he put to practice a concept he had brought with him from his country of origin, a free-sheet newspaper also referred to as a knock-and-drop (derived from knock on the door and drop it in front of the door).

The concept was to sell advertising space to local businesses, which in turn would make it possible to print and distribute the newspaper free of charge to households in town.

Strevett during 1971 had the newspaper registered as Uitenhage Despatch (Pty) Limited.

According to records available it was the first-ever free-sheet newspaper to be registered in South Africa. Thus the UD also is the oldest knock-and-drop newspaper in South Africa.

The first weekly editions on average were 4-6 pages with a loading of approximately 40% advertisements and the rest was covered with local news.

Recipe: non-sensational and


The policy regarding news content was that it should be non-sensational and non-political. This has proved itself to be a winning recipe.

During 1975 the UD was sold and the new owners opted to change the news policy. Readers and advertisers soon rejected it and disaster was inevitable.

Strevett could not bear seeing a winning recipe being destroyed and saved it by buying it back in 1976. He gave the UD a new lease on life by bringing back the winning format of good and uplifting news.

Raised from the ashes, the UD again became as popular as ever and soon boasted 8 200 copies a week.

Bilingual and increasing the


The paper again changed ownership when Brian Halgreen purchased it during 1981.

Halgreen opted for bilingualism and to have the UD News/Nuus distributed to adjoining suburbs like Thomas Gamble and Rosedale.

For this to be successful he had the distribution figures to be increased to 15 500 copies a week.

In his short period of being the owner of the UD News/Nuus, Halgreen with his business wisdom contributed to it being one of the most successful knock-and-drop newspapers in the country.

During his reign, a letter from Israel arrived at the office. Nine months after the day it was posted.

The only inscription on the envelope read: UD, South Africa.

UD becoming part of Media24

Halgreen soon received offers from the two largest publishing companies in the country to purchase the UD.

By 1984, Halgreen agreed to the offer and sold it to Nasionale Pers (Media24) who had the UD News/Nuus registered as one of its many products.

By 1997 the UD distribution figure was boosted to 27 000 a week and it expanded its distribution area to KwaNobuhle.

Currently the UD News distributes 30 000 copies each Thursday in the Addo, Despatch, Kirkwood, Uitenhage and surrounding areas and still is a priceless paper of choice.

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