Was it ressurection, the second coming or reincarnation? Whatever the new owners of TRIBUTE called it, 'relaunch edition', no self-respecting magazine buyer and reader was amused. TRIBUTE as a brand did not have think that it could just dump its advertisers, subscribers, contributors and consumers then emerge two years later and have everyone convinced that a tiger has changed its spots. Who were they trying to fool?

Okay, here are some insightful information about the original TRIBUTE which was founded in 1987 and died after spending months on a life support machine. I'm not going to mention that it perished owing journalists money they still want. Its demise started when its new owners figured they knew too much about the post '94 media landscape without doing a thorough market analysis about brand loyalty versus revenue ambitions. Simple,the people who buy the brand are the audited figures you take to advertisers and convince them that they (readers) have got money to spend and thus should be targetted using a R50 000 advertisement spread placed in your magazine.

It's never the other way round. What the old TRIBUTE committed were cardinal sins. First, it led its firebrand opinionated editor Jon Qwelane go and got Maud Motanyane to replace him. When it was facing dwindling sales it recalled Qwelane only to let him go again and replace him with Sbu' Mngadi who proved to be good. Then Coca-Cola stole Mngadi and they put the late Nokwanda Sithole at the helm. She soon made way for Vusi Mona who also later left for City Press. Then the house crumbled.

First to abandon the brand was the popular poetry page SANLAM sponsorship. Then followed the short story page followed by robust opinions and thought provoking articles, humour, critical music, books, films and fine arts reviews. They were replaced with silicone political discourses, catalogue type reviews and rudderless opinions reflective of naked patronage. Such should have been expected as then editor Sefako Nyaka seemed a spindoctor who was soon 'redeployed' to Mpumalanga to rescue former Mpumalanga Premier Ndaweni Mahlangu after his monent of 'free speech'.
Real frustration set in as the publisher appointed little-known Derrick Thema to edit a cashless-soulless-dead-with-a-pulse TRIBUTE. Poor Thema tried but the Titanic was sinking fast. Instead of cutting her losses, paying her creditors and euthanise her baby, publisher Pearl Mashabela recruited former Y magazine editor Thami Masemola to recruit younger readers, a shift from the magazine being an avenue for black middle class to now enlisting kwaito fans who have no buying power, the only language understood by advertisers. Masemola added no value but only alienated adults with enough capital for that Jack Daniel and a German sedan. The final nail came when unknown Mphoentle Mageza was put in charge. It became a fully fledged catalogue which unfortunately could not justify readership. Mageza was the last person to change the diaper of a bed-ridden TRIBUTE.
And now they say it's back with a 2036 theme and a catchy slogan, 'Resilience'. It's on the shelves now. It looks weak and forced and the new publisher Mr Tlhopheho Modise, who still has to hire a credible editor and 'real' writers (not the rag-tag shaky line up of B-grade journalists wannabees) says in the editorial that, "now, with our citizenship and dignity restored, we need to be the best we can be, which is why Tribute could not be allowed to die". But sorry Sir, the citizenship was restored already when it died in 2004.
One never relishes doing post-mortems and writing obituaries, especially when the new TRIBUTE is so compact cremation will be cheaper than a burial. TRIBUTE retails at R25 and is published by Grandbridge Trading. It has been on the shelves for some time now and one is tempted to ask, who is reading it now?

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