Skip to main content

What Kenyan media houses can do to survive the internet

US Newspaper advertising revenues as depicted on Wikipedia

The first time I read a newspaper was about 25 years ago; I wasn’t even literate. But there’s that photo of me as a cute,  plump baby holding a newspaper almost my height. It was the Daily Nation, my father’s paper of choice and Kenya’s leading daily to date.

A lot has changed since that photo. I still enjoy reading the news. Thanks to the internet, it,  however, not only comes from the Daily Nation but The Standard, The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Economist, Reuters, Economic Times, Techweez and much more.

The internet has changed the media in many countries and is only beginning to make its mark in Kenya.

In the US, advertising revenues peaked in 2000 as news reading moved to the internet. In print, newspapers are paid to show adverts to readers. Online, Google is paid to show adverts to newspaper readers.

Google not only serves adverts to online newspaper readers, but to Gmail and YouTube users, and to people visiting millions of other sites - virtually the entire internet. The effect, inventory to serve adverts has increased, and now those buying adverts have more information on what they are buying. The result, advert prices have hit rock bottom.


Thus, newspapers coming online have more readership as they theoretically can reach everyone with an Internet connection, barring those in China depending on how the Chinese government feels.

The increased readership,  however,  does not translate to increased revenue. Revenue,  instead,  decreased by a huge margin. The effect is felt more and more as a newspaper’s readership migrates to internet usage and stops buying papers, opting for the free news online.

Some media houses have tried to optimise for this behaviour by trying to sell as many “views” as possible. The challenge though is that a day still has 24 hours, and people can only spend as much time on all the content online vying for their attention.

Publications like Britain’s Daily Mail have succeeded in the eyeball race, and the Daily Mail is said to be the world’s largest English site. The secret - sensationalism and low-quality celebrity gossip news.

In the US, media houses struggled before a few realised that there are other internet models. The New York Times now sticks to “high quality” news,  offering ten free articles a month and offering those who read more than ten articles subscription starting at $1.25 a week (Kshs. 125 a week).

This is a model that The Economist identified many years ago, though it does not come cheap online, costing $62 for 12 weeks or Kshs. 500 a week. Other publications deploying this freemium model include The Harvard Business Review.  Notice that most of these publications are targeted towards high-income earners.

In Kenya,  we are still in the early internet days, but at the verge of the so-called “tipping point”, where much more is done online than offline.

The main dailies are struggling to adapt to the ongoing changes, with an indication they might not have studied what to do and what not to do from the western world.

For instance, many news websites still reflect the inefficient layout of a newspaper,  featuring curated articles on the front page.

The good thing about the internet is that it allows you to offer the same product customised to different tastes.

Print newspapers try to cater to politics, with so-called narrow interests hidden inside the paper - business,  women and lifestyle,  and sports at the back. Their websites reflect this layout.

However, as the Daily Nation realised, there is a sizeable interest in cars and increased Barasa’s column over time. Similarly, the Business Daily proves that there is a section of readers who are only interested in business news.

Serving personalised website layouts is difficult. What however can be achieved is serving an all-in-one view website designed such that the reader is free to choose what to read, without being distracted by lots of text, adverts and imagery on the front page.

This is a concept that The Economist, a perennial digital front reader has achieved by having its entire publication in one page at http://www.economist.com/printedition

Other ways to achieve this is by using secondary channels to post links or news snippets. Twitter used to work well here,  but of late, Telegram has emerged as the curator’s channel of choice.

In Kenya, bloggers have been quick to experiment with Telegram, something that Techweez has been actively using for months. Kenyan Wall Street is similarly another blog that has recently deployed on Telegram, as have various publications from the Standard Media Group.

Telegram allows a subscriber to see what they haven’t read and to pick what they would like to read. It achieves what newspapers have been trying to achieve online, more articles per reader.

Twitter remains a potent channel,  where a publication can customise its readership based on different interests - politics, entertainment, motoring, sports,  technology and more. Similarly, publications can experiment with such Telegram channels.

Websites, however, remain the best online asset. The good thing, creating an all-inclusive website such as the Economist’s print edition can be done while maintaining your current news site.

In addition, websites do not suffer from the limitation of 48  - 60 pages of a paper. Thus, departments that are restricted in print by the number of pages- such as Business, Lifestyle, Women - have more leeway to play around with more content online.

At the same time, advertising and sales units in media houses can also experiment with alternate models. Rather than packaging the entire website as a unit, different sections can be unbundled and sold at lower,  more attractive prices to different sectors. For example, a motoring section can be branded or sold to players in the sector, while a technology section could be sold to technology players and so on.

In addition, local media houses can target "premium" readers with subscriptions. Sections or websites targeted at so called professionals can include a quota of free articles and subscriptions of, say, Kshs. 50 - Kshs. per week, or Kshs. 200 - Kshs. 300 per month.

Silicon Valley’s “Fail fast, learn fast” mantra highlights the learning opportunities that the internet provides. The costs and barriers to experimenting are lower; you can take advantage of the lesser resources needed to experiment with what works better.

Click to read the next post:How Jambojet's Pricing Works - why some pay more and others less on the same flight 



Comments

Popular posts from this blog

Why do people vote for Cruel Leaders?

An Installation at the Berlin Nineties Museum commemorating victims killed  while trying to escape across the Berlin Wall. Despite it's cruelty, the Nazi regime rose to power and remained popular promising solutions to the  numerous problems Germans faced in the 1920s and 1930s. Why do Kenyans, or any other electorate for that matter, vote for cruel politicians or so-called leaders? The common argument is that the voters are ignorant, or were “misled” or had “no option”. But this is not true. People know who and what they are voting for. People intentionally vote for cruel politicians especially when the voters form part of a majority - clan, tribe, race, nation, class or other majority. It is not that they do not know the politicians are cruel. They simply assume that the crue

Kenyan products: The art of punishing your consumer

This post was written in 2011. Facts may have and indeed have changed - but the conclusion has not.  Dormans instant coffee tastes better than Sasini instant coffee. Ramtons electronics are manufactured for Kenya's Hypermart Limited, yet maintain a high product quality Peanut butter used to taste so good, but you could not afford it on the pocket money that you got back in school. A few years later, you have your first real job and your first "disposable" income. You buy your first real tub of peanut butter, probably the first in your life. You feel proud that Dominion peanut butter is manufactured in Ruiru, a town that you visited in your campus days to withdraw your pocket money, it was the nearest bank ATM to your campus.  This was before Equity bank became a mainstream bank and decided to open an ATM in your campus, and before M-Pesa meant that you

Beers in Kenya: A sober opinion

Note: This is a dated post and has since been mostly passed by events. SAB Miller beers including Castle and Peroni are no longer widely available in Kenya after their exist. Sirville Brewery was bought out by Brew Bistro before being permanently shut in a tax dispute. Kenya is a land of milk, honey, beaches and taxes. I have penned, or is typed, a newer post here .  Peroni - One of the best beers in Kenya. Did a taste of canned and bottled Italian, and bottled Tanzanian I like the tangy flavour and body in Tanzanian Peroni. The can is close. Heineken drinkers will like the Italian one.  I have had a short beer swigging stint in my life. It has however been long enough for me to share my opinion of Kenyan beer. Interestingly, over the course of sharing such opinions with other drunkards connoisseurs,  I have found that we all have different views as to what beer is the best, which one makes you too drunk, or which one gives one free, extra hangover for every hangover you get

How I lost my phone to Nairobi's best con man

Moi Avenue, with a view of the point where I encountered Nairobi's best con man, and parted with my phone A good con requires the highest level of cooperation from the victim. *** I lost my phone on Friday evening, some time between 6:40 p.m. and 7:10 p.m. I know the time because my receipt indicates I was served at Ukwala Supermaket, Tom Mboya at 6:32 p.m., on the 26th of February, 2016. Given I'm a brisk walker who avoids crowds, it should not have taken me more than five minutes to get to the area around the Tom Mboya statue on Moi Avenue,  just opposite the Hilton. My habit of avoiding crowds is what led to what became a tragic decision, to walk along the road and emerge at the bus stop next to Ambassadeur Hotel, rather than walk along the pavement. It is here that I bumped into the villain, Nairobi’s best con man. He was running, kicking a plastic bottle along the road. He said something to me that I didn't catch, to which I responded with a “

25

Well, it has been quite a while since I last posted anything here, or even visited this blog. Yet another proof that the blog is quite boring that it does not warrant my visiting it. As for me not updating it, I could have blamed the numerous blackouts, or even blamed the alcohol(proliferation of Chang’aa in Kenya). But here is a perfect reason that I was not blogging. See, I come form a very green area in Kenya called Mwingi. O.k. , I now admit that it is a dry area often plagued by drought , but the area is quite green due to the continuous rains in Kenya starting last November. In case you are wondering, neither drought, rain or lush greenery is to blame for my failure to blog. A more closer fit would be the constitutional system of the country. See I come from Mwingi south , a constituency that was once split from Mwingi constituency. Before the split, Mwingi constituency had its M.P. as Kalonzo Musyoka , the country’s V.P. Kalonzo Musyoka is still the M.P. for Mwingi North. Rec