- The newspaper industry in Nigeria is taking part in the world-wide increase in circulation and revenue from advertising and has become one of Africa's most vital media landscapes since press freedom was reintroduced. The 'Punch', Nigeria's leading daily, notes that established media are consolidating their position.
With a population of 128 million, Nigeria represents Africa's largest media market. Despite suffering from decades of political instability, corruption, and unfavourable economic conditions, Nigeria's independent press has managed to flourish and has become one of the most mature newspaper markets on the continent. Nigeria boasts more than 100 national and local newspapers. All newspapers in Nigeria are privately owned, which is rare in Africa.
The African Press Network for the 21st Century (RAP 21) spoke to 'Punch' editor Azubuike Ishiekwene, representing Nigeria's largest daily with an average daily circulation of 80,000. Mr Ishiekwene confirmed that Nigerian newspapers are taking part in the world-wide increase in circulation and revenue from advertising.
- It is true in Nigeria, though the higher ad sales volume in 2004 appears to have been limited to the more established media, Mr Ishiekwene told RAP21. "'The Punch', for example, recorded a 10 percent improvement in 2004 over its 2003 sales figures," he added. The telecommunication, automobile and banking sectors represent the biggest advertisers today.
Nigeria is one of the few West African countries where independent media have managed to defy the malicious circle of under-funding, government attacks, dysfunctional technology and lacking market access. Typical West African free media compete with state-controlled media and lack the means to stabilise their production. Distribution is often limited to the capital.
Not so for Nigeria's more established media, Mr Ishiekwene however reveals. 'The Punch' is steadily increasing its circulation, distribution and therefore its advertisement revenues. Especially the Saturday and Sunday special editions are rapidly improving their circulation.
This has empowered 'The Punch' to focus on consolidation and innovation, the editor told RAP21. "The introduction of a 'personal finance column' in our daily, and the introduction of more human interest stories in the weekend editions, plus improved language and layout, are the major success drivers" behind the improvement in circulation, he says.
'The Punch' has also been able to experiment with new technologies adapted to the situation of Nigerian journalists. The introduction of the use of CTP (computer-to-plate) and the use of digital cameras by reporters "has helped to improve speed, quality and efficiency," Mr Ishiekwene told RAP21. "It has also helped to improve the freshness of the news. We are currently experimenting with a system where reporters can use their mobile phones and laptops to file in stories straight from location," he adds.
Seeing its position consolidated, Nigeria's leading daily now needs to intensify its work to map what readers want and how they want their newspapers delivered. "I get a strong sense that not enough attention is being paid to consumer research in the media. We sort of play it by the ear at the moment," the editor told RAP21.
Mr Ishiekwene says he is generally optimistic regarding the future of the newspaper industry in Nigeria. As the country develops, more professional newspapers are believed to take a greater part of the national media market. Because newspapers and television are relatively expensive, radio remains the most important medium of mass communication and information. Newspaper circulation is however growing rapidly.
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