The Nigerian media industry, Internet revolution and competition for advert

by Shafiu Ibrahim Abdullah

In one of its special reports: The News Industry, July 9th 2011, The Economist of London look critically at the future of print media (the newspaper), it observed that the internet, especially, the social media (Blogs, Twitter, Facebook, Google, etc.) has revolutionarised news as we knew it, and warns that more changes are in the offing. The survey observed that there is a gradual decline in the news paper business in the developed parts of the world, while emerging countries such as India, China, Brazil, and South Africa are experience growth in the sector. This, the special report observed, is partially because of the penetration of the internet and economic growth. While developed countries economies are passing through tumultuous period, those of the emerging countries are prospering, while the use of internet is high in the developed countries, it is lower in the emerging world. The internet revolution has also a propound effect on advertisement revenue, the most important source of funds for most papers, by reducing the amount of advert revenue that is going to print media as it directed some of it towards internet advertisement. To quote the words of the survey, “Clearly something dramatic has happened to the news business. That something is, of course, the internet, which has disrupted this industry just as it has disrupted so many others. By undermining advertising revenue, making news reports a commodity and blurring the boundaries between previously distinct news organizations, the internet has upended newspapers’ traditional business model.”

Though Nigeria media industry falls under the emerging economies, who are experiencing high economic growth, the industry will no doubt be affected by the internet revolution, in fact this has already been happening. The increase in the total number of online media such as Gamji, Sahara reporters, Nigerian village square, and others like Nigerians in America is a pointer to this trend, not to mention the hundreds of blogging sites that appear on the horizon. Recently, Nigeria was ranked among the top five countries with dominance in internet usage by means of mobile devises; this is another indication of the many threats internet can bring to the Nigerian newspaper industry. As the power supply improves and major telecommunication companies in Nigeria made the promised infrastructural investment to boost internet access, the percentage of Nigerians with access to the internet will jump making Nigeria to follow in the examples of China and India. With this scenario taking place, local internet giants will spring up in Nigeria, like is currently happening in China, India, and Russia; making the migration of advert to internet more prominent. TV, radio and out door advert have, for many years, been the major competitor to the print media in term of advert generation, and looking at demography and socio-economic set up of Nigeria, they will continue to be in the foreseeable future. The fact that about two third of Nigerian newspapers income is coming from advertising will continue to make soliciting for advert highly competitive and unethical practices in order to get advert the order of the day.

But, one major stumbling bloc that continues to act as hindrance to the development of unbiased media in Nigeria is the ability of advertisers to use their power to influences editorial content in many of Nigeria’s newspapers. Because of the fear of reduction in advert revenue many papers allowed politicians and corporate bodies to influence their news reportage. This must stop if the Nigeria media industry is to maintain it good name, which put it above other media industries across Africa, who are held hostage by their country’s governments. Despite the grim future for the print media world wide, as a result of competition from the internet, Nigeria’s print media is going to witness growth in advert revenue. This is for the simple fact that Nigerian economy is currently witnessing growth, and as the economy prosper the number of advertisement placed by corporate bodies and government will increase, putting the print media in better position to generate more revenue and jobs. Another major area for growth in revenues is circulation, as the economy moves forward as expected; the number of middle income earners will increase thereby boosting the number of people with the pocket power to buy a daily newspaper. This scenario is currently taking place in India and China, where millions of people are being lifted out of poverty, giving them the power to buy luxury things such as a daily newspaper. Though, Nigerian newspapers relied on advert for most of their incomes, circulation is going to provide increasing revenue for those that made the critical investments necessary to tap it. For example, more than 70% of newspapers revenues in Japan comes from daily circulation not advert, but this did not come as a surprise, as one of Japan top daily papers has a daily circulation of up to 10 million copies.

Like is currently been experimented elsewhere around the world, very soon we will start to see Nigerian papers charging for some aspect of their online news, despite the not so successful experimentation of the Punch Newspaper. But as we are witnessing now, competition for online advert will intensify concurrently with that of the print paper. As the industry grows and competition intensifies, one may not rule out the possibility of merger and acquisition in the print media, as investor pours money to benefit from the expected part profits. The special report of the Economist concluded, thus: “The biggest shift is that journalism is no longer the exclusive preserve of journalist. Ordinary people are playing a more active role in the news system, along with a host of technology firms, news start-ups and not for profit groups. Social media are certainly not a fad, and their impact is only just beginning to be felt…….Successful media organizations will be the ones that accept this new reality. They need to reorient themselves towards serving readers rather than advertisers, embrace social features and collaboration, get off political and moral high horses and stop trying to erect barriers around journalism to protect their position. The digital future of news has much in common with its chaotic, ink-stained past.”

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