What you need to know:
As legacy media shifts online, it must produce content that can grow digital subscriptions and eventually digital revenue.
According to the Wan-Ifra 2021 report, global revenue for newspaper industries in 2015 from digital advertising was $9,115m, print advertising stood at $55,535m, digital circulation was at $2,745m while print circulation was at $58,841m.
However, the 2021 forecast showed that digital advertising will raise to $12,804m, print advertising will drop to $31,595m, digital circulation will increase to $6,697m, while print circulation will drop to $46,448m.
On the other hand, Enders Analysis from Zenith Media showed that online advertising is now at 50 percent globally.
Bringing it closer to home, in Kenya, according PwC and Omdia Consultancy firm, the speculation is that between 2021 and 2026, expenditure on newspapers and consumer magazines will be at 1.7 percent, internet access will be at 6.8 percent, Over-the-top (OTT) video will be at 15.6 percent.
Clearly, there is a shift from legacy to digital and the numbers are compelling.
Changing with trends
Walter Wafula, the general manager at Brainchild BCW, says the trend changes the way of doing business, and communication. In essence, brands need to figure out a strategy, which he says does not have to be complicated but highlight what a brand wants to achieve, and the objectives in regards to selling or communicating online. That includes where one is going to play, what they are going to say, and how they are going to position themselves in the digital space.
“In regards to where, advertisers need to understand that digital is diverse with social media, website, mobile (where you can reach people through USSD), as well as the metaverse (where Facebook is leading that conversation). There is also Artificial Intelligence (AI) where ChatGPT features and brands, in the future, may start leveraging towards it for marketing and sales. Therefore, different clients will embrace different spaces,” Wafula says.
He adds that brands should find out how to engage customers in the digital space and key to note is that most of the people in the digital space are young; between 16 years and 45 years.
“That is crucial because the biggest percentage of Uganda’s population lies within this bracket,” Wafula says.
Looking at a small boutique that only started using social media with the onset of Covid-19, he says the clients are between 22 and 30, mainly on Instagram, TikTok and others on Twitter. With TikTok ravaging the social media space, the person must move from simply taking photos to videos with a touch that will appeal to their audience to thrive.
Wafula also beckons on legacy media to embrace online even regarding advertising citing that big media houses such as Daily Monitor and New Vision saw it earlier hence starting websites as early as 10 years ago.
“That was strategic but they took long to adapt to get the social media traffic by enticing advertisers to, say embrace their Facebook channels, or Twitter. Looking into the future, these media houses need to fast track product development for the spaces where the audiences are to become relevant,” he says.
Rise of new audiences, advertisers
Sam Barata, the head of commercial at Nation Media Group (NMG), Uganda says they recognise that legacy is going to become a niche. Therefore, there are some things the company will continue doing for legacy, albeit, with improvements.
“We also recognise that digital has created new audiences but also new advertisers, two independent groups that have never advertised with us, and sometimes, never consumed our products but are out there and relevant. Therefore, we are working to create new products to meet these two parties but also innovate what we currently have digitally to make sure we are still relevant in these markets,” he says.
Barata adds that legacy and digital are totally different with varying needs yet these must be met to ensure presence in both spaces.
He acknowledges that social media is crucial and the company is looking at having everything digital in one place (social media, website and the like).
“That way, there will be an element of sharing in that there are threads that go along to drive our readers across our portfolios in the digital front. That will give us some mileage,” Barata says.
However, he says social media is also changing because five years ago, Facebook was rife but today, TikTok is what many 20 year-olds consume. Therefore, the company must upgrade as well as create new content.
“We have already started on this journey and there are positive results. That said, we must continue to move to where the audiences are,” he says.
Wafula says as they pitch to clients, it is digital first. For instance, they recently pitched a TikTok idea as an anchor idea for a strategy to one client.
“Three to five years ago, one would not anchor a marketing strategy on digital. However, owing to its relevance today, you can create a digitally-led marketing strategy. We are thus helping our clients to appreciate that future hence not being stuck in the traditional way of doing things,” he says.
Taking a step back, he says majority of the people are still in the traditional space, so it cannot be totally thrown out. Expounding on the matter, Wafula says while print or legacy media may be experiencing a declining uptake, those are the minority because the larger part of the population will transition gradually.
“Therefore, legacy still has an opportunity, in terms of growth, but there is need to find ways of on-boarding new people. Therefore, while it is digital first, legacy should not be left out totally,” he says.
The change in trends also affects how sales people present advertising slots. Wafula says he is often dismayed when a sales person presents a print advert before a digital one.
“Many are accustomed to selling a newspaper hence tabling it before the online option. However print media is read by fewer people lately. That makes it difficult for the agency, which buys on behalf of their clients, to choose that package inasmuch as legacy brands still command that advantage and influence regarding legacy,” he says.
Therefore, in terms of packaging to sell platforms, legacy media houses must use a hybrid method but conversations should start from digital because that is where the power and presence is regarding numbers.
“These adjustments are necessary for these media houses remain relevant,” he says.
Barata says they are reinventing the wheel which is embedded in the culture transformation drive hence re-tooling our staff on how to market the products better.
“We are showing them how to break the market because there are some markets where one cannot mention Daily Monitor or NTV yet if they mention anything digital, they will get audience. Therefore, the drive is to understand who they are marketing to, seeing that there are others who cut across hence need both platforms. This trend begun last year and when you look at how some people are selling, there is a shift,” he says.
Adapting to digital
It is often said that it is the young people that have greatly embraced the digital drive. Therefore, if a client’s product is targeting businesses or government, Wafula says they will be more inclined to use legacy media.
“They believe legacy has more potential to reach public officials who are still tailored to the TV stations, radio and print media. Therefore, we look at the client’s business challenge and the audience of interest then advise accordingly. While digital may compliment in certain areas, in others, it ought to lead,” he says.
The challenge is that companies such as telecom companies prefer Google Ads rather than giving these to local companies in form of adverts.
David Birungi, the communications manager at Airtel says that the drive is backed by the need to take their presence to where most people are found, which is online. However, Barata says NMG is available on the digital platforms which is evidenced by Google coming to the Daily Monitor website.
“Some local companies prefer to come to us through Google though it is against our policy, which states that a local party cannot come to us through Google Ads. Why should I sell the space to Google that will later sell to these companies? That will earn Google all the revenue while all I get is a commission yet I have the actual audience,” he posits.
Barata says that with the digital drive, Daily Monitor is becoming a content company and no longer a media company. That impacts on how the company sells its adverts, and positions itself. “Additionally, advertising will change to become more niche and targeted to address different audiences in different platforms,” he says.
Barata adds that in a space where no one is a jack of all trades, there will be more partnerships and collaborations because that is what will drive the engines.
Sales people should also embrace the fact that change is so rapid lately. Therefore, they need to understand their clients and their products to help them in their pitches.
“That way, you will win. There is also going to be upcoming content and media companies but ultimately, some will emerge as the reliable ones. That is an opportunity for legacy companies because they already have that name so the duty is for them to transition at the right time, in the right place and in the right direction,” he says.
However, for a smooth digital movement, Birungi says the network and infrastructure needs to be extended throughout the country because telecoms are technology enablers to ease the way people do business faster and affordably.
“However, network advancement becomes important if people have terminal devices such as phones, computers, and laptops. With that, you have opened the opportunities for them with the internet,” he says.
Birungi says this migration means putting smartphones in the hands of many hence calling for getting a product that even the low income earner can afford.
“That way, even a bursar in a local school can place an advert for a food supplier without going through the hustle of having to make a newspaper advert,” he says.
Birungi adds that while there is talk about high internet fees, its data is informed by the fixed cost of putting up the infrastructure and the number of users.
“To grow the number of users, the number of devices in people’s hands must increase. Therefore, there is need for more affirmative action on increasing the number of people using internet as this is still low,” he says.