Category Archives: Nation Media Group

Missing Bits in Media

Excerpts from a chat on Colonial Legacies in Media Reporting in Nairobi, Kenya

  • A young Aga Khan came to Kenya and set up the Nation as an independent media house, hired fleet street writers who did a good job knowing that they would write themselves out of their jobs.
  • When a journalist is sent to do a story on a car accident, their editor will not consider it complete until they interview the OCPD (local police boss)
  • A media house put together stories about Kenya’s former President, Daniel arap Moi when he passed away in 2020, but they did not get much online traction. When they analyzed why they found that the top search query was ” who is Daniel arap Moi?” It was a realization moment that Moi’s rule ended in 2002 and the average age of the online media audience is 19 years.
  • In 1976 President Jomo Kenyatta attended a lunch at the Serena Hotel with the Aga Khan at the Serena Hotel, the Standard group Chairman Udi Gecaga and his nephew Ngengi Mungai, newly returned from the USA – and the purpose was to ask if Ngengi could be made Chairman of the Nation group.
  • Stories on Africa are relayed using wire services and take the same path as planes – as they go to Europe and then back to reach other parts of the continent. Kenya will get most news stories about neighbouring Ethiopia from the BBC or Radio France.
  • Two families from Tunisia have controlled pan-African media for 60 years through respective ownership of the New African/IC Publications group in London and Jeune Afrique Media group in Paris.
  • In 1988, the Nation reckoned it had an audience of 500,000 and with the growth of the middle class, expected that this would only expand exponentially. But today, they have a much smaller audience, yet legacy media controls much more of the online, print and broadcast media spaces.
  • The news media was created in colonial times to amplify the government’s message and this logic did not change after independence.
  • Kenya has four national languages: English, Swahili, Silence and Gossip.
  • If you want the news in Kenya, listen to/follow gossip.
  • Viewers expect too much of this media ecosystem when the terms of the ecosystem are set to a different reality. It’s like buying a Zebu cow and expecting it to produce milk like a Fresian.
  • If the news was important to Africa, the OAU would have invested in it
  • Why is the newspaper which is given out for free the least circulated one in Kenya?
  • This town is littered with the broken dreams of journalists.
  • Over two hundred studies commissioned by media on what readers found lacking and why they were not consumers was because the news had “no women” and “few young people.”

Digital Newspapers boost during Covid

At the end of May 2020 digital copies of leading newspapers were availed to Kenyans through a partnership with Safaricom.

The newspapers are the Standard and the Nairobian from the Standard Group and the Daily Nation and the Business Daily from the Nation Media Group. The digital copies all cost Kshs 20 each, which is about 1/3 of the street prices of Kshs 50 and Kshs 60 for the print newspaper copies.

This comes at a time of declining readership, and declining advertising for newspapers and in recent months both the media groups have issued profit warnings – the Standard for 2019 and the Nation for 2020. During the Coronavirus outbreak, there have been readers who have stopped buying and reading print newspapers for fear of contracting the virus, despite newspapers running advertisements about the safety and hygiene of their printing and distribution processes. Safaricom is powering this initiative as a Covid-19 response and the digital newspapers are available for a period of two months.

The digital newspapers are very easy to buy with the payment deducted from a user’s airtime, not from M-Pesa. Sign-up requires no cumbersome registration and there is no app to download. One also has to be on Safaricom data to download it, not Wi-Fi, though the download does not consume data, and the purchased copies are available to read for 7 days.

Whether this will accelerate a more permanent shift in readership will be seen after the period ends in the second half of the year. Local media houses have tried for many years to get readers to pay for online subscriptions without much success.

Early in the Covid-19 period, full PDF copies of newspapers would circulate on WhatsApp, but these seem to have stopped since a crackdown was initiated. This is also a period of increasing political activity and a key tool of propaganda is the use of doctored government documents and fake newspaper covers to mislead online readers – so having actual digital copies is a welcome tool to verify which are with the fake covers.

There is also another Nairobi newspaper that is completely free – both online and in print. The People Daily that is handed out to motorists and also distributed to a smaller clientele around the country. The packaging of the newspaper during Corona is indicative that costs may not be an issue at this paper.

*Get the digital newspapers from  under “discover” then “newspapers” or by dialing *550#.

EDIT: On June 22, Radio Africa and Mediamax joined the partnership, availing their The Star and People Daily newspapers for Kshs 10 per issue.

EDIT: On July 1, the Nation Media Group announced a “change its business model from print advertising and physical reader copy to digital advertising, ePaper subscription and content-driven reader revenue.” This was accompanied by a reduction of workforce effective July 3, 2020 and salary reductions, of, in some cases, 40%.

EDIT: May 2021: The portfolio of publications has been expanded beyond newspapers and now includes magazines like Swara and Parents as well as the government classifieds’ publication – MyGov.

The EastAfrican is the last Newspaper You’ll Wrap Meat In

President Uhuru Kenyatta sometimes jokes about newspapers and the media and says that newspapers are only good for wrapping meat in. This is usually after they publish a story that he disagrees with and which he feels the writers have got all wrong. But the EastAfrican is the last newspaper that he, you, or any serious butcher will want to wrap meat in.

The East African is unique and consistently rich in quality content, week after week. ¬†They break many stories and often run fresh stories that don’t fit in the bigger picture till later. In essence, it‚Äôs sometimes like an enhanced blog or tweet, and they park the story there for other media and readers to take on the discussion later.

The newspaper is great for trends because they routinely write on familiar subjects or topics that matter, and that are of interest in all countries. These include mobile money, taxation, customs & trade, agribusiness, food science, immigration and sometimes politics in the sense that it impacts the economies and business prospects of the countries.  In the current issue, you can read about vastly different pre-election situations in Burundi, Tanzania and Uganda. Probably a few people outside Uganda are aware that the country is going to have an election for special interest groups in which citizens will vote for their youth and older person representative in August.

They cover more than East Africa, and if a story from further in Africa has a local interest angle, such as mining in Zambia, or the impact of oil prices on Angola then its fit to run.

The EastAfrican has great in-depth pieces from well-known columnists, and from other people who are not household names but still produce great analytic pieces on budgets, politics, and economic trends.  See why Yoweri Museveni, is going to give me a new iPhone.

They are maybe the only newspaper that can tackle in-depth reports. While a daily newspaper will mention highlights of a report that was published, the EastAfrican can delve deeper into it with several pieces, interviews with the authors, researchers and decision-makers involved. You see covers on many leaders, like the leadership index that compares the performances of African presidents and the African Development Bank report on the level of female director representation at  corporate boards across Africa.

They also pull in a section of special interest stories from other publications like the New York Times. They translate their stories into common currencies as the writers recognize that readers may not know what a Rwanda Franc is versus a Tanzania shilling Рso they provide helpful conversions to dollars to help better faster understand the impact. From a dollar base, any reader is mentally able to translate a story into their own familiar currency. They also have the regional indices so you can instantly see which are the best, or worst, performing stocks across East Africa over the last week, month,  or year.

Lastly, they have unique¬†advertisements as it’s now clear that if you‚Äôre looking for an¬†opportunity, job, contract or specialist that cuts across borders, then The EastAfrican is¬†the place to find it.

Delve into The EastAfrican 

The EastAfrican has several sections, as outlined in the app, and that is what makes reading it so interesting to read every week.

EastAfrican cover

The first is the news section. It’s a newspaper after all, but one with a difference. While Kenyan newspapers have screaming headlines about the opposing political factions or shocking crimes, the East African is analytic from the headline onwards. The good stuff is inside, and their readers know this, so they don’t have to tease away on the cover.

It is also sold in many markets it covers and you will easily find alternating headlines about Ethiopia, Somalia, Eritrea, DRC, Sudan and beyond the traditional East Africa community region.  This week’s headline is on the just-released country budget statements, and I’m sure most Kenyans, were probably surprised to see that the Finance Minister from Tanzania is a lady!

The opinion section is top-notch. While they are usually on politics, theirs are analytic and look at the past to explain the current and predict future events. Favourite writers include Charles Onyango-Obbo (@cobbo3), Elsie Eyakuze (@MikocheniReport), and Muthoni Wanyeki. They will also feature special guest pieces like Salim Ahmed Salim writing on the ongoing electoral crisis in Burundi, or business leaders writing on the implications of new tax laws.

One of the strongest content features is the range of advertisements that appear in the EastAfrican. You get to read about Somalia government reconstruction tenders, school teaching positions in Uganda, mining machinery for sale in Tanzania, regional consultant and research vacancies around Eastern Africa, higher education positions in Rwanda to name a few. It seems that if you’re looking for the best talent or partners in East Africa, this is the place to advertise.

EastAfrican chartFrom the front page to the back page, business news is a prevalent topic throughout the newspaper. And while most business news comes out on Tuesday, a lot of it is not a surprise as it first appears in The East African¬†whose new issues are published and distributed on Saturday. So if you‚Äôre a savvy investor, by Monday morning you’ll know a lot more than people who wait for the Tuesday papers. Along with the news are nice charts and graphs giving powerful snapshots from across East Africa of investor markets, trends, and deals.

There are also supplements and features of events that the newspaper is participating in such as the East African business summit, Pan-African Media conference and other regional, high-profile events. A recent issue had in-depth profiles of the candidates to replace Donald Kaberuka as the head of the African Development Bank.

The Outlook and Magazine sections have lots of interesting features. These range from travel guides around East Africa, city guides, the history of interesting sites and places,  and features on science, sports, music, and film. I was once inspired to write a piece for the Magazine, and pestered the editors to accept my contributions. Sadly, only one piece, on shirt shopping in London, ran on the website of the EastAfrican but was not deemed to be of enough quality for the actual newspaper.

It also has very good short stories, Kwani piece, award-winning pieces and new discoveries from anon writers Рlike this thriller on expatriates, multinationals, strategy, corporate in-fighting, and marriage Рall in two pages.

East African App

The EastAfrican newspaper has a nice website that has most of the stories in the newspaper. But for some people, they still need and want to read the actual paper. This is because a great deal of value from reading a newspaper can be derived from items that are usually not posted online such as paid notices and advertisements.

Or sometimes, as a fan of the EastAfrican you’re not able to get a physical copy Рyou may have traveled somewhere that’s far from a supermarket or distributor of the newspaper. It may also be unavailable for some other reason e.g. there’s a temporary ban on the sale of the EastAfrican now in Tanzania as the newspaper is perceived to have offended either the President or the Government.

EastAfrican page

In such circumstances, you can still get the full experience of the EastAfrican as it’s available for users on Android and IOS platforms as an e-paper app to download but not yet on Windows. New issues of the weekly newspapers are made available to download on Monday morning and takes about 2- 10 minutes to download on a WiFi (it took 2 minutes to download via a Safaricom 3G today), and get to read it offline.

After download, you get a full-color layout of all the pages as they appear in the actual EastAfrican newspaper. Like with Zinio and NewsStand, it has all pages in full sequence, page by page, with the layouts, advertisements, supplements, and stories exactly as they appear in the actual newspaper.

You can also search through stories for keywords, even words that appear in advertisements but that does not get a 100% hit rate. Still, it’s better to search than flipping through all 60 pages of a typical paper, and you can also zoom in for stories, or jump through the different parts of the EastAfrican like the magazine, markets, business, outlook, opinion, and news sections.

There is also a savings opportunity from using the app. While a newspaper is about Kshs 100 per week in Kenya  (so 400 Р500 ($5.5) per month depending on the number of issues), the online one costs $4 per month or $50 per year. This is after a two-week free trial period for people who download the app. Subsequent payments can be made by credit card, debit card, M-pesa or cash.  Subscribers get notified of new issues of the EastAfrican every Monday morning when the new EastAfrican newspaper is uploaded. The newspaper is sold at different prices in Tanzania, Uganda, Rwanda and Burundi, but the app price is always the same.