Still on COVID-19 and newspapers’ sales figure

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By Abiola Ayankunbi

Newspaper readership in this context is the people who read or are thought to read a particular printed (NOT digital content) newspaper. Print and online; digital content differs! There are still ardent readers of hard copies but those saddled with the responsibility for the marketing are not doing enough.

On July 26, 2020, at 12.14pm, Barrister Adekunle Funmilayo posted on his Facebook page. The message reads: Covid19 and the attendant lockdown has killed my habit of buying, reading Newspapers everyday.From when I was very young,I was familiar with daily newspapers because Dad always bought Daily Times and Sketch.It was a ritual and as we were growing,I and my brothers used to fight for reading rights after Dad had read.God bless Late Very Rev Joseph Adedokun Funmilayo who though not very rich but made us very comfortable. As we graduated, we all formed the habits of buying and reading newspapers on daily basis.Even as a student, I was buying.I can’t imagine not buying,reading papers daily.It became a ritual. Now came the lockdown in March and I couldn’t get vendors around our estate.A day passed,two days…till April to June when we started going out.The interest had died naturally having gone 2 months without it.I wanted to start by buying but it was no longer compelling. I didn’t feel I lost anything as I am now used to the alternative sources by social media.The lesson I learnt is that there is no habit one cannot stop in life.

ALSO READ: COVID-19 eating deep into newspapers’ circulation figures

With the above submission, it means that there are still ardent readers of hard copies. Secondly, the industry has lost a committed and loyal newspapers’ buyer. There may still be many readers like Barrister who might have decided to keep their experiences with themselves.

Meanwhile, people read for pleasure, information, instruction and connecting with others but statistics has revealed that our reading culture in Nigeria is very poor. There is an age bracket for newspapers’ readers worldwide; it is usually between 18 and 45 years of age but the findings by AbingMO3 Marketing Management Consultancy revealed that it is 45 years and above in Nigeria. Reading can be enhanced in the early age of target readers through formation of book clubs, reading groups, literature circles, press club and invitation of media managers to make a pep talk.

It must be noted that a newspaper’s circulation is the number of copies it distributes on a daily basis. Circulation is not always the same as copies sold. Readership figures are usually higher than circulation figures because of the assumption that a typical copy of the newspaper is read by more than one person who bought it. This is called pass on rate. In Nigeria, the pass on rate, based on research is five.

Printed newspapers are being abandoned by the young than any other age group. Demographics for newspapers have shifted with decline readership. Age, population, literacy and income play a vital role in this regard.

For a newspaper to be acceptable by the readers, such a newspaper must be relevant and must have the required readership of the targeted market segments.

It wont be out of place to start grooming readers from their formative years in the schools. This singular effort will sharpen students thinking skills, increase students interest & motivation by providing study materials relevant to their lives, prepare students for active citizenship, involve schools in the lives of the communities they serve, improve relations with students families and respond to the needs of local businesses as future employers among other benefits accruable to such schools.

Furthermore, the newspaper company approach in this regard will encourage long-term readership of newspapers, improve public & community relations, increase circulation, even though at a reduced rate, increase advertising revenue through special sections and a guaranteed audience.

By the time these groomed set of human being graduates from secondary schools and find themselves in the higher institutions of learning, they would have come of age and can be taking decisions on their own. This will eventually enhance the quality of their participation in schools, transform them into interested, active citizens and recognize newspapers as the main source of continuing education.

Worrisome is the apparent lack of consciousness on the part of most Nigerian media managers on how best to build enduring markets for newspapers. Most often, some of them are busy synergising with the various tiers of government on how best to enhance their stakeholder status in the entrenched patronage system.

The situation on ground, especially the signal from the markets, calls for a new and profound tactical approach if the industry must survive. Findings by our consultancy firm has revealed that the total daily copies of all newspapers pushed into the market nationally is under 100,000 in a country of about 180 million people, out of which daily copy sales are under 50,000! This is a depressing scenario.

Without trying to disparage any newspaper company, Nigerian dailies are buy one, buy all. The stories are the same, what you see in one newspaper are in the others. And there is no opportunity of doing a follow up. Incidentally, Nigeria is a country where news break at the speed of light. By the time you finish one issue today, another is dropping tomorrow and you forget what you are discussing today and follow the new event. Nobody comes back to ask questions!

There is no follow up, no in-depth analysis, no analytical feature to capture news behind the news. Journalists have down play aspect of investigative journalism. In the heat of Boko Haram insurgency, Nigerian media was relying heavily on foreign media for information on the sect’s activities. The situation has not changed significantly!

In other to increase newspapers readership, time should be created to do more investigations, write well and do follow up on stories bearing in mind that a newspaper cannot be the same to all market segments.

Finally, marketing to a specific target can be very rewarding, but where do you start? Identification of marketing targets enables one to find opportunities and tap into them. It provides the information needed to focus on the buyers that are interested in what is being offered. This can save both time and money in an ever-changing society.

Abiola Ayankunbi is MD/CEO at AbingMO3 Marketing Management Consultancy
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