INMA Africa summit highlights strategic developments and growth path

The summit included 311 delegates from 38 countries

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Screenshot of INMA Africa summit 2022. Photo: INMA
Screenshot of INMA Africa summit 2022. Photo: INMA

How business growth strategies and technological developments are driving audience, advertising, and newsrooms at African news media companies was the focus of a two-day regional summit by the International News Media Association (INMA).

In its third year, the virtual INMA Africa News Media Summit, held on 28-29 July, drew 311 delegates from 38 countries.

Supported by the Google News Initiative, the summit featured various case studies from the region’s top publishers – Business Day in Nigeria, Independent Media in South Africa, Media 24’s City Press in South Africa, Monitor Publications in Uganda, Nation Media Group in Kenya, New Times in Rwanda, Stears in Nigeria, and Pulse Senegal. INMA also added insights into the state of the global news industry with a keynote by the association’s CEO, Earl Wilkinson.

Key takeaways from INMA’s program across four segments 

Newsrooms

Nigeria’s Business Day shared the critical ‘reasons why’ newsrooms must change their cultures – the need for agility, the 24-hour news cycle, the abundance of data, the need for continuous experimentation, the rise in reader revenue models, the emergence of multimedia storytelling, and more.

In Uganda, Monitor Publications is focused on acquiring and retaining good and experienced journalists yet is realistic about the task at hand – low pay, expanding demand for communications, and gender pitfalls. The risk of being a journalist isn’t quite worth the financial reward, the thrill is gone, yet social media continues to shine. While the digital dinosaurs are gone from newsrooms, those newsrooms remain devoid of tech-savviness/depth.

Nigeria’s Stears may have been the most intriguing case study for one reason – Its sheer lack of a legacy newsroom. They have created a newsroom from scratch with journalists sharing the stage with data, product, engineering, and marketing professionals. They take a product approach to strategy and are constantly focused on company objectives. With an embrace of data and information worth paying for, their content and business strategies are connected.

Audience engagement

Pulse Senegal is creatively using social media to expand its footprint. Faced with a huge youth audience, Pulse’s strategy is to ‘inform and entertain’ with social media that has fun facts, inspirational stories, street video interviews, reader portraits, and news. They co-create content with influencers.

The New Times in Rwanda is pushing back against economic headwinds with a combination of products and marketing – job board, social media, podcast, flash briefings, ePaper, and video desk. They have seen engagement growth, new market segments, subscriptions tripled, and finances are up.

Nation Media Group in Kenya weaved its Kusi Ideas Festival into a broader strategy that helped build relationships with policy influencers via thought leadership and created an alternative revenue stream with a regional approach.

Advertising campaigns

Media24’s City Press is empowering readers with its ‘Money Makeover’ native advertising campaign. They are enabling Absa’s clients to plan for and attain financial freedom. In its sixth year, the native campaign has become a staple in City Press’ annual calendar, positioning Absa as the bank that cares. The campaign fits well with strong content that connects with audiences via authentic messaging.

Also, in South Africa, Independent Media’s collaborative added-value campaign took Chicken Licken away from their traditional TV/outdoor investments, part of a broader strategy to grow advertising segments. Innovation and creativity are keys to driving revenue growth and social media engagement.

Global and strategic developments

INMA CEO Earl Wilkinson talked about the emergence of the modern media company’s playbook – subscriptions, product, newsroom innovation, data, advertising, and people/talent. Subscription bundles and surfing event waves are rising, while product is pointing to app innovation and changing how work gets done. While newsrooms get into the business of news, data is central to growth strategy and an indicator of cultural maturity. Successful digital advertising savviness is increasingly about knowing where to focus people sales vs machine sales. And he recommended when looking to acquire and retain young digital talent, you should focus on the journalistic mission.

South Africa’s Project Goliath has joined other national consortia to navigate the regulatory, legislative, and settlement world with the Big Tech platforms. With global regulatory hotspots like Canada, Australia, New Zealand, France, and Denmark, the very competitive South African publishers have banded together, appointed competition law specialists, and are working to front inquiries and draft legislation.

IC Publishers and their pan-African titles, such as African Business, African Banker, and New African, were managing the digital transition of their business and focused on new product development and growth. The company has grown correspondents and thought leadership events in tandem with its advertisers, who have taken a regional approach to seek dominance in markets across Africa.

“INMA’s ability to bring global insights fused with regional best practices and case studies to the region has really made this summit an important event for Africa,” said Doreen Mbaya, producer of the INMA Africa summit. “Our attendees really appreciated the new focus on newsrooms, as well as the discussions around Big Tech. ”

The Covid-19 pandemic led to the country-wide lockdown on 25 March 2020. It will be two years tomorrow as I write this. What have we learned in this time? Maybe the meaning of resilience since small companies like us have had to rely on our resources and the forbearance of our employees as we have struggled to produce our trade platforms.

The print and packaging industries have been fortunate, although the commercial printing industry is still to recover. We have learned more about the digital transformation that affects commercial printing and packaging. Ultimately digital will help print grow in a country where we are still far behind in our paper and print consumption and where digital is a leapfrog technology that will only increase the demand for print in the foreseeable future.

Web analytics show that we now have readership in North America and Europe amongst the 90 countries where our five platforms reach. Our traffic which more than doubled in 2020, has at times gone up by another 50% in 2021. And advertising which had fallen to pieces in 2020 and 2021, has started its return since January 2022.

As the economy approaches real growth with unevenness and shortages a given, we are looking forward to the PrintPack India exhibition in Greater Noida. We are again appointed to produce the Show Daily on all five days of the show from 26 to 30 May 2022.

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