27 Feb 2011

Who advertises in Kwanza Jamii Njombe, and why?

At the meeting a couple of weeks ago with Femina, one of the most interesting points of discussion was print advertising. This may be a declining industry elsewhere in the world, but in Tanzania it seems the potential of running newspapers and magazines that are largely funded through advertising is strong, and growing.

Sample Kwanza Jamii adverts - click to enlarge
Femina gets most of its funding from donors and therefore hasn't needed to take much paid advertising. But their circulation and readership figures are so big that they can charge very high rates for space. At the meeting, the representative of another very successful Tanzanian magazine was taken aback at how much Femina charges.

Like Femina, Daraja also receives a combination of donor funding and advertising, in our case for the Kwanza Jamii Njombe newspaper. But advertising is a much bigger proportion of our revenue, despite the fact that our audience is much smaller and very localised.

But in fact it is the local-ness of our audience that brings in most of our advertisers. In fact, in six months of running the paper, every one of our adverts have been sourced locally, and only one advertiser is a company with a national profile - CRDB Bank. We've tried to get mobile phone companies and other national firms to advertise, but with no success as yet.

Instead, our paper is full of adverts from companies like Mgobasa General Enterprises, a small shop selling generators, motorbikes, etc; Mpangile Auto Spares, a similarly small shop selling, yes, auto spares; Pangamawe, selling mobile phones; and CBM Electronics, selling solar power equipment, TVs, etc. Take a closer look at the Pangamawe and Mpangile adverts in the picture above (click on the picture to enlarge) and you'll see the size and nature of the shops we're talking about.

We don't charge as much as the biggest national papers for space, but our circulation is much smaller than theirs. And apart from the few biggest papers that have significantly higher prices, our rates are not that much lower - similar to Mtanzania, for example, but not Mwananchi or Nipashe. Some of the adverts shown above were charged at 500,000/-.

So why are these small local firms willing to pay almost the same price for space in our paper as they would be charged for in a national paper with bigger circulation? And many of them are paying for space not just once or twice, but in every issue.

Well it surprised us a little, but it seems there's a real demand for advertising from small local businesses. There's also a lack of advertising platforms that suit them. None of the advertisers listed above would be interested in taking an advert in any of the national papers, as it will reach only a very small number of people in the Njombe area. In contrast, we can guarantee them a much bigger local audience - our circulation per issue (now nearly 4,000 copies) is over 100 times greater than the biggest national papers' per issue sales in this region.

This market is a difficult one for national papers to tap into. Unless they produce regional editions of a national paper, with local adverts in each, they're not going to be able to fulfill this demand. The same applies to both Mwananchi and Femina.

Local radio can take advantage - in fact Pangamawe currently has an advert on Njombe's local radio station that features Mrisho Mpoto. But the two stations with biggest audiences locally are RFA (national) and Ebony FM (based in Iringa), so the audience is split much more than is the case with newspapers.

In fact, though we're still a long way from breaking even, we've already enough got enough evidence of local demand both for the paper and for advertising to suggest that a region such as Njombe can sustain a profitable local newspaper. Whether a self-sustaining local paper could (or would) carry some of the more expensive public interest journalism (investigative journalism, rural news, etc.) is more in doubt? But before we come to that, the first challenge now is for us to demonstrate that sales and advertising revenues can cover everything else.