Kenyan newspapers have embraced the internet and increased their sales with innovations such as sending headlines by SMS to readers. Nairobi has also become the hub of an ambitious project to digitise all sub-Saharan newspapers.
Field director of the Library of Congress Office in Nairobi, Pamela Howard-Reguindin, told the recent World Library and Information Congress in Durban that the managing editors of Kenya’s main papers, the Daily Nation and Standard “realise they must adopt new technology or fall into oblivion as has happened with some of their competitors”.
Despite limited access to the internet by Kenyans, the two dailies and a Swahili newspaper, Taifa Leo, have used online editions to increase sales of both electronic and print versions. The key to this success has been the production of “born digital” items – first on the net and then in print – as well as marketing innovations.
Text teasers and headlines are sent to SMS lists and e-mail addresses. Now the Nation Media Group is to launch a “born digital” publication, Business Daily. Deals have been struck with NewsStand and NewspaperDirect to increase sales and RSS feeds.
“Both newspaper editors report that sales of online and hardcopy issues are growing,” says Howard-Reguindin. “The Daily Nation is working on a new website Nation Digital that will include text messages via mobile phones, online news/chat rooms, RSS, and specialised services such as sports scores, stock prices, and horoscopes.”
The Standard is getting about 3 million hits a day for their website, “most from outside Kenya, but a steadily increasing number from within the country as internet access penetrates more Kenyan businesses, schools and households”.
Meanwhile, the US Library of Congress office in Nairobi is racing against time to digitise the newspapers of 29 sub-Saharan newspapers that are crumbling to dust in archives across the continent.
The project started with a “computer-based index of the articles published in the major Nairobi newspapers from 1980 onwards covering the cultural affairs of this country, mainly music, dance, theatre, literature and art”, overseen by Ruth Thomas, a noted Nairobi librarian.
“Subsequently the topics expanded to include reproductive health, law/governance affairs, and various others.
“Hundreds, if not thousands, of newspaper titles from some 29 sub-Saharan countries have already been microfilmed and dozens more are being filmed on an annual basis by the library and its office in New Delhi, India.
“In spite of this laudable work, many more newspaper titles and corresponding issues remain in our ever-growing backlog,” says Howard-Reguindin.
Ten sub-Saharan titles are being sent to the library in Washington, DC for treatment (www.loc.gov/acq/ovop/nairobi/lc_npapers.html for the list).
At the library’s office in New Delhi several cameras and camera operators are working overtime to film as much as possible of another 115 titles.
“One possible role of Kenyan librarians would be to encourage the newspaper managers to offer internet access to full content of the articles free to Kenyan schools and universities.”
This “could be a role for any national African library association. Many journal publishers located in the US and Europe are now allowing internet users in developing countries to access full content of journal articles without charge”.
“If this open access could be offered to Kenya newspaper readers, the information in the daily press could strengthen efforts in governance and democratisation, literacy and responsible civic leadership,” says Howard-Reguindin.
(Source: Cape Argus)
The potential of data vending in Kenya
The poor penetration of Internet services coupled with low levels of computer literacy in Kenya are holding back the country’s emerging data vending industry.
The data vendors, who sell and distribute financial and business news, are targeting rural populations as well as Kenyans in the diaspora.
Mr Bildad Kagai , the managing director of data vending firm MediaCorp Limited, told the Business Daily that while data vending has the potential to be a major industry in the financial services sector, more needed to be done to ensure computer services reached majority of the people.
“Kenyans, especially those outside Nairobi, have been waiting eagerly for the Real Time data, but inability to access the Internet remains a big challenge,” says Mr Kagai
He said traders did not have to physically go to the bourse to get financial data, but they could do this in the comfort of their offices through the Internet. He said the highest potential for growth in data vending was in rural towns and that lack of Internet services was limiting the uptake of online financial news and data.
MediaCorp earlier this month launched its data vending services in Mombasa to increase its presence in the country.
Symon Ndirangu, the chief executive officer of Information Convergence Technologies ICT Ltd, says that with the signing of an average of 50 to 100 new users every month, most of the six data vendor currently operating in the market should break even within the next 12 months.
“Although it is taking time for many investors to appreciate the value of data, we are upbeat that revenue will pick up very soon.”
Currently, the cost of a data vending license from the NSE is valued at Sh170,000 (US$2500) while ISPs are charging about Sh50,000 per month for connection.
With an estimated Sh180,000 in other costs, data vendors are paying at least Sh400,000 a month or Sh4.8million annually to stay afloat.
Ndirangu however projects that with the developments in the ICT sector as well as the Capital Markets, the data vendors should have at least each have 10,000-20,000 customers utilizing their services. At an annual charge of Sh5000 per customers, data vendors could easily rake in Sh50 million in a year.