Sadly, even long before the recession and the Covid-19 menace, the publishing industry had been suffering very serious fatigue as a result of multiple reasons. The most critical challenge to the industry has been the continuous decline in readership and circulation. The figures and numbers are not encouraging. At the height of the golden era in Nigeria, the Daily and Sunday Times circulated over 600,000 copies daily and weekly respectively. Today the highest circulating magazine or newspaper will be lucky to be doing 50, 000 per edition. I recall that I alerted the industry sometime in 2007 when I was the AAAN President and the numbers were already falling. It was also clear that digital publishing was becoming very fashionable with global brands like TIME and Newsweek going online and printing very few hard copies.
The reading culture in Nigeria has also been affected by declining income and the cost of publications. The issue of opportunity costs became prevalent and many people began to read free online versions instead of spending money buying hard copies.
But in spite of these challenges, a resourceful brand must still survive and thrive. City People has become a national icon and must continue to set the pace no matter the prevailing situation. In my opinion, the magazine must consider the following steps towards survival and overcoming the challenges of the turbulence.
(1) You must focus your efforts on your core business area: Publishing. In doing this, the management must know and identify what are the key and profitable mast heads. Your core business is providing reading entertainment weekly and you must come up with fresh strategies on achieving this. Is the demand still there for your brand? Do people still want to be entertained weekly by the juicy stories you publish? The Management must sit and determine if this is so.
(2) Ensure you understand and focus on your target market – for example: know your customers and their needs. Conduct research, speak to the clients and the agencies. Let them appraise you publication and suggest areas for change and innovation. Ensure that your business positioning, offering and differentiation are relevant and unique. Do you have any strong competitor? What are they doing differently? How can you do this better? Can you leverage on your heritage? Look for additional ways to add value.
(3) If the answers to these are positive, then the management must determine if there is an audience fatigue for the brand. Are people tired of the current brand profile and a refreshing will help, from the mast head to the layout, the content etc. Is a relaunch necessary?
(4) Develop a strong online version. Apart from the fact that it’s cheaper, your reach is improved and this will appeal to advertisers. Make sure that you maximize your digital impact and offer your brand as a digital tool to clients who appear to be spending more now on the digital.Invest in a strong website to connect digitally. Advertisers can visit the site and learn more and even see past copies. The social media can be used to advance your newspaper’s marketing efforts, such as the following:
•Develop a mailing list and send out regular email newsletters to keep clients informed of upcoming events, promotions, special sections and unique opportunities.
•In addition, use email marketing to communicate with clients about anything not covered in your newsletter.
•Have a page on your website specifically dedicated to reaching advertisers and sharing pertinent information with them.
(5) Market strongly. The most successful sales teams are strongly supported by their newspaper’s marketing efforts. This is because when potential advertisers are familiar with your newspaper and the benefits of advertising therein, they’re far more likely to buy ad space. From a sales perspective, the purpose of marketing is to convert cold leads into warm leads, and thereby make it easier for a rep to close the sale. But marketing your magazine also more generally positions it as a valuable brand and places it top-of-mind for those who might want to place an ad. While marketing won’t make the sale for your reps, it will ease their efforts. To this extent, some of your strong marketing initiatives must include the following:
(6) Educate your existing and would-be clients. Your magazine is a unique and valuable resource for advertisers because clients who advertise therein have the potential to reach a highly targeted audience.You need to educate the people of thebenefits of using the publication.
(7) Keep Your Clients in the Know. Let them know about opportunities. Create visibility. Beyond a more general strategy of reminding clients to keep advertising in your paper, it’s also useful to inform advertisers of upcoming opportunities in which they’ll benefit from visibility. For example, if your paper runs a special section let the clients know well in advance. Create flyers and teasers to get clients excited about the upcoming opportunity and events.
(8) Create content that appeals to advertisers. Ensure a portion of content produced could be geared towards specific, high revenue producing advertisers. For example, target when schools resume after each holiday and create content that targets clients that produce products for children and young adults like soft drinks, noodles, etc. This way, you’re providing these clients highly targeted content that will attract the interest of their specific market. Such features can be very lucrative and successful for the paper and advertiser, all while still being relevant and interesting for your readership.
(9) Use the power of testimonials. In terms of marketing, sell yourself. You want to get the word out there about the type of audience your publication reaches, the readership it enjoys and the benefits of advertising within. These are the things advertisers want to hear. It makes good sense to share the many advantages of advertising in your paper. To make this even more impactful, use third parties for the testimonials. Publish positive testimonials from happy and satisfied clients who advertised in City People and got great results.
(10) Do you need to branch into corollary businesses like printing and publishing, event marketing, PR and MR, sponsorship management, etc. for corporates and governments? These are low hanging fruits that you already have the know how in house. You can develop these proposals for clients and also implement, especially as we are soon nearing the end of the Coronavirus.
Distinguished ladies and gentlemen, as I close my presentation, I will like to assure you that in the last 24 years, City People has weekly delighted many people in Nigeria and in the diaspora as your publication elevated the practice of entertainment writing. If you are able to persevere and even reinvent yourselves, City People will weather this turbulence and come out stronger and in a position to continue to serve its loyal customers even as you build new ones. I will like to again salute the vision and efforts of your Publisher, Mr. Seye Kehinde and his team, who have doggedly committed to this genre of publishing, making a success of it. In closing, I will leave for you the words of Scott Bedbury, the former CEO of Nike and Starbucks; he said, “A brand is a story always being told”. May I enjoin you all to please go ahead and continue telling yours!
‘Lolu Akinwunmi, frpa, fnimn
Group CEO, Prima Garnet Africa
Past Chairman, APCON
BEING THE PAPER PRESENTED AT THE 24TH ANNIVERSARY OF
CITY PEOPLE MAGAZINE