Online Newspaper Editions Increase Sales

Digital Content

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.

Cape Argus