WAN-IFRA Mobile News in Africa, AMLF 2011


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  • Its core mission is to defend and promotepress freedom, quality journalism and editorial integrity and the development of prosperous businesses.We investigate figures and try to make sense of the world that media operate in around the world
  • With a regional mobile penetration rate of just 36 percent, mobile use in Sub-Saharan Africa might seem fairly insignificant, compared to the European mobile penetration rate, which has long since surpassed 100 percent. But with a year-on-year growth rate of 65 percent for 2010, it becomes increasingly clear why this platform is so important in the region. The mobile penetration rate for the region might be 36 percent on average, but some countries are well beyond that, as you can see from the map (the darker the colour, the higher the penetration rate). When you compare this to fixed-line internet penetration – which is below 10 percent for most of the region, and fixed-line telephone usage – which is even lower, it’s little wonder that news outlets in the region are turning to this platform to deliver content to their readers.
  • The mobile phone in Africa is much more than just a means of calling a loved one;
  • it is a wallet, a transaction device, an access point to social networking services, and most importantly for the media, a platform for accessing information, entertainment and news.
  • Kenya led the way with mobile money, long before we had it here in Europe. And now besides M-Pesa, which allows users to buy goods and services or send remittances via their mobile, the service M-Kesho has recently launched, enabling subscribers to use their mobile as a savings bank.
  • Mobile internet is booming in Sub-Saharan Africa, far outstripping fixed-line usage, giving users opportunity to access so much more data and information than ever before.
  • Some African countries have even started to make use of 4G and WiMAX, which is faster than the mobile internet we use here in Europe.
  • In addition to banking and news media (which I’ll come to in a moment), social media services are also taking great advantage of this increasingly ubiquitous device on the continent. Global social networking giant Facebook launched the subsidised, data-lite “Facebook Zero” in 2010 in 10 African countries, and now the network is one of the most frequently accessed sites via mobile web.
  • South African-based social networking service MXit has also proved hugely popular, boasting 27 million users across Africa.
  • Recognising this growing use of mobile phones and aiming to harness the potential of this platform for newspapers in the region, WAN-IFRA and the African Media Initiative in August published “Mobile Media Services At Sub-Saharan African Newspapers: A Guide To Implementing Mobile News And Mobile Business”. And I hope now to share with you some of the insights gathered through our research for that publication from our visits to Uganda, Kenya and South Africa. These three markets were chosen for our case studies because they represent three distinct markets; low, mid and high-end respectively.
  • We discovered that, being keen to make the most of this growing platform, news media across the region have been similarly innovative in their approach to mobile:SMS news alerts,USSD driven content,Mobile websites,And even in some cases, smartphone and tablet apps.
  • SMS news alerts – where readers can subscribe to keywords such as “news”, “sport”, “music” and even “love” and “bible” quotes, for a premium rate, which deducted from their phone credit balance – have become the basic mobile entry point for newspapers across the continent. WAN-IFRA helped launch the bi-weekly SMS news alert service at the Observer in Uganda last year, and they now have over 1000 regular subscribers, generating a modest extra revenue stream for the twice-weekly published newspaper.
  • Building on this service, some newspapers such as the Daily Nation in Kenya have launched USSD-based news service. So instead of subscribing to keywords, users can, by typing in a code, browse a list of content, paying only for the items that they click to read. This offers an experience similar to browsing a mobile website but without the need for an internet-ready phone.
  • As a result in the growth of internet-ready phones, many newspapers have started to offer mobile versions of their websites, which are accessed not only by readers in the country, but also, for some newspapers, their large diaspora markets in Europe and the US.
  • Most of these mobile sites are just copies of the newspapers’ larger online website, stripped of the data-heavy content such as images and multimedia items. But one of the most interesting examples we came across wasn’t from a large national newspaper, but instead a small local paper – Grocott’s Mail in Grahamstown, South Africa. I won’t go into too much detail about Grocott’s approach, as Steve Kromberg, their general manager, who will speak next, will be able to explain it much better than I.
  • Although the majority of handsets in circulation in Sub-Saharan Africa are still the more basic models, and therefore, most of the existing services are SMS-based and designed to work with low-end devices, the smartphone segment is growing fast, particularly on the secondhand market, and estimates are that in a few years the smartphones will dominate in this region, just as they do in the developed markets. Some newspapers have moved beyond just mobile-web and have started to offer smartphone apps for the iPhone, Android phones and the like. News24’s app allows readers to submit their photos directly to the website to be used alongside news stories and daily galleries. These apps are mostly appearing in the more developed markets, like South Africa, but the more elite, urbane newspapers across the continent are looking to launch similar apps aimed at the lucrative overseas diaspora market.
  • In addition to these familiar services, we also found some quite Africa-specific services. In South Africa we saw a number of news organisations, from the small local paper, Grocott’s Mail to the huge national website, News24.com, building “news bots” for IM platforms such as Google Chat and MXit. News24.com’s “bot” in MXit has over 800,000 subscribers. Here the content is available in a similar fashion to a USSD menu, where the user can read one article for free, and is then charged a very small amount for each article accessed thereafter. Articles are charged at different rates depending on the content – for example news is cheaper than horoscopes – and payments in the system are made with internal currency “moola” bought in bulk, and which can be used across the MXit platform in various other services such as games and music downloads. News24 keeps half of the revenue generated, the other half is kept by MXit.
  • In Uganda, the Daily Monitor has been using mobile to run a fantasy football competition. Each player is assigned a three-digit code, published in the newspaper and online, and then subscribers are charged a premium rate for each SMS they send to join the competition, select players and check scores, and so on. This is currently run through a third-party service provider, with which the Monitor share their revenue, but they’re currently looking into bringing the service onto their own systems and servers to maximise the potential revenue.
  • During the post-election violence in Kenya in 2007, the innovative crisis-mapping service Ushahidi was launched. For those of you unfamiliar with Ushahidi, members of the public are encouraged to submit via SMS and email small pieces of geo-specific information, which is then mapped by whomever is monitoring the information. In Haiti after the earthquake, people texted in where people were still trapped or where supplies were needed, enabling emergency services to better allocate their resources.
  • This platform has since been used in a multitude of situations, from the earthquakes in Haiti to wildfires in Russia and floods in Australia. News outlets and NGOs alike across Africa have used the simple crowdmap platform developed by Ushahidi to monitor elections. But in Uganda we came across a newspaper that had decided to use this crowdmapping software to map not election violence, but potholes!
  • The plan was to then use the information to press the municipal authorities to do something about the problem, but unfortunately the newspaper only had a very small readership and an even smaller marketing budget and thus the campaign wasn’t as successful as hoped. But I still think this shows just how newspapers are “thinking outside the box” when it comes to mobile.Those are just a small number of examples of how newspapers across the continent are using mobile, but I think it demonstrates just innovative the news media in the region are proving to be.
  • But this drive towards mobile services hasn’t been without its set backs and challenges, the greatest of which is, unsurprisingly, revenue generation. Just how can newspapers make money from these services?With SMS services, newspapers charge a premium rate, but after the mobile service operator and third party SMS service provider have deducted their share, and the government has had its taxes, newspapers can receive a tiny amount of the revenue generated. In Uganda, the Observer charges its readers 150 UShillings (about four euro cents) and of that they only keep five percent – about 21 UShillings, which is about half a cent! Added to this tiny share of revenue is the issue of success rate for charging. The end users only pay if they have pre-paid credit on their phone – if their phone credit is nil, then the newspaper obviously doesn’t make any money. The Daily Nation in Kenya admitted that they have an average success rate of just 30 percent due to the low number of subscribers who actually have the necessary credit on their phones.
  • But media houses are turning to another mobile innovation to get around this issue. In Kenya, the Daily Nation is turning to M-Pesa, the mobile money service, to encourage users to buy their subscription, essentially purchasing SMSs in bulk. Using M-Pesa means the Nation can keep a greater revenue share and also guarantee a higher success rate, which in turn is better for encouraging potential advertisers.
  • Mobile advertising in the region is still fairly low, but innovative approaches, such as those made by Grocott’s Mail, with their time-limited special offers, may prove successful. The Avusa Group, which owns The Sunday Times, the Times and the Sowetan in Johannesburg have launched Zappon, a daily deals service, not unlike Groupon. When we spoke to them in March, just after the launch they said they could see a mobile future for the service.
  • Mobile advertising in the region is still fairly low, but innovative approaches, such as those made by Grocott’s Mail, with their time-limited special offers, may prove successful. The Avusa Group, which owns The Sunday Times, the Times and the Sowetan in Johannesburg have launched Zappon, a daily deals service, not unlike Groupon. When we spoke to them in March, just after the launch they said they could see a mobile future for the service.
  • Another challenge that newspapers are facing with mobile is the potential for market saturation. I know talk of that may be premature in many countries, but in some markets, the high proliferation of SMS news alerts, for example, makes it difficult for new players to enter the market through what had previously been the most basic route. Mobile operators are also getting in on the act, providing free and premium news through their SIM Tool Kits embedded on their SIM cards.
  • And this is for the most developed markets
  • It’s with these newcomers in mind that we published our handbook, as well as for those already active in the mobile market. The handbook also offers insight to those outsiders keen to learn more about the mobile sector in the region. The handbook is part of our larger Mobile News for Africa Project, and using the handbook as a spur for ideas, we then launched Mobile News Grants and Training Scheme, through which Africa newspapers could apply for direct funding, consultation and training for their mobile services. We had applications from all over the continent, from the more developed markets of South African and Nigeria, right down to the Central African Republic and Somaliland. A number of the winners have been sponsored to come to the Expo and Congress this week, so if you have any great mobile ideas that could work in Africa, I’m sure they’d be keen to hear your ideas!
  • So in conclusion, how can we make mobile click in Africa? The key, I believe is innovation. Be innovative in the services you offer, be innovative in your revenue solutions, and most of all be innovative in the content you offer. If your service engages and offers content readers cannot get elsewhere, they are more likely to want to pay for it. Which is, after all, the holy grail of the media right now.
  • At the back of our handbook, we have several words of advice from the various people we interviewed. I leave you with a quote that best summarises my points: “It is not an option, not to go mobile. It will be huge in a few years. But you will need to consider how mobile will affect the other products in the portfolio – so you do not cannibalise your existing business.” – The Observer, Uganda
  • WAN-IFRA Mobile News in Africa, AMLF 2011

    1. 1. Making mobile click in AfricaMira Milosevic, media.development@wan-ifra.orgWAN-IFRA Media Development programmes
    2. 2. About WAN-IFRAThe global organisation of the worldsnewspapers and news publishers.WAN-IFRA represents over:18,000 publications 15,000 online sites 3,000 companies in more than 120 countries.
    3. 3. About WAN-IFRAa non-profit non-governmental organization works with international aid agencies, foundations, and fellow NGOs promotes quality news media around the world. Defends and promotes press freedom and economic independence Supports development of news publishing Made up of: 76 national newspaper associations 10 regional press organizations 12 news agencies and individual newspaper executives in 100 countries.
    4. 4. More than justa phone call!
    5. 5. 1. 2. mobile social money networking 3. information 4. 5.entertainment news
    6. 6. Mobilemoney
    7. 7. Mobileinternet
    8. 8. Social mediaFacebook Zero
    9. 9. Social mediaMXitWAN-IFRA - 27 million users Survey based on: 227 responses from 66 countries between July and December 2010.
    10. 10. Mobile media servicesat Sub-SaharanAfrican newspapersA guide to implementing mobile newsand mobile business
    11. 11. 1. 2. SMS USSDnews alerts menu-driven content 3. 4. Smartphone Mobile applications websites
    12. 12. WAN-IFRA Survey based on: 227 responses fromSMS 66 countriesNews alerts between July and December 2010.
    13. 13. WAN-IFRA Survey based on:USSD responses from 227menu-driven 66 countriescontent between July and December 2010.
    14. 14. Mobile websitesMarketing to the diaspora
    15. 15. Mobile websitesExamples of mobile websites
    16. 16. Smartphone appsExamples of mobile websites
    17. 17. IM platforms
    18. 18. Ushahidi mobile
    19. 19. Crowdmapping
    20. 20. Potholes in Kampala
    21. 21. Revenue sharing
    22. 22. Digital media is sweeping the globe… … but it carries no guarantee of significant revenues.
    23. 23. Mobile advertisingGeneral mob ads
    24. 24. Mobile advertisingGrocotts
    25. 25. Mobile advertisingAvusa
    26. 26. Despite the global frenzy, revenues fromdigital sources contribute less than10 percent to total revenue.
    27. 27. 2010 Global Advertising Share in %25% Newspapers12% Magazines10% Internet7% Outdoor8% Radio37% TV
    28. 28. your audiencesKnow your products your revenue streams your potential
    29. 29. It is not an option, not to go mobile. It will be huge in a few years.But you will need to consider how mobile will affect the other products in the portfolio – so you do not cannibalise your existing business. – The Observer, Uganda