NMG bets on increased digital focus to grow revenues

Nation Media Group (NMG) is betting on increased digital content and product monetisation to drive revenues amid technological disruptions that have affected media houses globally.

The chairman of the NMG Board of Directors, Dr Wilfred Kiboro, while speaking during the company’s Annual General Meeting (AGM) on 28th June 2024, reiterated the company’s commitment to tapping the huge revenue potential in the digital media space.

Like other media houses locally and across the globe, NMG is racing to mitigate against the technological disruptions that have significantly hit revenues from print media.

NMG last year launched paywalls for its media subsidiaries in Uganda and Tanzania, besides relaunching the flagship subscription news site.

“Digital is the future and we are making bold choices to create new revenue streams. We are seeing unprecedented opportunities in the digital space,” Dr Kiboro said at NMG’s 61st Annual General Meeting held in Nairobi yesterday.

NMG had for years kept access to its digital content free, but has now introduced paywalls to tap revenue from paid subscriptions for most of its publications. The Business Daily website was earlier this year put behind a paywall.

A significant increase in operational costs last year, driven by a sharp depreciation of the shilling and high fuel prices, impacted on NMG’s performance.

Additionally, NMG faced declining revenues from print and linear broadcast advertising, adding impetus to the strategic focus on the digital space to diversify revenues.

NMG Chief Executive Officer Stephen Gitagama said that niche products like the Business Daily, The East African, and Taifa Leo posted growth last year as a result of continued product innovation to meet audience preferences.

“Our focus is digital-first and data-driven reporting. We are registering an average of 10 million users daily across our websites,” Mr Gitagama said during the AGM.

NMG’s efforts to grow revenues continue to be hurt by the failure of the government to settle money for advertising services over the years, with the accumulated debt estimated at more than Sh800 million.

Cumulatively, the government’s total debt owed to local media houses for advertising is more than Sh2.5 billion. The arrears have hit hard the cash flows of the media houses.

Advertising is the single-biggest source of revenue for media houses, underscoring the magnitude of the government’s delay in settling the debt.

Besides advertising debt arrears, Dr Kiboro decried persistent State attacks on media houses and journalists, which have seen Kenya drop on the global press freedom ranking.

Kenya last year slid to position 116 from position 69 globally on media freedom, highlighting the impact of the attacks against media organisations and journalists.

By John Mutua