The downturn in many African economies is driving the move to digital advertising spend and away from print and TV. Namibia may be a small country but changes in its media and advertising sector are similar to those picked up in other countries like Kenya. Russell Southwood spoke to a number of people in the country about how these changes are affecting them.
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Government is clearly taking social media seriously as a communication channel. The Social Media Use Policy tabled in the Namibian National Assembly by Information Minister Tjekero Tweya in June will make it mandatory for every state institution to set up social media accounts on platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and WhatsApp.
Government bodies are also obliged to provide feedback on questions raised on social media within 24 hours. Every state institution is also asked to encourage public dialogue, and should put up a disclaimer explaining that the government respects freedom of expression, and that people are entitled to different opinions, and hope to foster online conversations. According to the policy, social media comments are automatically published, but the state has the right to remove comments which are indecent, use foul language, threats, are defamatory or use personal attacks.
Comments which encourage illegal activities, hate speech directed at race, colour, gender, sex, identity, national origin, ethnicity, age, religion or disability, as well as tribalism and stereotyping will also be removed. The policy aims to provide guidelines on the use of social media by state entities to share information and provide a platform through which the government will engage citizens.
Digital spend as a percentage of total spend is now around 10%:”We try and push for greater digital spend.” The agency has geared up this transition by taking on additional staff and putting in place a training programme to spread the digital skills required more widely.
The big agencies are: Ogilvy & Mather, Advantage One R, Adforce Publicis, Weatherman & Co and TBWA Paragon. But competing for the growing digital business are a number of smaller, independent digital agencies like TinCup and In Touch, which have either been launched by staff out of traditional ad agencies or were website developers and simply extended what they offered their clients.
As elsewhere, the first victims of this shift have been newspapers: these cost money to buy but their content is free online. The largest newspaper is the Namibian owned by Namibia Media Holdings, which a number of informed sources say sells around 60,000 copies a week.
In June 2017, the Government’s newspaper New Era cut its print run because of increased costs. “The cost of printing is about N$24 million annually while the distribution is approximately N$9 million annually,” said Stanley Simataa, Deputy Minister of Information and Communication Technology, adding that during these times of financial difficulties organisations must flex their expenditure within the ambit of available means to ensure sustainability of their operations. Its print run varies between 7-8,000 on weekdays and 17,000 copies on Friday.
Print ad rates are over double online rates (on the nearest equivalent comparison). Spend has gone down a lot through a combination of a slow economy and clients shifting spending across to digital. Also print spend is often linked to things like SMS or social media engagement which also needs spend.
There was a flurry of comment locally when Namibia slipped 7 places in the World Press Freedom Index. However in ranks number one out of all African countries in the index. Editor of The Namibian, Tangeni Amupadhi commented at the time: “I can only imagine that the open hostility our president and the Minister of Information have been increasingly showing towards a large section of the news media has contributed to Namibia dropping.”
“When the president refers to media houses as ‘my enemies’, disparages journalists based on their age rather than their work, and is constantly threatening to compile a defamation dossier, while inviting journalists only to castigate them, the perception will not be missed about the true stance of the government.”
TV advertising is also down but this is more likely the impact of the slow economy and relative expense of producing local ads in a small market. With a recession, there’s always cut-backs on spend by alcohol brands and FMCG. By contrast, radio advertising seems to be relatively buoyant. However, there has been some consolidation in the market: the Radio Wave group has merged with the Planet Radio Group and 99FM is merging with the country’s private sector TV station, One Africa TV. There have also been a lot of job retrenchments.
State broadcaster NBC has started to innovate with a Mobile Reporting Unit, run by Lucy K, who was recruited from a commercial radio station for her social media skills. Her reporter team shoot video clips, edit them on the fly with an editing app and upload them for use on TV, radio and social media. One of her team’s stories on single mothers – as hot-button topic for Namibian youth got 20,000 likes on Facebook. Mobile allows the broadcaster to surface news more quickly than it might have done in the past