Kenya: Competition in Kenya's Media Industry Intensifies as Nairobi Newspaper Goes National
Thursday, 17 July 2008
Kenya's Nairobi Star has announced plans to go national after one year of operations, which will add more competitive pressure in a dynamic industry where the dominance of the largest daily, the Nation, is gradually eroding.

 

The Nairobi Star, part-owned by Radio Africa Holdings, the group that also owns leading radio stations Kiss FM and Classic FM, has announced that it will now go national after one year of operations. One of the driving factors in this decision was the acquisition of the company's own printing press. Previously, the Nairobi Star had been printed by the Nation Media Group, which very quickly, and unsurprisingly, became a conflict of interest – although the Nation, the group's flagship publication, is one of the country's most established newspapers, it clearly has a limited interest to see a competitor, however young and small, succeed. In fact, the Nation Media Group launched a competitor paper, the Daily Metro, shortly after the launch of the Nairobi Star.

The Nairobi Star's plans to go national mean that competition in Kenya's already dynamic media sector will intensify further. At the launch event of the Nairobi Star, Radio Africa Group Director Patrick Quarcoo remembered how doubtful many people had been when he had launched Kiss FM, questioning whether the country would really need another radio station. Growth in the radio sector, however, had been exponential, more than vindicating his decision.

Even though the Nation Media Group still has a dominant position, not the least because it is a regional player with daily newspapers in neighbouring Uganda and Tanzania, it also faces pressure from its key competitor, the East African Standard. The Standard's circulation rates have been rising steadily recently, to the extent that the publication is said to be planning regional editions, and has relaunched with a new layout in July 2008.

What distinguishes Kenya from the neighbouring economies is, above all, the size of its economy and a much stronger private sector. As a consequence, there is more advertising spend available, which nurtures a relatively more independent and increasingly critical media sector. Kenya's media are fairly advanced by regional standards and press freedom has increased noticeably over the past few years. However, many industry observers hope that the ongoing commercial expansion will also be accompanied by a corresponding growth in quality – complaints range from weak copy editing to uninformed writing, political bias and outright corruption in the media sector. Many corporates complain that they have been misrepresented in the media, information has been cited inaccurately, and reporting had been one-sided.

This complaint is linked closely to another market dynamic: The pool of skilled professionals in the sector is still fairly limited, and nowhere has this been clearer when the Nairobi Star was launched – with several former Nation employees who had taken up the challenge of bringing a new publication to the market. And the Star has now recruited a General Manager – Patrick Ndeda, also a former Nation employee.



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