The Star newspaper has pulled a major coup against the Daily Nation and Standard, Kenya’s two leading newspapers, after bagging a lucrative government content distribution deal. The newspaper, published by Radio Africa Group, won the tender to distribute the government-owned MyGov weekly newspaper insert, which will earn the company about Ksh30 million in monthly revenues.
Initially, MyGov was distributed by all the three mainstream newspapers – Nation, Standard and Star – on Tuesdays at a combined cost of Ksh15 million, or Ksh60 million per month. Under the tender awarded late last year, the Star will print and circulate MyGov exclusively at Ksh7 million weekly, which is Ksh28 million per month and a cool Ksh360 million per year.
The government decided to break away from mainstream newspapers which are understood to have been engaging in arm-twisting tactics to squeeze more from the Government Advertising Agency (GAA), which publishes the weekly. “The government felt the main newspapers were over-charging,” said an insider at MyGov who requested not to be named.
The Star, being a smaller and more flexible publication, appears to have offered best value for money deal, gaining a strong revenue stream in the process, while edging the big boys from the lunch table. The deal has emboldened The Star newspaper to issue the Tuesday edition, which will be carrying MyGov, for free.
MyGov is a government newspaper containing tenders and government communications, including stories from different ministries. It also includes news from government agencies, vacancies across state offices, reports on agriculture, and innovation, and top stories from counties, youth and parliamentary affairs, among others.
“Because of the tough economic times, the Star wants to reward and empower you,” the Star publisher wrote in the Monday newspaper. “The 16-year-old publication is pleased to announce that its readers will be receiving free copies of the Independent, Fresh, and Different paper every Tuesday, accompanied by a MyGov pullout.”
The publisher said the paper would print and distribute 100,000 copies on the launch Tuesday. “The Star Kenya’s circulation has grown over time and we are hoping to take advantage of the new deal to grow it further,” said Radio Africa Group Head of Content, Mr Paul Ilado.
Mr Ilado said the newspaper will be available across all 47 counties, and readers should look out for the copies at Huduma Centres, matatus, and all public places and Post offices near them. “We have revamped our circulation and will now be able to move to the villages in addition to urban areas,” Mr Ilado added.
Aside from the physical copy, MyGov will also be available on mgazeti.com and the Star website. Postal Corporation of Kenya, reportedly distributed 100,000 free copies of the Star newspaper on Tuesday.
Posta laid out an elaborate logistical plan to overcome geographical barriers in the distribution of the paper. Postmaster General John Tonui noted that the furthest the Star newspaper was delivered was Malindi town in Kilifi county, which is 570km from Nairobi.
While Nation and Standard would have offered better reacher in terms of circulation, the prospect of issuing a free paper may have been the deal breaker. Newspaper circulation has also been falling over the years, and the government is seeking to counter this by using a free newspaper to reach more people with MyGov.
It is not clear, however, how the Star newspaper will be delivered in private and public offices not to lock out professionals who may not be able to reach Huduma Centres.
The Star is the second paper in Kenya to go free. The People Daily went free in 2014 in a bid to attract advertising. The government advertising deal will bolster Star’s revenues and help it solve the financial problems it has been facing over the last few years. A free newspaper will put the Star in a stronger position to attract more independent advertising, especially on Tuesdays, with normal circulation struggling.