As of April 2021, Nation.Africa had crossed 50,000 paying subscribers according to NMG. [Photo/ Aga Khan University - The Innovation Centre]
As of April 2021, Nation.Africa had crossed 50,000 paying subscribers according to NMG. [Photo/ Aga Khan University - The Innovation Centre]

Keen observers might have noticed the absence of a paywall on Nation.Africa, the flagship digital platform of Nation Media Group (NMG) whose brands include the Daily Nation – Kenya’s most widely circulated newspaper. The paywall was introduced to much fanfare in February 2021, as NMG looked to increase reader revenue while reducing reliance on advertising.

As of April 2021, it had already crossed 50,000 paying subscribers according to the company. The paywall was unceremoniously pulled down this year, leaving readers and industry analysts  with questions. As it turns out, the move was informed by the upcoming general elections scheduled for August.

NMG honchos made the decision to take down the paywall to increase the platform’s reach during the heated electioneering period, when Kenyans typically consume a lot of political news content, sources told Business Today. It is expected to make a comeback once the elections are done.

Growing reader revenues remains a key plank of Nation’s digital transformation strategy, which is modeled on advances by publications such as the New York Times in the subscriptions realm. Print sales and advertising still account for the bulk of the NMG’s earnings.

Print accounted for 72% of the Group’s revenues for the year ended December 2021. Digital’s contribution to NMG’s bottomline has, however, been growing. Digital revenues increased by 20 percent to account for 6 percent of the Group’s turnover for the year ended December 2021.

The Group recorded a tenfold increase in net profit for the period to hit Ksh493.1 million. Total revenues rose 12 percent year on year to Ksh7.6 billion.

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“Going forward bulk of the revenues will come through going digital. The legacy media like print will still remain for a few years but distribution will be mainly digital. We hope to reduce reliance on print gradually to not more than 25 percent,” stated Chairman Wilfred Kiboro at the time. Print accounted for 72% of NMG revenues for the year ended December 2021

To accelerate the firm’s digital transformation, the firm hired Oliver August as Chief Technology and Innovation Officer (CTO) in mid-2021.

“Working with the executive team, he will be responsible for leading the Group’s digital transformation agenda, building on the early successes achieved so far, overseeing the Group’s investments in innovation and technology and supporting the group’s digital media monetization initiatives.

“Oliver brings to NMG over 20 years of experience working with leading media, digital and technology organizations,” noted NMG CEO Stephen Gitagama in a statement.

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