Daily Nation drops to #17 on list of top websites in Kenya after domain name change as The Standard takes lead

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President Uhuru Kenyatta and His Highness the Aga Khan when the latter visited the country in 2018. PHOTO/PSCU

By ABDULHAKIM SHERMAN

newsdesk@reporter254.com

Nation Media Group’s flagship news website nation.co.ke has dropped from number three on the list of top 50 websites in Kenya to number 17 according to reputable global websites ranking platform Alexa.

This happened moments after the company changed its Daily Nation domain name from nation.co.ke to nation.africa resulting in it being overtaken by its perennial rival Standard Group’s flagship news website The Standard.

For nearly four years, digital news platform Tuko had emerged as Kenya’s number one online news website. But stiff competition from Kenya’s two leading media companies Nation Media Group and Standard Group saw it pushed to number three among the top local news websites on Alexa’s top 50 ranking. Google and Youtube lead the list of top websites in Kenya respectively.

Before changing its domain nation.co.ke was Kenya’s number news website followed by The Standard, in number two position, Tuko number three and then the new kid on the block Kenyans number four.

However, the latest Alexa ranking of top 50 websites in Kenya makes The Standardas the number one news website in the country Tuko number two, Kenyans number three, Citizen TV number four, Nation number five, K24tv number six, entertainment news website Ghafla number seven, live streaming television website Kenyamoja number eight and daily The Star  number nine respectively.

It is not yet clear what has caused the sudden drop of Daily Nation website ranking after its migration to a new domain as such a process was expected to be seamless given the information technology knowhow at NMG’s disposal.

A Search Engine Optimization (SEO) specialist contacted by this writer said the Nation’s drop in Alexa ranking will have financial implications to the brand in relation to considerations made by online advertising operations companies while nominating websites to place adverts.

The SEO specialist added that a lot of work will have to be put in by Nation to restore its former ranking as the country’s number one news website.

With newspaper’s circulation and advertising revenues in the country averaging at less than 50 percent, focus has now shifted to online publishing that provides the new survival frontier for the media industry.

And as a result, the print media which has dominated the local media scene since independence has been forced to innovate and realign businesses to new media journalism through the “digital first” or “digital by default” business model.

Digital first and digital by default refer to a shift in organisational culture away from favouring traditional channels to prioritising digital ones that now provide avenues for online advertising revenue against a background of a fast-shrinking print media and evaporating legacy advertising.

Interestingly, out of the top 50 websites ranked by Alexa, only nine are local news websites in a nearly saturated online news market estimated to have more than 1,000 websites.

Eyes are on Nation Media Group’s Editorial Director, Mr Mutuma Mathiu, as he tries to steer the company through a delicate and complex digital rebranding process. PHOTO/COURTESY.

The rest are international new media platforms and news agencies like Google, Facebook, Youtube, Microsoft, Yahoo, Zoom, Wikipedia, Netflix, Amazon, Instagram, BBC, betting companies and government websites.

The nine local news websites in the Alexa top 50 ranking include The Standard, TukoKenyansCitizen TVNationK24tv, entertainment news website Ghafla, live streaming television website Kenyamoja and newspaper website The Star  and respectively.

Renowned news brands not appearing in the Alexa top 50 ranking of websites in Kenya include People DailyCapital FMRadio Jambo, KBC, which has 14 radio stations that include the flagship Radio Taifa (Kiswahili) and KBC English Service, 12 other vernacular or regional stations and a number of television stations among others.

It has to be noted that NMG, Royal Media Services, Mediamax Network and Standard Group also have other news brands that do not feature in the Alexa top 50 ranking.

They include NMG’s Business Daily, The East African,  Nairobi News,  Kenya Buzz, NTV , Taifa Leo, Standard Group has other news websites like Standard EntertainmentThe NairobianTravelog and Radio Maisha. While Royal Media Services and Mediamax Network have other news brands mainly vernacular radio and television stations.

The intensified battle for the control of the digital advertising revenue by big media houses is interestingly being led by former NMG editors who include Ochieng Rapuro Standard Group’s Editor-in-Chief, Royal Media Services’s Director of Strategy and Innovation Linus Kaikai, Naim Bilal KBC Managing Director and Mediamax Network Editorial Director Eric Obino.

The national broadcaster has also appointed former Capital FM editorial director Michael Mumo, as its Radio Programmes Manager to help in the rebranding of its news products to align them with a digital-first business strategy.

News consumers are adopting a new trend called news-on-the-go that is accessing news through mobile phones. Image/REUTERS INSTITUTE

With NMG embracing a digital-first business model that replaces its pre-independence print media business model by rebranding its digital news websites, the stage has been set for a gigantic fight over the control of the digital advertising revenue in the local online media space.

While all local online news websites are relying on Google online advertising operations agency AdSense, NMG is said to be designing its own ad ops agency that is bound to make it a digital news behemoth in Africa.

The recent rebranding of NMG’s newspapers and its websites and social media platforms that includes a new look logo and domain among other news design changes is said to be the start of their journey to digital first journalism business model.

Data of daily print orders for Kenya’s leading newspapers that include NMG’s Daily Nation, Saturday Nation, Sunday Nation, Business Daily, Standard Group’s The Standard and Standard on Saturday and Sunday Standard, Mediamax Network’s  People Daily and Radio Africa Group’s The Star reveals that the print media is on a shaky trajectory and its future looks bleak.

While the COVID-19 pandemic is mostly being blamed for the bleeding revenues by Kenya’s leading media companies, a keen look at their past financial statements reveals most of them were aware of the looming catastrophe.

NMG CEO, Mr Stephen Gitagama, is expected to lead the company’s transition from print to the new digital first business model. PHOTO/COURTESY

Nation Media Group recently reported a record Sh 375.2 million net loss in the first six months ending 30th June 2020, due to a major drop in advertising and circulation revenues while limited advertising spend saw Standard Group report a Sh 306 million loss for the half-year ended June 2020.

Insiders at NMG say the recent restructuring of its operations was to prepare it to fit into a new tech-driven business model following the exit of former CEO Joe Muganda and the appointment of Stephen Gitagama as the new honcho at the Group.

The company is said to be preparing a new staff establishment structure complete with new reporting lines to facilitate a smooth transition from the print business model to the digital first new order.

The appointment of a new digital director in 2018, a British citizen of Asian origin, together with the appointment of Stephen Dunbar-Jonshon, a New York Times top executive to join its Board of Directors signaled NMG’s change of strategy as its revenues starting plummeting.

Local news organisations are investing in a digital future by restructuring newsrooms and diversifying business models to fit into the changing media environment around the world.

The transition from print to digital has presented challenges to media houses not only in Kenya but globally as they seek new sources of revenue and target new audiences.

The migration from print to digital-first approach is emphasizing economies of scale, pursued through the acquisition of a portfolio of different titles that, in aggregate, can draw the largest possible audience, which in turn are primarily monetized through advertising according to a 2018 report by Reuters Institute.

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