“Right now we have 55 million interactions, aiming for about 10 times more in the period to 2027. Our content will bring us those engagements, because we are moving into the wider African audience, and tapping into the global audience. We know it’s audacious, but we think it’s achievable.”
– Pamela Sittoni, Group Managing Editor, Nation Media Group, Kenya

Despite heavy tech and digital investment in 2023 – and numerous updates over the past 25 years – East Africa’s largest legacy media group found that “revenues still remain very much tilted towards legacy products, with print providing more than 80% of our current revenues, some coming out of television, and digital only 5%,” said Pamella Sittoni, Group Managing Editor of Nation Media Group in Kenya.

Sittoni discussed ‘Driving digital integration at Nation Media Group’, part of a larger discussion on Newsroom Transformation and Sustaining Change at WAN-IFRA’s recent World News Congress in Taipei.

She explained how the media house’s revenue breakdown led to reaffirming their vision, and defining their north star: to become Africa’s premier news destination – with a moonshot target of 500 million daily interactions across all digital platforms.

“Right now we have 55 million interactions, aiming for about 10 times more in the period to 2027. Our content will bring us those engagements, because we are moving into the wider African audience, and tapping into the global audience. We know it’s audacious, but we think it’s achievable.”

Founded in 1959, Nation Media Group (NMG) is the largest independent media group in East and Central Africa, comprising nine newspapers, three television stations across East Africa, several radio stations and a large digital presence, with about 55 million engagements in Africa and across the world.

Sittoni briefly outlined the group’s various digital transformation processes over the years – investing in business models, newsroom structure, leadership training, audience strategies and more, including the 2020 launch of Nation.Africa to replace the Nation.ke platform to entrench the brand’s extension aims.

“Our vision then, and now, is to be the media company of Africa, in Africa, for Africa. This means telling the world everything that’s going on in Africa; also explaining to Africa, what is going on in the world, and how it affects Africans.”

Finding true north

Since last August, the company has dedicated its focus to looking at how to transform into a truly digital company, with at least 50% of revenues from digital. “According to our North Star that 50% should translate to $55 million a year by 2027.”

Their North Star, says Sittoni, will see the company “transforming into the most trusted, empowering and innovative content platform in Africa; we want to reach 500 million daily interactions or engagements across all our digital platforms.”

This may seem unattainable, but NMG has several websites for all their platforms: “We have a website for the Daily Nation; for our business newspaper, for television stations across different countries… with this, combined, we hope to get to that 500 million daily interactions.”

Research and analyses suggests this could be achieved in two major transformation moves: newsroom integration, and content strategy – which would solve some serious existing headaches.

“We have about five newsrooms: one for every publication; a digital news section, a broadcast newsroom. We’ve not optimised our audience because we each product is competing for resources. And, in terms of technology, we realised that our broadcast technology does not speak to the print technology; the CMS is different. So it’s really scattered and part of that integration is getting the right technology that works seamlessly across platforms.”

Step one: integrated workflow

The first step in the transformation process was to integrate all newsrooms into a single team with one editorial direction, and central decision making.

This not only cuts out duplication – identified as a pain point in their research – it also helps simplify processes, notes Sittoni: “It will be one content generation process serving all our platforms. We also hope it increases efficiency and the longevity of some of our products as they are no longer competing against each other, but actually complement each other.”

It also eliminates the ‘silo’ effect.  “We moved from the linear structure, where every product had a different team, to just one team, led by a tutorial director, and managing editors in charge of different processes and functions, as opposed to being in charge of products – although we still have differentiated platform publications so we’ve retained a few roles to products.”

Now, NMG is working towards an audience-led approach, with clusters of expertise. “The business desk serves everybody across the media house, not just specific publications, and a single team covers each of the support functions.”

Step two: Content is key

“Quality over quantity” sums up NMG’s content strategy, with research suggesting the group focus on stronger, specialised, and more devoted content that serve all the platforms – and include a commissioning structure. 

“What we have right now is a bit of everything coming in from the writers, and we end up with content that we have really not thought through. We haven’t commissioned, to save on costs.” 

Now, NMG is looking at further investment in staff development.

The way forward, affirms Sittoni, lies in “ensuring that anything that goes into any of our platforms has been well commissioned, well thought through, well planned or very deliberate; we’re looking at content that can be consumed and that’s absorbed across all of Africa.

“We are very determined to be setting the agenda as opposed to recording events.” 

About Pamella Sittoni

Sittoni began her career at the NMG as a reporter in 1993, later chief sub-editor. In 2017, WAN-IFRA named Sittoni as laureate of the Women in News Editorial Leadership Award for Sub-Saharan Africa. 

She is a fellow of the Aspen Global Leadership Network, through the Africa Leadership Initiative, and  holds a bachelor’s in literature and anthropology and a post-graduate diploma in communication from the University of Nairobi. She also has a master’s in communication from the University of Leicester.

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