THERE’S a revolution going on in the newspaper industry all over the world.
Malawi is no exception where traditional newspapers have also introduced online editions alongside their print editions, writes Angella Phiri.
Elsewhere in the world, many long-established newspapers have entirely migrated to digital editions as competition hots up for breaking news that is increasingly coming out of radio, television and social media platforms.
“It’s a matter of survival,” is how one media expert put it. “Newspaper production is much more expensive and time consuming.
‘’Advertisers on whom newspapers depend for most of their revenue, are also turning increasingly to digital platforms whose advertising rates are cheaper, clearer, brighter and much more colourful.
“Besides, all that,” she said, “the newspapers are having a hard time to cope with how to deliver fresh news, which is often already on radio, on online platforms and magnified on social media platforms many times over by the time that the newspapers get onto the streets.”
Thus, major international newspapers such as the UK Guardian, the Washington Post and The Economist in Britain, are now in digital format. Only a few are clinging entirely to the old system of print editions.
Here in Malawi, consumers of news and advertisers are beginning to realise that online media are less costly than the traditional media.
With a K100 data bundle, for example, one is able to be on the Internet and read news.
On the other hand, a newspaper costs no less than K600. If one does not work in a company that buys newspapers, one would have to rely exclusively on radio, TV or digital media.
Radio and television are also not fully reliable alternatives, however, because of the constant blackouts that are affecting this country.
Handsets, laptops and tablets on the other hand, are more dependable alternatives.
Others in the media industry suggest that traditional newspapers and new digital media could co-exist quite nicely in Malawi and that they should be seen more like cousins than strangers.
“At the end of the day, the two can complement each other,” said one of the experts.
“Even though digital platforms alongside radio will always be streets ahead with breaking news, the conventional newspapers should still be able to continue to provide useful analysis of the issues behind the news.”
This is probably why long established newspapers such as The Nation and The Times introduced their online editions.
There is however, a completely new player that has been introduced on the local online scene and that is generating new excitement.
This is The Express, a fully-fledged online newspaper that is telling exclusive Malawian stories to Malawians at home and beyond.
With its unique all-Malawian stories and analyses, The Express is quickly gaining a large number of viewers and readers of Malawians as well as expatriates at home and in the diaspora.
In telling Malawi’s story, as its slogan spells out, the site cover categories of breaking stories, news, politics, business, travel, sport and entertainment.
It is also providing a vital service to unemployed youth in their search for jobs, by publishing their resumes and curriculum vitae for free, every Wednesday.
Founded in March this year by veteran journalist Alaudin Osman, The Express is not an ordinary online news platform.
“It should not be mistaken for a blog,” Osman explains. “It runs from Monday through Saturday and Sunday and updated as often as possible with a variety of fresh topics.”
The Blantyre-based online newspaper is a unique and exciting platform that should soon begin to attract advertisers in the private and public sectors, says Charles Dinnot Phiri, who is in charge of its business side.
Other unique and attractive features of The Express are its Facebook page and Twitter handles, as well as a site that has links to videos and audios where the audience can even stream live.
This is a development that brings variety and additional power on the site, a reminder that it is not only words that explain news, but even videos and audios.
This is a platform that could also be a game changer for political players in the run-up to the tripartite elections that are coming up just under a year’s time.
“Our aim is to have an active audience where consumers of news are able to participate and interact with each other while being informed, educated and entertained,” said Osman.