Why newspaper sales are declining and how to revamp them

By Steven Masiga

While acknowledging the innovations by newspapers such as New Vision, particularly the routine school assignments to learners, especially around COVID-19, and expert teachers’ contributions that appear in the New Vision on designated weekly days, along with features like the puzzle page in New Vision and Daily Monitor, it’s clear that these efforts have endeared readers to them. However, the inclusion of stories from every part of Uganda on a daily basis could further boost sales.

As both a reader and occasional writer for certain stories in these dailies, I am troubled when I see vendors returning heavy volumes of unsold newspapers back to the marketing agents. This incurs costs on the company. I take this opportunity to encourage the marketing managers of these newspapers to conduct a longitudinal survey on the causes leading to declining sales in various districts across the country.

While it’s true that many readers of these daily publications, a significant number of whom have shifted to online publications, try to investigate the reasons for this shift, a scholarly investigation to ascertain declining newspaper sales or the loss of readers’ interest should be undertaken promptly. Without such an investigation, the survival of the media industry may be at risk. In other countries, even a slight drop in newspaper sales triggers serious investigations.

Mr. Bichachi, a community editor with the Daily Monitor newspaper about five years ago, conducted a study on how to improve newspaper sales. Some of us provided candid suggestions, and currently, Daily Monitor’s sales are slightly ahead.

One of the major issues affecting newspaper sales in Uganda is the emphasis on “Kampala” stories. For example, New Vision could go a full week without publishing a story from Bugisu, as one of the readers of New Vision lamented.

This sentiment was further validated by Subira, a bookshop owner along Naboa road in Mbale City. He used to read newspapers daily but has lost interest due to the absence of stories from Bugisu. This view was also supported by readers in Teso, who also want stories from their region.

The word “NEWS” comes from the acronym (North, East, West, and South). Once assembled together, you get news. However, many newspaper editors currently suffocate this narrative by focusing solely on one corner of the country. A local story from Bududa or Teso would capture the attention of a Muteso or Mugisu reader from that particular region more than a similar story from elsewhere. Newspapers must quickly balance their reporting if they are to continue in circulation.

Research can roughly be defined as the collection of information about a certain phenomenon, which will be processed to inform a decision. Newspapers must dig deeper into declining sales through detailed investigation or hire an independent firm to do this for them.

- Advertisement. Scroll to continue reading. -

Another major reason likely responsible for poor newspaper sales is that many editors have negative perceptions about their upcountry reporters, falsely assuming that a reporter who frequently sends stories is making a living out of such stories. This assumption is misleading and casts a poor image on such reporters and their stories. Situations like this amount to malice of the highest order.

Of course, there are situations where newspapers have gone into lampooning individuals, resulting in heavy costs. Constant lampooning of individuals may make certain sections of the public distance themselves from associating with such publications.

I recommended to Mr Wafula Bichachi of Daily Monitor that regional reporters or offices must have official means of transport to quickly arrive at the site of a story. Many reporters struggle with transportation issues and often rely on bodabodas or politicians for lifts, which may delay the breaking of a story or concurrent breaking of stories and hence division of clients.

We recognize that the media is important, and many feel very proud while holding a newspaper. All efforts must be assembled to ensure that newspapers printed should be sold. Failure to do so will render a long line of personnel in this line of duty from editors, reporters, marketers, and vendors unemployed and above all, fail to fulfill their role of informing the country.

To boost sales and revenue, efforts should be made to target schools. I have read audit reports from the Ministry of Education, including audit reports from districts and auditor general findings, alleging that government schools, especially secondary ones, don’t use procurement in identifying suppliers of items like foodstuffs and other scholastic items.

I believe newspapers can slice off advertising fees, and schools can entrust them with the responsibility of inviting suppliers. Under the PPDA, it is an offense to spend money beyond 1,000,000 without using procurement procedures. Audit reports indicate some schools use over 100,000,000 for the acquisition of foodstuffs without routing this through procurement. Newspapers can also encourage civic engagement by awakening the reading culture.

- Advertisement. -

Serious efforts are needed beyond sales and balanced reporting. Let NUP or FDC articles be published as they have their readership. Let academic research pieces be published as they have their readership. Encourage free speech in line with Article 29 in its entirety, and the industry will flourish.

Steven Masiga is a researcher from Mbale and a PhD student. Tel: 0782231577.

Do you have a story or an opinion to share? Email us on: dailyexpressug@gmail.com Or follow the Daily Express on or for the latest updates.


Daily Express is Uganda's number one source for breaking news, National news, policy analytical stories, e-buzz, sports, and general news.

We resent fake stories in all our published stories, and are driven by our tagline of being Accurate, Fast & Reliable.

Copyright © 2024 Daily Express Uganda. A Subsidiary of Rabiu Express Media Group Ltd.

To Top
Translate »