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Saturday, August 25, 2007

How The Nairobi Star Lost Its' Soul In A Crisis

So what happens to the smaller newspapers when the big boys are "bleeding?" Answer; things are worse for them.

My informed calculations indicate that the recently launched Nairobi Star is "bleeding" and "bleeding very badly."

It was assumed when this baby was on the drawing boards that the huge popularity of KissFM would lift the newspaper above the horrifying daily expenses of doing a full color newspaper without your own printing press. It is very clear that certain structural mistakes which were made when the paper was launched have come back to haunt them.

For instance full color may be desirable in all the pages, but it does not sell newspapers on its' own. Content does and the Nairobi Star does not have very much of it.

It I also clear that when hit by the angry reaction of its' readers in releasing the first issue, those making key decisions at the newspaper must have panicked and listened too closely t reader comments and suggestions, so much so that the newspaper lost it's very soul. The result is there for all to see. I find it extremely difficult to define the Nairobi Star. It has ended up being a newspaper without character. It is not the sexy tabloid the founders envisaged on the drawing boards and neither is it a better Standard newspaper (don't even mention Nation). It is a poor imitation of the Kenya Times with much less content but aiming to sell at the same price as the Nation. OUCH. Sorry if I sound too harsh, but that is the reality on the ground and the way many readers view it. Had it gone ahead and positioned itself as something different, we would now be talking a different story.

Talking of positioning, the Star was launched as "the daily magazine that looks like a newspaper" and yet has missed the opportunity to be Kenya's first authoritatively analytical newspaper. The truth is that this newspaper is very thin on features but has lots of news told too briefly.

I have worked in a newspaper and can empathize with what must be going on in the bowels of the Nairobi Star.

In trying to desperately stem the bleeding, nobody is pursuing story ideas that would have made this newspaper different. For example a story on why Kamangu so popular with the ladies these days would have worked quite well and raised circulation. Or an investigative piece on big names in big cars caught on Koinange Street after 9 pm.

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What has happened instead is that the newspaper has listened to readers who are not newspaper experts and they have cut drastically cut down on sex content without realizing that one of the things about sex is that everybody thinks it is dirty but guess who keeps the huge prostitution industry in Kenya going. Sex sells without fail and so does scandal.

I suspect that the Nairobi Star proprietor, judging by the circles he moves in, has found himself faced with that classic dilemmas many serious publishers have to face. This is whether to publish a newspaper that will not make him feel embarrassed when he is with his friends at the club or whether to publish a newspaper that sells. The most successful newspaper publisher in the world Rupert Murdoch has faced the same dilemma because most of his profits come from newspapers that his friends prefer to call rags and so at great expense he has acquired Newspapers like The Times and created others like The Australian which hardly makes him any money and more often than not lose him a lot of money, just to keep his sanity amongst peers. KissFM may be explicit but radio has a way of neatly segmenting it's audience so that everybody gets to listen to exactly what they want to listen to at a time that is convenient to them. With newspapers everybody sees everything and is and it is all "in writing."

In my view the crux of the problem at the Nairobi Star is the fact that proprietor Patrick Quracoo does not understand newspapers and it is not the same thing as radio, which he understand extremely well. Unless something different and drastic happens soon, I don't envisage the Star celebrating it's first birthday.

Other stories on the Nairobi Star In This blog;

Email analysis of the Nairobi Star

Leaked early info about the Nairobi Star before it was launched


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1 comment:

bloggeratti said...

A friend (a media savvy fellow by the way) commented about the Nairobi Star thus;
"Patrick Quarco has knack for proving his detractors wrong. Do not look at the Nairobi Star as an outright failure - you will be surprised. Quarco's deep pockets that could bankroll the Nairobi Star to infinity."

Shock on him!

We thought Stanley Njindo Matiba had deep pockets too - until the People went daily!
Basic economics dictate thus - as much as Kenyans are a sex-craved (going by the morning talk shows on radio)lot, how many of them can afford to fork out 560 bob a month just to fulfill their er, cravings?


Methinks the Nairobi Star should've been a weekly. When the people abandoned that market, no "mainstream" publisher ever thought of re-nyakua-ing it again, and it was happy-hour for the gutter press (read Weekly itizen et al)

Perhaps Kumekucha could take up the challenge (hint, hint)?

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