New Times Rwanda has worked hard to increase engagement and boost readership.
As the country’s first English-language newspaper, New Times was established in 1995 to fill a need in a new era of peace and development. It is Rwanda’s largest private media house and remains the only English daily newspaper in the country.
During the two-day INMA Africa News Summit, sponsored by the Google News Initiative, Moses Kirui, sales and marketing director, explained how the media company used new products like its e-paper to grow in many ways.
New products have played a role in helping the company grow its readership, Kirui said. In addition to the print edition, New Times has an e-paper it introduced during the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic. It also has a quarterly magazine, a newsletter, a Web site, and a job board which, he said, “is growing very, very fast and earning quite a good chunk of revenue.”
With so many offerings, New Times has many ways to reach customers. But the challenge has been how to leverage them to “not only maintain the audiences and increase the audience reach but also to help us stay afloat and even gather more revenue.”
Kirui shared the company’s strategy used for its different products.
- Job board. Until 2017, the government was New Times’ biggest advertiser in terms of jobs — to the tune of more than US$100,000 a month. But when the government created its own online job portal, that revenue disappeared. “We came up with a job board, and this has helped a lot,” Kirui said. Now, it is talking with the government about collaborating so people can access the government portal through the New Times job board.
- Social media. Over the past three years, New Times has increased its social media presence. “We have teams that engage on a daily basis to make sure that we have engagements.”
- Podcast. Two years ago, the company launched the podcast Rwanda Check-in. “We are amazed at how people actually love to use a podcast. And this is really helping us to reach an audience that we had not tapped before.”
- E-mail blasts. The e-mail blasts share flash briefings as well as personalised and optimised audio content. “The growth is amazing,” he said. “We have more than 20,000 top executives subscribing to the e-mail blast.”
- E-paper. Created as a response to COVID-19 restrictions, this product was launched quickly and gained immediate popularity. Now, it has a large foreign subscriber base and is working with colleges and universities to provide it to students. “So, it’s working, and we hope to build it more and more and help us even get more revenues.”
- Video. New Times upgraded its one-man video team to a full-fledged unit and today, that allows it to provide relevant video clips for news stories. But it hasn’t stopped there: “We are actually producing videos for many customers and clients that are not really part of the news. So we’re trying to diversify our revenue stream so that we can … get more revenue.”
The job board alone has increased Web site traffic by 8%, and its other initiatives have helped it tap into segments that it couldn’t reach before, Kirui said. As hard as the pandemic has been, it also gave the company an unexpected revenue stream because it caused New Times to launch its e-paper. Many Rwandans live abroad, and while they didn’t have access to the print newspaper, they are subscribing to the digital version.
“Within this past two to three years, our subscriptions have really tripled because of the e-paper,” he said. “With the introduction of all these alternatives, we’ve been able to stay afloat.”
At the same time, New Times has looked at other ways to tap into new markets and create more revenue streams.
“Before, people thought of us as a traditional media house — just print. So we try to look for audiences, try to find them where they are. And because of that, we have more engagements and we have tapped into new markets that were not there before,” Kirui said. “And we are looking forward to a brighter future where we'll have more revenues as we continue to create.”
Complete coverage of the two-day summit can be found here.