This study investigated the advertising factor in the growth and development of independent newspapers in Ghana and used the Business and Financial Times, as a case study. Objectives of the study were firstly to ascertain whether newspapers operating in Ghana, a developing country, faced similar challenges as American and European newspapers. The study’s second objective was to find out the measures management of the Business and Financial Times adopted to mitigate these challenges and also find out the role advertising played in the growth, development and sustenance of the newspaper. After in-depth interviews with the Business and Development Manager and the Editor, the study found that advertising, content, events, sales and circulation accounted for the newspapers growth and development. The study also found that the newspaper faced similar challenges – low readership, circulation and penetration of the newspaper, limited human resource, technological advancement of online news, advertisers lag in paying on time and advertiser influence on content – like those in the global north. One challenge which was found to be peculiar to Ghana was newspaper review programmes on radio. Management of the Business and Financial Times employed distributing free copies of the newspaper, investing in newsroom, multimedia diversification and barter to mitigate these challenges. However, even though revenue from advertising was the biggest contributor to Business and Financial Times’ growth and development, advertising revenue does not come immediately newspaper space is sold to enable management plan their operations. The newspaper’s management therefore resorted to the employment of certain business strategies and measures such as events to generate readily available funds.
The overwhelming popularity of the internet, the booming of the free newspaper distribution and the multiplication of audiovisual media outlets are severely dwindling and damaging newspaper circulation figures (Carvajal and Aviles, 2008). The newspaper industry in Ghana is no different as it faces a myriad of challenges ranging from changing trends in advertising and rising costs due to the worldwide financial crisis to a decline in circulation arising from economic constraints facing newspaper readers and the advent of internet news (www.theghanaianjournal.com, 2009).
Advertising revenues have suffered a downward trend as a result of technological advancement particularly the advent of online news channels. Many newspapers that had proliferated the Ghanaian newspaper industry over the past few years have suffered as a result (Boah-Mensah, 2009). Boah-Mensah added that while many found it difficult to publish regularly, many others have folded up due to lack of advertising.
Picard (2004) argues that to ensure growth, publishers in the newspaper industry today are convinced that newspapers must be managed differently to respond to emerging challenges. As a result, many publishers have adopted a range of strategies that have further commercialised the industry, making commercial consideration equal to or sometimes more important than editorial quality or social concerns. Some of these strategies are visual text (Machin and Niblock, 2008),
business growth strategies (Carvajal and Aviles, 2008), news content (Picard, 2004) and advertising revenue (Bagdikian, 2000).
Branding of newspapers has become critically essential to the survival and growth of newspapers as patronage has been found to be heavily influenced by visual appeal. Kress and Van Leeuwen (2001) opined that we now live in a world that communication happens increasingly at a multimodal level. Ideas, moods and compositional coherence are realized simultaneously by the linguistic and visual mode. Machin and Niblock (2008) have also found that communication in its linguistic and visual modes have increasingly come to exchange roles and work together. They further assert that news does not have the role of bearing witness or documenting reality anymore. But rather readers of newspapers now find news as a reality that is designed to address them in the first place as consumers as what they read, both in content and form of address connotes values such as creativity, forward thinking among others. Newspaper publishers in turn have to think of those who buy their newspapers as consumers with aesthetic preferences rather than simply as readers (Machin and Niblock, 2008).
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