Katsina newspaper vendors groan as social media erode sale

Katsina newspaper vendors groan as social media erode sale

Newspaper vendors across Nigeria are reeling from a decrease in patronage and revenue as readers increasingly turn to the internet for news and other information items.

A cross section of newspaper vendors in Katsina interviewed by PREMIUM TIMES said a combination of the intrusion of the internet and the economic hardship in the country is threatening their trade.

Sama’ila Muhammad has been in the business for 15 years. He told this reporter that life has not been good for him especially in the last five years because buyers have kept decreasing.

“We thought it would not affect our business because we were so sure that readers would keep buying newspapers. But as time went by, it became clear that even the newspapers themselves (newspaper organisations) were beginning to accept the fact that things had begun changing.”

Mr Muhammad said their challenges started when newspaper organisations started reducing the number of copies sent to Katsina, and then some stopped sending copies altogether.

“Even those who buy the newspaper in bulk (distributors) started complaining, not to talk of we who depend on them to do the business.”

More unsold copies, less income

Katsina metropolis used to have about 15 vibrant newspaper stands. A visit across the stands showed that patronage has drastically reduced and affected the volume of business done there.

Aminci Ventures is the unofficial headquarters of newspaper vendors in the state where delivery vans and vehicles of newspaper organisations drop copies every morning for circulation across the state. A few years ago, one would find vendors swarming over bundles of newspapers and magazines or people trying to buy or do free reading.

“The story has changed,” Shamsu Kabir, the chief attendant at Aminci Ventures, said. “Peoples no longer rush to buy newspapers and magazines because of the online newspapers all over the place. Sometimes, even before the newspapers are brought from Kano, you would have heard all the stories in the day’s issue, unlike before when people had to wait for the newspapers to be brought.”

Speaking further, Mr Kabir said the new media is the reason some people no longer buy newspapers, saying though the economic situation is also a reason.

“Newspaper is not expensive. I don’t actually buy the talk that people don’t buy newspapers because of economic situation. I know there are issues affecting the economy, but if not for the online media, people would still be buying newspapers.”

Mr Kabir said before the advent of the new media, all broadcast organisations in the state bought newspapers and magazines from them, lamenting that it is no longer the situations now.

Another vendor, Sani Muhammad, who sells newspapers on Mani Road by Shema Petroleum, said he had been facing challenges due to low income.

Mr Muhammad, who has been in the business for close to two decades, said he had to devise new means of selling his copies to avoid more challenges.

“I used to sell 30 to 40 copies on a bad day. I was very popular,” he recalled wistfully. “But these days, even with the people I take the paper to their homes, I hardly sell 15 copies. And I have people who I follow home and office to give them their copies.

“To be frank with you, we are just doing this to keep body and soul together. But what do we even get in this business?”

Readers, broadcast organisations shun print versions

But the grief of the vendors appears to be the joy of others. PREMIUM TIMES visited a private station in the Katsina metropolis to interact with its news and current affairs staff on the issue.

Abdurahman Jani, who is the head of News and Current Affairs, Vision FM 92.1 Katsina, said they no longer buy newspapers to lift news for their bulletins.

“We mostly rely on the websites of the newspapers to lift our stories because it is the same thing that appears on the pages of the papers. The news mostly come fresh these days.”

Lawal Zango, a retired civil servant, said he hardly buys newspaper these days. Instread, he said he follows trends and breaking news through his phone and laptop at home.

“I buy newspapers but not regularly. May be twice in a month. Sometimes, you buy the newspaper and find out that you have read almost all the stories in their website the night before.”

Another respondent, Aminu Dogo, said he used to read a lot of newspapers in his father’s bedroom. But that is no longer the case because “even my father no longer buys it these days. I started buying it for like three or four years, but why should I be wasting my money and wait for the newspaper when I can read everything online?”

Online journalism here to stay

Hassan Male, is a lecturer in the Department of Mass Communication at the Hassan Usman Katsina Polytechnic. He was a practising journalist before switching to teaching.

According to him, the advent of online journalism has greatly affected newspaper and magazine circulation, noting that “online journalism is the future globally.”

“News stories from newspapers are stale on arrival unlike online news stories that are characterised by up to the minute reportage. This perhaps is the reason why many people, private and public organisations in Katsina, including the local media stations, rely on online news platforms for breaking news,” he said.

He,however, said he believed newspaper would still be around for years to come. “Only that their income from circulation will be decreasing because of the situation.”

On what the newspaper vendors should do to survive the trend, Mr Kankara said they should look for side jobs to do.

“They should look for more income generating businesses because of the decline in the newspaper business occasioned by the advent of online newspaper platforms. The world is faster, convenient and accessible now. Thus, with your smartphone you can access the globe without straining your eyes on newspaper pages.”

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