Zimbabwe’s leading papers go SMS and USSD to cut operation cost

The Herald, a top daily in Zimbabwe, and The Sunday Mail, government owned weekly, are set to go SMS and USSD starting today.

The daily service will cost subscribers $3.50 a month and is already working to include Econet subscribers, which owns more than 70 percent of Zimbabwe’s mobile subscribers. Subscribers can also opt for MMS or log on to their mobile sites.

The two newspapers have also made presence on social media in addition to developing mobile sites, which they however acknowledge have not been updated and are slow to load on majority of phones.

The newspapers are run under Zimpapers, largest media house in Zimbabwe by circulation spanning newspapers, commercial printing, directory origination and publishing. Zimpapers also publishes The Chronicle, Sunday News, Manica Post, H-Metro, B-Metro but despite its flagship portfolio the media house recently reported a $2.3 million loss due to high operational costs.

The firm’s gross profit margins declined to 64.2% from 66.7%. The Newspaper Division reported a loss of U$0.8m while the Commercial Printing unit posted a loss of $1.4m. The state of the Media says that the newspaper production cost went up nearly 30 percent in early 2011.

The SMS and USSD would be a great move to retain the firm’s advertising revenue, which contributes to approximately 60 percent turnover.
Zimpapers group is not the first to try to move away from the conventional way to retain its advertising clients. The National Newspapers of America shows that in 2009, newspaper advertising profits had fallen by 40 percent from 2003, while digital revenue accounted for 11 percent of the total industry ad revenue and the trend is set to grow.

This could be the reason Zimpapers is moving SMS and USSD.

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