When Sapress started distributing Moroccan daily press back in 1977, there were just five national newspapers in the country, all of them mouthpieces of political parties. Today, Morocco has 21 dailies, several of them independent. The company founder and CEO, Mohamed Berrada, had a clear motto when he first started: “A newspaper for every citizen.”
“In 1977 there were more French newspapers in the country than Moroccan. That is why I proposed that publishers of the Moroccan newspapers create a new distribution network. It was a way of fighting for our country. Now, I can say that Sapress has contributed to the development of the Moroccan press,” says Berrada.
“We have tried to create a distribution system at the same time modern but popular. The older distribution company had an idea of distribution quite old-fashioned. They would just distribute newspapers in big avenues and main streets. Sapress, in its commitment to give every Moroccan a newspaper, started selling newspapers in every district, including the most humble,” says Berrada.
Sapress started with 120 sales points nationwide in 1977. Today, there are 1,200 in Casablanca alone, and 7200 nationwide. “Sapress has helped encouraging newspaper reading and the appearance of new newspapers targeting different segments of the population,” says Berrada.
Modernizing the network has been another key for the success.
“I say our network is modern because computerizing is the only way to professionalism. When you have more than 7000 sales points you have to deal with unsold copies every day. In order to optimize newspapers production, you have to control how many issues each newsstand is selling and returning in a daily basis. We created our own computerized managing system in 1991,” says Berrada.
He points to the company’s dealing with unsold as one of its big successes. “The former distribution company would return unsold copies once a month. We do it every day and provide sellers with a number of issues according to their average performance.”
By doing so, Sapress has been able to avoid risks for publishers, especially when it comes to ‘renting newspapers’. “The only way to fight it is to control unsold copies and adjust copies distributed,” says Berrada.
This practice not only helps fighting ‘newspaper renting’ but also can contribute to increase newspapers selling. “The day you cannot rent your newspaper, you will have to buy it,” says Berrada.
Sapress was born is a cooperative whose share-holders are publishers.
Berrada, who was the president of the French distribution company operating in Morocco, Sochpress, decided to leave it along with the publishers. “We faced many obstacles. On one hand, Sochpress watched us as a commercial competitor. On the other, our presence would lead to less influence of the French press in Morocco.
“Furthermore, the newspapers that took part in the establishment of Sapress were mainly from opposition parties and the government did not want them to take that step towards independence. Our major tool in this struggle was our conviction that Morocco needed a better press that could reach every citizen,” Berrada says.
The company is serviced by 24 agencies in the major towns. Everyday, 24 trucks provide the agencies with the newspapers. Today, Sapress distributes over 20 newspapers and more than 250 weekly and monthly magazines, both Moroccan and foreigners.
When asked about the situation of the press in Morocco, Berrada is aware of the remaining work to do. “The Moroccan press is in its very beginning. We have a very low number of newspapers compared not only to European countries but also to our neighbor Algeria, for instance. There is still a long way to go.”
He is, however, optimistic. “We have new journalism schools producing a new generation of professional journalists. Newspapers are investing in technology and means. A regulation for press groups is about to be approved. All this is making the Moroccan better and better in terms of both content and production.”