Newsletter No 22 14 March 2006
 
Readership & Circulation:
The Search for Readers and Advertising in Egypt

Al Masry Al Youm is considered by many to be the most professional newspaper in Egypt. Independence is the major motto of the daily. Stressing this characteristics through a TV promotion campaign helped the paper to increase its circulation and become the fourth most read newspaper in the country, behind the three state-owned dailies: Al Ahram, Al Gomhuriya and Al Akhbar. With a claimed circulation of over 50,000, Al Masry Al Youm is now seeking to establish itself among advertisers.

“Advertising revenue has to go up to 70 or 80 per cent and then I will be running a paper that is financing itself and that will not rely in the mercy of any single advertiser or shareholders,” says CEO Hisham Qassem.

The paper got a boost from a TV promotion. Since that campaign began in September, sales have remarkably increased, attracting more advertisements.

“We immediately saw a huge difference in copy sales. The campaign took the paper within two months from 7,000 to over 30,000 copies. We chose satellite channels like Rotana, Dream TV or Al Jazeera because Egyptian audiences prefer them, and then went to the Egyptian TV in Ramadan because of its series and special programs during this time of the year, when it has its biggest audience,” Qassem says.

Although the future of newspapers is in the population segment under 25 years old, the campaign did not target any niche audience. “All I wanted was readership,” he says.

Newspaper circulation in Egypt has been going down in the last years due to TV competition and their lack of credibility. “We have to revive readership. I want people to start reading. That is the publisher’s mission today, and not competing with each other,” Qassem says.

The motto of the campaign stressed that times are changing for the press in Egypt with the establishment of the Al Masry Al Youm independent newspaper. “Readers were hungry for a newspaper like ours,” says Ramy Botros, Sales and Marketing Director.

After increasing its circulation figures, the next step for Al Masry Al Youm is reaching that 70% increase in advertising revenues. According to Qassem, advertising revenue represents 40% of the paper’s total incomes. However, attracting more ads is difficult due to the characteristics of the Egyptian market.

“Most of the Egyptian marketing is done by editors and journalists,” says Ramy Botros. “It is about making editorial propaganda of advertisers and anti-propaganda of competitors.”

“They have destroyed the press by allowing these practices. Everywhere you go, the question of advertisers is ‘Ok… maybe you will do a little profile on me’. We have to convince advertisers that we are not here to do this, that we are here to promote their products. It is all we can do. It is a new type of sales,” Qassem says.

Al Masry Al Youm is working to convince advertisers to buy space on the only ground of effectiveness. “I am the only manager in Egypt working separately from the editorial. I gave myself a slogan: the advertisement will come because we are an effective channel. People advertise for more business. If they believe that I will increase the effectiveness of their ads, they may come to me,” says Botros.

Increasing circulation and credibility are paying dividends. “Two public relation companies wanted to sign a contract with us to advertise a minister’s campaign. They told me: ‘We go to you and Al Ahram, but we will allocate more budget to you because when you started, we asked you to place an editorial about us with an ad and you refused even if we would pay for it. Now, we want this national project to succeed and people believe in your newspaper,” says Botros.

However, Botros does not dare to speak about success. “I cannot yet say we are successful with advertisers. We are just one and a half years old, but I have benchmarks that tells me this is the right way.”