Survival strategies for keeping Alaroye afloat
Alaroye is no doubt a newspaper that has survived the murky waters of competition, economic hazards, unfavourable political situations and other challenges bedevilling newspaper publication and circulation in Nigeria. The interviewees provided insights on strategies devised by the publishers to ensure that the newspaper could continue to operate.
The representative of the publisher and others interviewed saw promotions as one of the effective strategies used by Alaroye to stay afloat. This ranges from sales promotions, which seek to push copies of the newspaper out to readers, and the pull strategy aimed at attracting the interest of the readers. One participant had this to say:
When the newspaper started, the company devised a promotional strategy, tagged Alaroye promo. The purpose of the promotion was to attract the attention of the people that read the paper, and a column was created where they would cut and answer one or two questions.
(Vendors from Lagos State)
We did that for, like, three times, but the economic situation of the country then stopped us and we gave out residues twice and other gifts to the winners -such as biro, fan, motorcycles, etc. - to attract the attention of the audience.
(Representative of the publisher of Alaroye)
With this strategy, many potential and existing customers might have been drawn to the newspaper, and it might have also served as an unintended development strategy of promoting the culture of reading. This is because, as many more people buy copies with an underlying motive of winning prizes, they are indirectlyimproving their reading capacity. As a matter of fact, the interviewees harp on this proposition in their comments:
As we promote Yoruba language, it positively affects the status and circulation of the newspaper. We organized a program called the ‘World Festival of Yoruba Language and Culture’, and people came from Brazil, Cuba, USA and other African countries. For those who came from the diaspora, they came to associate with their language and culture and show that they are part of the Yoruba tribe. It was an opportunity to also showcase Alaroye and seek collaboration.
(Representative of the publisher of Alaroye)
The newspaper promotes the indigenous Yoruba culture by bringing together people from different regions of the world to promote the reading culture and present Alaroye to them. By promoting literacy and Yoruba cultural re-engineering, the newspaper could be said to foster literacy, popularize local culture, serve a social development agenda and even develop the nation through tourism, in line with the roles of community newspapers identified by Anaeto (2008, 2011) and Dimgba (1991).
Deep, well-researched and popular content
The newspaper operates a grassroots policy of providing popular content that will attract thousands of their active and potential readers. There is a blend of historical analysis capable of stimulating national debates with travelogues, bizarre news stories with aspects of human interest and oddities, and humorous content for real entertainment. The interviewees opined that the content of the paper is not meant for artisans alone; the medium engages in a lot of research, as even some columns in the paper require that the publishers travel to London, to the British Library, to gather information that will meet the needs of the readers. This commitment to go the extra mile distinguishes the newspaper from its competitors. One participant elaborated on this:
Therefore, there are some columns that you will read and you can’t get the information elsewhere (in any daily newspapers in Nigeria). Today, the educated elites read the paper, beyond the impression that only artisans and market women are our readers. We get feedback from thousands of people in Nigeria, and when you get to universities, companies and other public places, the responses we get inform the packaging of our columns. Alaroye finds out what people are interested in: some buy the paper because of the back-page story, the column ‘ijoba solider’ gives past events about coups and countercoups in Nigeria from the military to the democratic era. So the contents are part of the strategy; as we give them what they do not have elsewhere.
(Vendors from Abeokuta, Lagos, Akure and Ibadan)
This explanation shows that the newspaper has understood market segmentation and differentiation for the purpose of meeting the needs of various groups of readers. It is therefore not a newspaper for poor or uneducated people interested in humour, but a delight of language experts, cultural researchers, historians and students who are interested in learning about the past. This function that Alaroye performs finds relevance with the submission of Anaeto (2011) that development journalism and cultural renaissance are promoted by community media. Furthermore, Salawu (2004) has identified lead headlines in bold type, dramatic headlines, a focus on tabloids, simple language, use of proverbs and rhetoric and rich content as lures used by indigenous language newspapers.
The drive to learn the Yoruba language
When Henry Townsend started his newspaper in 1859, he identified a development objective of teaching people to read by' promoting reading culture among its customers. Today, there is a general impression that indigenous languages are endangered in Nigeria because their usage declines, while that of English increases. To correct this imbalance, the mass media are saddled with the responsibility of engineering a change by promoting the writing and speaking of indigenous languages through their content. Alaroye uses this objective to its advantage by ensuring that more people learn and speak Yoruba by reading the newspaper. It targets schoolchildren, their parents and policymakers to accomplish this. Here is the position of the newspaper, which agrees with the development objective noted by Anaeto (2011):
Even some parents who are interested in making their children learn and speak the Yoruba language make use of the paper to teach their children. Management even went as far as visiting the Deputy Governor, who doubled as Commissioner for Education during the administration of Mr Babatunde Raji Fashola when he was the Governor of Lagos State. We tried to make an arrangement whereby' we can be supplying our newspaper to schools so that school libraries would have copies and pupils and students develop and grow the habit of reading, especially using the Yoruba language.
(Representative of the publisher, corroborated by vendors from Lagos State)
A network of correspondents
The newspaper is able to compete with well-known English newspapers in Nigeria also because of its league of correspondents. While some indigenous newspapers rely on selecting and translating some of the stories published by English newspapers as their news stories, Alaroye has correspondents in all the Yoruba states who gather news for publication. The newspaper also has volunteers employed apart from the correspondents who are in each state; for example, the interviewees report that there are three reporters in Osun and two in florin, among others. One participant further buttressed this position here:
So, when you are in a Yoruba environment or community, anything that is happening there, and you feel that you have stories for us, you contact us. For you to know that this strategy works, look at Alaroye for this week and you will see ‘Iroyin Ipinle Ekiti’, indicating that we have at least a page for news from Ekiti State, and this runs every week. The same is applicable to all the states in this region. You cannot do this without the activities of committed correspondents and eye witnesses who have agreed to immediately report to us when a news is breaking.
(Vendor from Akure, Ondo State)