Being part of a paper presented by Myne Whitman at the Publishers Forum at the Garden City Literary Festival 2010
In Nigeria, the internet became available in the late nineties. According to a paper delivered at an ICT conference by Ndukwe (2005)1, in December 2000 there was only one licensed mobile line operator, no connected digital mobile lines, 18 operating internet Service providers (ISPs) and only 200,000 internet users in Nigeria. By 2004, this had grown to 4 licensed mobile line operators; 3.8million connected digital mobile lines, 35 operating ISPs and 1.5million internet users. According to the Internet World Statistics2, in June 2010 there were, 6 licensed mobile line operators, over 75million mobile subscribers, 400 operating ISPs and almost 44million internet users.
The question now becomes; how do the statistics above affect the Nigerian book publishing industry? The fact is that the traditional publishing model is fast becoming outmoded. They are being strongly challenged by the new social media powered by the internet with the ease of instant click-and-use. Ignoring the way things are done with available technology only means that an old model becomes obsolete even more quickly. By all measures, the amount of Nigerians online is a huge market that cannot be overlooked.
Many have said that the problem of book publishers in Nigeria is that people do not read. I beg to differ. Nigerians do read.
According to the monthly Webtrendsng.com report for August 20105, half of the top 10 websites were newspapers. In the top 50 of the same list, educational websites were making the strongest debuts, bringing more and more students online. In my opinion, these two audiences – readers and students – are the biggest target markets for the book publishing industry. Some suggest that by coming online, these people are using up time that would have been used in reading. I think that is looking at things wrongly. Consider that these social media sites are delivering to you captive audiences. Other industries like Nollywood and music tap into this, publicizing movie trailers on Youtube, and premiering singles on iTunes. If young people are spending most of their time online, then take the books to their favorite social media networks.
Wikipedia defines Social Media as “information content created by people using highly accessible and scalable publishing technologies that is intended to facilitate communications, influence and interaction with peers and with public audiences, typically via the internet and mobile communications networks.” The social media is important to any business or industry because there are customers out there, waiting for new ideas, to buy or implement, at the click of a button. The main social media forums include, message boards, blogs, bookmarking sites, online videos, and podcasting, and ideas spread on this media ‘virally’ – in huge numbers and no time. The most popular brands of those tools are Facebook, Blogger, Youtube, Twitter, Stumbleupon, etc.
In Nigeria, the traditional broadcast media include newspapers, television, movies, books, music CDs etc. Until recently, they were referred to as ‘mass’ media; the most powerful, quickest and most effective means to spread information. However, when compared to the new social media, these old models are sluggish and less scalable. Though still powerful, traditional media are gradually losing out against social media, as they prove to be less effective, more problematic and very expensive in allowing people to access or use information. It is time that traditional publishing begins to consider social media, not as a competitor but as a partner.
The traditional publisher offers some services to a writer/author including book production/pricing, distribution, publicity and marketing/sales using printers, publicists, and brick and mortar stores. In today’s milieu, this is no longer enough. They should consider the goals of any social media campaign such as reaching larger numbers, keeping their audience informed, allowing new visitors to sample products, sales, encouraging fans to pass along samples to others and finally, engaging their market so as to ensure follow-up. These planks are what any publishing business should consider in order to make the maximum sales.
Recently also, local web payment options have begun to make an appearance in the Nigerian internet arena with the opportunity to securely transact business (buying and selling) online. They include NetNaira, Surepay, Cash envoy, and the Virtual terminal Network which runs mobile, web and card services. In February 2009, of the 123 respondents to the Webtrendsng Internet usage in Nigeria Survey3, the percentage of people who bought things online was 19%. Fast forward to March 2010, half of the 1, 142 respondents to the Digital Lifestyle of connected Nigerians survey4 had completed online transactions. There are several sites that offer these sales opportunities the biggest being Taafoo.com. A few of these sites including Walahi.com, Naijareads.com, debonairbookstore.com (books and e-readers), and Kalahari.com.ng, also offer books (up to 90% are foreign) for sale.
The book publishing industry is at an advantage when it comes to social media in comparison with other corporate or consumer brands. The media thrives on content, which book publishers have a lot of. Most of them also already have fans that have read their books and enjoyed them. These book fans are loyal groups of people, passionate about their favorite authors. By utilizing some of these strategies, Nigerian publishers can get themselves up to date with the current social media milieu and become more relevant in the 21st century.
Image via the Little House Company