Elverfeldt will be speaking at the Digital Media Africa 2019 conference to be held in Johannesburg in September on the importance of keeping ‘Storytelling at the heart of East African digital monetisation’.
Based in Kenya, Elverfeldt has found herself immersed in a country with a bustling mobile economy that has grown significantly in recent years. Between 2017 and 2018, the country’s information and communication technology (ICT) sector has experienced a steady expansion from US$33.8bn to US$38.2bn.
Kenya’s role as a leader in the digital economy was acknowledged when it was tasked with developing a continent-wide digital economy blueprint by the Smart Africa Initiative which is driven by 25 heads of state.
Opportunities in Africa’s digital highway
The region’s fast-paced ICT developments make East Africa an exciting place for digital news such as Ringier’s PulseLive which is based in Nairobi.
According to Elverfeldt, not much has changed when it comes to the intersection between news and the African marketplace. “Originally marketplaces were always part of newspapers, and online publications still have marketplace elements and integrations.”
Ringier Africa’s platforms straddle across both editorial content and evolving digital marketplaces. Digital publications like PulseLive and Business Insider see themselves as marketers too, she says.
She says through this kind of partnership both the editorial and advertising aspects of digital media can innovate with more creativity while tackling challenges and taking on new opportunities. “I think digital news has a great future ahead,” she adds.
Low-income levels in Africa make it difficult for many to buy smartphones or data – and this has an impact on publishers’ ability to monetise content. The lack of development in the market means that ad tech also lags behind.
“It is sad to see that some technologies aren’t getting fully rolled-out in Africa yet. This makes it even harder to monetise content in these markets, where CPMs – the price of 1,000 advertisement impressions on a webpage – are already very low,” – Leonie Elverfeldt
Building enabling partnerships
The innovation hubs surfacing with increasing frequency in Africa’s cities also bring with them a new dynamic for digital news publishers. Because these hubs are supported by tech giants, who are also players in the industry, dynamic partnerships are being forged with the full knowledge that these ‘partners’ are also the competition.
It creates for an interesting environment, Elverfeldt says.
“On one side, we work with them as partners on the distribution of our content; on the other side, we have to clearly highlight our strengths – trusted brands, reliable quality content, individual and local customer service,” she says.
This, she says, means publishers have to be strategic as they now fish for advertising revenue from the same pond as their tech-giant ‘partners’.
Content is still king… and distribution, queen
The biggest mistake to make is to underestimate the importance that content still holds, even for strong, digital-born brands like Ringier’s Business Insider that have since expanded to have a global reach.
While tech partnerships can unlock lucrative distribution channels, brands still need to find their audience and then ensure that that audience is retained. Here, reliable and trusted content is the currency that buys audience loyalty.
Despite this, Elverfeldt says, it is still an exciting time and a time for creativity. She says the native advertising content created at Ringier’s Play Studio is specifically produced with potential brand engagement in mind.
“As a publisher, we know how digital engagement works and what the audience is looking for. We use all our expertise to create a similar experience for brands,” – Leonie Elverfeldt
Elverfeldt says that in the almost two centuries of Ringier’s existence, the most important lesson is that in order to survive and thrive, you must keep adapting your business model to global and local trends, while always prioritising customer needs. And that, she says, is exactly what publishers should continue doing if they are to tap into the new opportunities.
By Tebogo Gantsa, frayintermedia