Nigeria media space grapples with dwindling ad revenue, regulatory scrutiny – Report

By Ralph Tathagata

Reuters Institute Digital News Report 2024 has revealed that Nigeria’s media landscape has been grappling with challenges which include dwindling advertising revenues, greater regulatory scrutiny, and threats to press freedom. Adding that social media are widely used for news, but misinformation and hate speech present integrity concerns, the report mentioned that the country’s media space features a blend of traditional and digital platforms, with over 80 locally owned digital news outlets or startups.

This year’s report reveals new findings about the consumption of online news globally. It is based on a YouGov survey of more than 95,000 people in 47 countries representing half of the world’s population.

The report x-rayed the growing importance of platforms in news consumption and production, including more visual and video-led social media such as TikTok, Instagram and YouTube. It explores audience attitudes towards the use of AI in news, the role of creators and news influencers, how much people pay for news and more.

According to the report, in Nigeria, traditional media such as television and print have been losing reach and influence in recent years as digital and social media plays a bigger role in shaping public discourse. Even so, there are still around 100 national and local print titles, of which the best known include The Punch, The Nation, Vanguard, The Guardian, and The Premium Times.

“National broadcasting media in Nigeria, including both public and private entities, still remain primary sources of information for many Nigerians and often benefit from a perception of trust and credibility among viewers. The Nigerian Television Authority (NTA), as the country’s largest public broadcaster, maintains a wide reach through its network of stations across Nigeria. Private broadcasters like Channels Television, Arise TV, TVC News, and African Independent Television have gained prominence for their objective journalism and comprehensive coverage of news events, both domestically and internationally. In response to changing consumer preferences and technological advancements, Nigerian broadcast channels have embraced digital platforms to expand their reach and engage with audiences more effectively. Many of these national broadcasters now offer live-streamed channels on platforms like YouTube. Additionally, several broadcast channels operate 24 hours a day, ensuring continuous coverage of breaking news and events,” the report said.

It, however, stated that in recent years many Nigerians have been turning to online sources, driven by the increasing use of smartphones by one of the youngest populations in Africa.

“Our survey shows that nine in ten (91%) of our respondents access news online each week from traditional websites, apps, or social media platforms.

“Platforms like Facebook (75%), YouTube (70%), Instagram (58%), Telegram (53%), and TikTok (46%) have become popular and many use them to access bite-sized news updates and interactive content tailored to these mobile users. Additionally, podcasting has gained traction with popular news shows like Nigeria Politics Weekly and Nigeria Daily. Furthermore, media organisations are increasingly leveraging artificial intelligence (AI) to enhance content personalisation, to assist with fact-checking, and for customer support., which is one of the leading digital-born brands in Nigeria, uses AI to curate personalised news feeds, while organisations like Dubawa and The Cable employ AI to combat misinformation. These innovations underscore a paradigm shift in audience engagement and content delivery within the Nigerian media landscape.

“The publishing industry faces significant economic challenges from dwindling advertising revenues, prohibitive licence fees, and rising costs linked to the devaluation of the naira. The National Bureau of Statistics reported a headline inflation rate of 32% in February 2024, exacerbating production costs, squeezing profit margins for media companies, and leading to layoffs.159 Salary arrears for journalists can reach months or even years, according to the human rights group RSF, and the economic weakness of news organisations makes them vulnerable to undue influence by politicians and business people,” it stated.

“As businesses cut advertising budgets, several publishers, including THISDAY, The Guardian, and Vanguard, have introduced subscription models for their e-paper editions, but with charges as low as $0.30 per week revenue is limited and the exact number of subscribers remains undisclosed. Grant support from international organisations or non-profits such as the Nigeria Media Innovation Programme and the MacArthur Foundation helps support sustainability in the short term, but can’t be relied on over time. Initiatives include mentoring and capacity-building for digital startups and innovation as well as training support and advice on digital transition for the sector overall.

“Beyond economic pressures, press freedom violations abound in the aftermath of last year’s general elections. These include physical attacks on journalists, bombings of broadcast stations,161 and government sanctions against media houses. Lawsuits against media organisations and journalists, often stemming from allegations of defamation or privacy violations, are not uncommon. Organisations like Socio- Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP), Committee to Protect Journalists, and civil society organisations (CSOs) are actively engaging in legal battles to safeguard journalists’ rights and media freedom.162

The proliferation of misinformation, fake news, and hate speech on social media that was also a feature of the recent elections poses significant challenges to media integrity and ethical journalism standards. But newly proposed legislation, such as the National Broadcasting Commission (NBC) Act Amendment Bill, and the Social Media Bill have also raised concerns about censorship, prompting pushback from journalists and CSOs advocating for a free media environment,” the report concluded.


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