Attracting ads in Yemen [Archives:2007/1092/Reportage]

October 8 2007

Published by: the Arab Press Network wesbite
The independent bi-weekly Yemen Times gets 85 percent of its revenue from advertising. Deputy director Khairaldin Mohammad Alnsour tells APN about how the advertising department works and the paper's future plans to attract more advertisers – and readers.

Where do independent newspapers in Yemen place themselves on the advertising market?

I am not sure about other newspapers, but I will tell you about the Yemen Times. Since we target a specific market – the English speaking population, whether intellectual Yemenis or foreigners in Yemen – our task is easy, relatively speaking. Our target market looks more for brand value than price. Since we are the first English newspaper in Yemen, we have secured this image and clients come to us knowing who we are.

The problem is that often we lose out on “politically oriented advertisements”. By this I mean ads that come through influential politicians in the ruling system or political parties. For example, VIPs and businessmen who belong to the conservative party rather advertise in a newspaper or media that is in line with their political stance. This does not mean that they never advertise with us, however, we are not their first choice.

Another example is state advertisements such as national announcements, tenders, etc. They are directed mainly to the state-run newspapers or other official media, so we get a very small share of those.

To a certain extent we do, however, compensate for that through the businessmen who know that our readers are potential clients of theirs. Hence we maintain a good relation with the elite business sector in Yemen.

In some rare cases our independence is jeopardised because of news that could affect the reputation of some companies. For example, Yemenia Airways ensures that we do not publish news that criticise or play down their image. Some oil companies in Yemen do the same. We try to strike a balance between pleasing our clients but without compromising our independence. It is hard, but so far we have been doing well.

Are you pleased with the advertising market share of the Yemen Times?

If I told you that we are pleased with our share of the market I would be lying. We are doing fine, yet although the Yemen Times is one of the most reputable and recognized newspapers in Yemen there is always room for growth. Competition is also on the rise and because of globalization there is a chance that we cannot keep control of the English-speaking readership in Yemen in the long term. We would like to expand onto the international market and attract companies outside Yemen to advertise with us. We are planning on using the website as a first step to achieve this. However, since the Yemen Times in only distributed locally our external outreach is not that great yet.

We are also gradually working on attracting a new readership group: the young Yemenis who are eager to learn English. They realise the importance of a second language and want to enhance their skills. They constitute around 15 percent of our current readership and we want to expand this percentage so that we gain their loyalty and make the Yemen Times their first choice as they grow in their career

Advertisements aside, we try to diversify our income through entering other markets through providing printing services as well as seminar and event organization.

APN: How does your advertising department function?

The Yemen Times has its own specialized professional marketers and salespeople who work around the clock to secure advertisements. This is why 85 percent of our revenue is generated through ads. In addition to this, our reputation and brand name attract clients to come directly to us. For example, most of the job announcements and vacancies of international companies and embassies in Yemen are advertised directly through the Yemen Times since the clients know that our readers are potential employees.

The way our team works is that they go to potential clients and provide them with our tariffs and attract them with other benefits such as occasional features covering the company's news, events sponsoring or free subscription to the Yemen Times, etc.

We often go through an intermediate advertisement agency or person and have to pay commission. But it is ok, because this is the way things work in the marketing business in Yemen.

Have you recently implemented, or are you planning to implement, any particular strategies to attract more advertisements?

Recently our marketing manager and subscription officer visited the Al-Ghad newspaper in Jordan (APN article 01 August 2007). Al-Ghad is one of the most recent newspapers in the Arab world, yet it is has gained ground very quickly and is one of the fastest growing newspapers. Our staff came back from the visit with new ideas and strategies for the Yemen Times.

We are planning for a campaign to increase our subscriptions, using other media in Yemen in the campaign. Marketing-wise we also are working on a diversification plan to explore new clients. Another strategy is to gain the loyalty of companies and surprise them by providing them with services in connection to their business, such as return on investment from their ads in the Yemen Times and providing them with surveys that would help them in their marketing and service business.

Could you describe what the collaboration between the ad/marketing and the editorial staffs looks like?

If I were to describe the relation between the advertising department and the editorial department in one word I would say “war”. Obviously I am joking, but seriously speaking there is competition between the two departments over the space in the newspaper.

There are continuous meetings and one big meeting that takes place when planning the layout of each issue. Sometimes we have to compromise articles and news stories because of advertisements and this is very annoying for the editorial staff. But they understand that ads are the key factor that sustains us as an independent newspaper. And eventually the ads pay the salaries at the end of the month, so there you have it.

But at the same time – since the written matter is what makes Yemen Times what it is, we make sure the ads do not jeopardise our reputation and when needed we add more pages in the issue to include both editorial materials and ads.

Sometimes we have supplements in which the editorial materials and the ads have a common factor. On certain important occasions, such as 10 years of the Yemeni Unity, the ad department worked with the editorial department so that the materials and the ads were in line.

Other times we have what we call specialized supplements like the technical one, where accordingly most of the ads are about mobile phones, computers, etc.

Another way the advertising and editorial department work together is in information exchange. The editorial department generally uses the ad people to get a feeling of how some of the news and article are perceived by the business sector in Yemen. The ad department in its turn uses the editorial staff to write complementary news to lure certain companies to advertise in the Yemen Times, for example if a national company launches an exhibition for its products or receives international recognition.