Malawi, the warm heart of AfricaMalawi government has set a policy to deny advertisements to Nations Publications Limited (NPL), publishers of daily Nation, Weekend and Sunday Nation newspapers, allegedly due to the newspapers’ editorial slant. Some adverts which were booked for publication in the papers had been withdrawn. According to Maravi Post, the Monday’s edition of the Nation hardly carried any government advertisement while its competitor, the Daily Times of the Blantyre Newspapers Limited group, carried several state advertisements.Considering the fact that the media in Malawi heavily depends on government advertisements to survive, this is a huge blow to Nation’s Publications Limited.

While I do not like the way government is treating NPL, I will not dwell on that aspect. I will rather concentrate on encouraging NPL to focus on online advertising where the opportunities are limitless and there are no hurdles from the government of the day in their way. If they play their cards properly, they can make even more money than they would make from government ads. They can also help to bring the much needed forex to Malawi. As someone who makes a few dollars online even though my blogging is very erratic, I know what I am talking about.

To begin with, NPL has been around for sometime and a lot of people know them and consider them as a credible source of news on Malawi. They have been operating their nationmw.net domain for some years now. Way back in 2005, when I was in South Africa, they used to be my first point of reference for news from home. And I am sure many other people used to visit their site as well. I used to enjoy reading Mr Edward Chitsulo’s Raw Stuff column in particular. But these days, their site is not properly maintained. Actually right now when you visit it, you will be greeted by the following message

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While their site is in this sorry state, their competitors, Blantyre Newspapers Limited group, have launched a new site (http://www.bnltimes.com/) which brings together all their papers (Malawi News, Daily Times and Sunday Times) under one domain name. Their site is becoming more and more popular by the day. They are also running several adverts.

For NPL to make it online, they must also overhaul their site and make sure that they publish news articles regularly and allow readers to make comments. Malawians in the diaspora and folks interested in Malawi want to read news articles on Malawi on a real-time basis. As of now, there is generally a lag of one day before the contents of the papers on the ground are published online. One wonders why this is the case when the contents of the papers are first in soft form before they are taken for printing.

The other advantage for NPL is that, because their domain has been around for a long time, their site has the highest Google PageRank (6/10) of all the online Malawi news’ sites. Both BNL and Nyasatimes have Google PageRanks (PRs) of 5/10. The newly founded Maravi Post is still on 0/10.0. Search Engine Optimization (SEO) experts will tell you how difficult it is to move from PR5 to PR6. NPL site’s superior PR implies that Google’s views the NPL site as the most important site for news on Malawi. For in stance, if the four sites publish a similar article, the result from NPL will appear first in Google search results, thereby driving more visitors to the NPL site than the rest. NPL can, therefore, make use of this advantage to draw more visitors to their site and maximize their online advertising opportunities.

They should also start putting up more images and videos in their articles. Articles which contain exciting images and videos tend to draw a lot of attention online. They can also set up a twitter account for themselves just like CNN, USA Today, BBC, VOA News etc. They need to have full time web department which should be taking care of all these issues.