As of September 2018, 175 print outlets are officially registered at the MAELEZO. This number is quite small compared to only two years ago when more than 400 titles were on the market. The decrease of print publications is not only due to a decline in circulation or in advertisement revenue - as advertisers started to channel their advertisements through online platforms.
It also was caused as the government even tightened the game for publishing houses: in 2016, it deregistered more than 400 newspapers and magazines, and requested them to register again. The Government deregistration move reduced the number of publications by more than 50% - and also had long-term effects. It seemed to have scared off new investors: in 2016, 26 print outlets were registered, down from 39 registered the year before.
High readership concentration puts risk to plurality
MOM looked at the Top 4 companies in the news-focused print market: Mwananchi Communication Limited (MCL) - under the umbrella of Nation Media Group - , IPP Media Group, New Habari (2006) Ltd., and the state-owned Tanzanian Standard Newspaper (TSN). They together reach through their news print outlets to XX.XXX% of the readership. MCL is privately owned and runs under the umbrella of Nation Media Group, which is based in Kenya and financed by the Aga Khan Development Fund. IPP Media Group is a private enterprise, which is owned by successful businessman Dr. Reginald Mengi. New Habari (2006) Ltd. is associated with the politician and businessman Rostam Aziz, while the shareholders are relatively unknown except some leads on their connection to Aziz.
The Government holds two daily newspapers, while the two major political parties are associated each with one daily (CCM: Uhuru, CHADEMA: Tanzania Daima). All in all, the government has registered 33 print outlets, while the majority are private ones (116). The remaining outlets belong to religious institutions.
Print in its niche
According to the Afrobarometer 2017, only 28 percent read a newspaper at least once a month. 56 percent never read newspapers. Illiteracy and issues of affordability have created a difficult environment for newspapers. The majority of Tanzanians, especially in the rural areas, view reading newspapers as a luxury, preferring instead to listen to the radio. Another factor associated with the dwindling of newspaper sales was the tendency by radio and television stations to review the newspapers of the day in detail instead of simply giving highlights.
Print outlets also quite literally remain in their niche: newspapers distribution to various parts of the country posed major challenges, circulation was and is limited to key regions.
Tanzanians like to read in Swahili – and about sports
Whenever Tanzanians read, they like to do so in Kiswahili. Newspapers in the national language have a wider range of titles for readers to choose from compared to English publications which were seen as targeting the elite. Only The Citizen and The Guardian are in the top 10 of print outlets that include socio-political news.
Among the top 10 of print outlets is a remarkably high number of sports papers – 5 of the 10 most popular newspapers only provide only news on football, basketball etc.