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The relationship between communication, readership and development cannot be overemphasized because development agents not only read, they also communicate such knowledge to the people. Newspaper is one of the media for such knowledge communication. This study x-rayed the effects of online publishing for the period 1997 to 2013 on the sales and revenues (profitability), employment, capital investment as well as productive and technical efficiency of The Punch and Thisday newspapers in Nigeria. The study analyzed annual averages including the median averages before and after online publishing, testing and validating the values using t-test and the two-tailed Wilcoxon signed–ranked test to ascertain the significance of the changes in the observed variables before and after online publishing process. The study also utilized trend analysis for revenue analysis and Data Envelopment Analysis (DEA) for productive and technical efficiency analysis. With secondary data through on-site visits, interviews, and mails from the two newspaper houses, the study found that online publishing has significant effects on sales and revenues (profitability), capital investments as well as productive (operational) efficiency of the two Nigerian newspapers. Conversely, online publishing has negative effects on employment and technical efficiency. The study recommends a reduction in cover prices of newspapers which can be possible with intervention in the reduction of production costs and training sessions for media practitioners as well as the introduction of Digital Subscription Model (DSM) by these newspapers, for their online version.
1.1 Background of the Study
Newspapers, especially in the less developed countries of the world, serve as the mouthpiece of the masses. Rogers (2004) observes that newspapers are some of the strongest links between the leaders of a nation and the people, complementarily enhancing effective communication between them, to ensure the people’s participation in governance. They bridge the gap between the leaders and followers, allowing for joint actions and inactions in policy making and implementations for peaceful coexistence, and consequently, economic growth and development. Newspapers enable the people to know and keep records of government activities over a period of time. The people also voice their opinions through newspaper publications, through which the leaders get to know what the people want and expect them to do for the development of the country at large. To this effect, damage to the newspaper industry, is damage to the relationship between the masses and their leaders (Tsav, 2011).
Prior to the emergence of newspapers in the early 17th century, news stories and indeed all the activities of the governments across the globe were not formally recorded in decipherable ways. Only a few unofficial bulletins, which were handwritten newssheets, were circulated at long intervals among the most famous empires. This was not good for the participation of the masses in the process of governance. Onyia (2011) records that, before the introduction of newspapers, the people were left in the dark, as to what was happening within the realm of leadership, as against the widely preached participation of the masses in the process of governance, which brings about collective and even development, but since its introduction, development experts have continued to disseminate their development messages through the newspapers. With the birth of newspapers in the 17th century, which impressively replaced the handwritten newssheets and were made available for the people, people began to participate in governance and this later ignited development communication, which is highly needed for national growth and economic development. Newspapers help to keep records of a country’s activities and such records help with the knowledge of where the country used to be, where it is and where it is likely to be in a foreseeable future (Alfred, 2005).
The introduction of newspapers was a welcome development because of its job of gathering and disseminating information and keeping records of the activities of the government. Anietie (2012) posits that, the importance of keeping accurate records is fundamental to the growth of any man, group, institutions and/or a nation at large, without which growth and development becomes hard to achieve. An up-to-date database is the most useful resource in planning for growth and development. Records tell about the success of past campaigns, the improvement in present campaigns and the helps of to predict the future. It helps in monitoring a nation’s growth rate and most important of all, record keeping is one of the most resourceful advisers on development matters.
Bridge (2011) opined that, in most developing countries, newspapers are arguably the easiest and best way of keeping records of the day-to-day activities of the offices, especially those of the governments. This is as a result of the lack of safe and reliable electronic databases which help us to keep information in electronic form. This explains why almost every office in the developing countries often has a drawer or even a store where hardcopies newspapers are carefully kept for future references (Anietie 2012).
Across the world, the business of newspaper publishing seems to have so far been relatively successful and this success can only be attributed to the patronage the industry has always received from the readers. Generally, the survival of any company/industry depends, to a large extent, on the demand and/or patronage placed on such company/industry by the people and newspaper industry is not an exception (Emmanuel, 2001; Rogers, 2004; Sheminenge, 2007).
In line with this progress, Samuelson (2005) suggested that the patronage enjoyed by newspapers since its introduction in the 17th century encouraged the introduction of magazines in 1731, with the publication of The Gentleman’s Magazine. The first editor of the magazine was Edward Cave under the penname Silvanus Urban. This led to a decline in newspaper production and distribution, firstly in England and then in many other European countries where newspapers were in existence. This was the first and one of the greatest threats to the patronage enjoyed by the newspaper industry across Europe and other English speaking countries. Despite this, newspapers regained their ground and have continued to exist over the years.
Another blaring threat to the survival of newspapers in some countries of the world is illiteracy. This incidence has continued to hamper the success of newspapers in many countries of the world. UNESCO (2012) has lamented the problems associated with world illiteracy, reporting of the group known as the E9, which is made up of the countries with the largest illiterate population. They include Bangladesh, Brazil, Egypt, Nigeria, China, India, Indonesia, Mexico and Pakistan. Most worrisome is the fact that these countries make up 50% of the world population. The UNESCO (2012) reports that, only 61% of Nigerians are literate (that is, can read or write with understanding). This means that newspaper patronage only comes from this few. This ugly incidence is experienced in so many other countries of the world and this has always posed a threat to the survival of newspaper industry (Tsav, 2011).
Bridge (2011) laments that, in the 20th century, most military governments in different countries of the world also posed one of the most serious threats to the survival of newspapers. Newspaper publishing companies were directly forced by the then military rulers to either remain pro-government even when the governments were not performing well or shut down their businesses. Being pro-government in such situation attracts hatred from the masses and this leads to low patronage, which in turn could lead to liquidation. The consequences of such liquidation are appalling and unthinkable to development communication experts across the world.
Non-professionalism, resulting from poor quality of workers being recruited into the newspaper industry, also affects the income and consequently the survival of the industry. When the quality of newspaper articles, news stories and advertisements are poor, the buyers will definitely be bored while readying the newspaper and this could lead to poor patronage from the buyers and readers. The readers will likely turn to other media (television, radio, magazines, among others) whose works are properly done and who can satisfy them with quality articles, news stories and advertisements.
In Nigeria, violence, thefts, vandalism and terrorism have posed a great threat to the survival of newspapers. Recently, a terrorist sect, the Boko Haram, claimed responsibility for an explosion that took place in the offices of This Day and The Sun newspapers in the northern part of Nigerian, forcing the two offices to shut down over a period of time. This sort of incidence could force newspapers to start writing well about such a heart-hardened terrorist group which has claimed so many lives and destroyed many properties worth millions of Naira in the country. Writing well about them does not just give a bad image to the newspapers, but also leads to poor patronage, because no right-thinking individual will like to buy a copy of newspaper praising a terrorist group that has killed all the members of his family.
The factors described above have all affected the outputs and consequently the survival of Nigerian newspapers in one way or the other. And then, in 1995, UNESCO introduced online publishing when it brought in the Regional Information Society Network for Africa (RINAF) (then called Regional Informatics Network for Africa) as a framework to support African co-operation to promote academic and public sector computer networking. But the Internet became a reality in Nigeria in the late 1990s; with Obafemi Awolowo University being the first institution in Nigeria to have its own VSAT internet link (Kusa, 2010).
The practice of online publishing also known as electronic publishing or web/internet publishing has become very common everywhere, including Nigeria, though not without its own challenges because not very many Nigerians and inhabitants of developing and less-developed economies have access to the internet just as not very many of them are literate enough to shuffle the web. Online publishing has changed the process and speed of news gathering, editing and publications processes. But experience has shown that many online publishers, sometimes put their publications online and then, keep on editing the piece as time goes on, with readers already having access to the publication. This comes as news updates. Ajimobi (2011) records that, in online publishing, there is no “final” product as errors can be corrected after publication, and quiet unlike it is in print publication.
Because editing can be done after publication in online practices, online news publication requires constant upkeep and redresses in the name of updates. Links need to be tested regularly in order to avoid what Information Technologists call “linkrot”. Sheminenge (2007), Ajimobi (2011) and Bridge (2011) are of the opinion that, because online publishing is a fairly new field, there are no set standards deemed a quality layout format. This can be seen as both an advantage and a disadvantage. As an advantage, we can understand this to mean that there’s more room for experimentation and improvement. However, as a disadvantage, publishers do not know exactly what readers like and dislike, what keeps them there and what chases them away. So, while your content might be great, your layout could chase the readers away, and vice versa. Online publishing, according to Tsav, (2011), is still a volatile situation without any standards to rely on.
Minot (2014) records that, irrespective of the fact that online publishing came with speedier news gathering and publication, timeliness, free publications for readers and others, it has its disadvantages as well. These disadvantages, he noted, include the fact that breakdown of the website can lead to a massive loss of all the publication, unlike printed copies of newspapers where news stories last for as long as we can keep them. Another similar disadvantage is that internet hackers can illegally gain access to a system, and re-write the news contents and giving the intended readers a different storyline and consequently damaging the publishers’ reputation/public relations activities. Online publications are also out of reach to the poor who either do not have access to a computer set or the internet. But printed newspapers give poor ones the chance for at least a glance over the pages. For example, those who do not have the money to by newspapers often go to newsstands and read news stories free.
Due to these shortcomings of online publishing, some publishers now chose to practice both online publishing and print journalism. In the meantime, some newspaper publishers who have gone online have been extremely cautious, with one foot in the hardcopy printing and the other in the online publishing because no one seems to know exactly where the industry is heading to (Tsav, 2011). All Nigerian newspapers belong to the group that practice both online publishing and print journalism at the same time, with none entirely practicing online publishing so far.
Online publishing may have some effects on the revenues of Nigerian newspapers if its introduction has led to a change in the sales and/or revenue of the newspapers. In other words, online publishing may have some effects on the income, if it has affected the number of copies sold per day, and the advertising rates, slots or space, which is one of the main sources of income to the newspapers.
On the contrary, the introduction of online newspaper publishing may not have any effects on the revenues of these newspapers if their revenues keep growing. It may also have no effects on the revenues of newspapers in Nigeria because not quite a good number of Nigerians have access to internet, just as not very many are literate enough to shuffle the web.
1.2 Statement of the Research Problem
In recent years, most Nigerian newspapers have embarked on online publishing. Anietie (2012) recounts that, Nigerian newspaper publishing companies embraced the practice of online publishing following the recent improvements and mainstreaming of technological devices in the country. They do not just place news and advertisements on their individual websites; they also share the links to such online publications on their Tweeter handles, YouTube and Facebook pages. In Nigeria, the Digital Subscription Model (DSM), which ensures that online readers pay a reasonable amount of money in order to have access to online publications, has not been introduced, making online publications free for those who have access to the internet.
Mathew (2006), Mahmud (2009) and Mark (2010) posit that almost in all incidences, the way and manner development messages are communicated is often more important that the message itself. No matter how important and accurate a message is, if poorly and/or wrongly communicated, its content would be lost and its need jeopardized, and this would consequently hamper our development efforts. In effect, the way a message is communicated is as important as the content of the message itself, if not, in essence, more important. This explains why government and its leaders very often attach unquantifiable significance to the processes of conveying their policies. This is because if the development messages are not well communicated, the policies would lose its widely expected support (Mahmud, 2009).
In journalism, whenever they discuss the difference between communication development and development communication. It is so often said that the two are inseparable and therefore cannot survive without each other. The former talks about the improvement in the ways we communicate while the later talks about the use of communication to bring about development, and most importantly, the two are inseparable in the field of development studies.
Good communication improves readership, readership improves knowledge and knowledge brings about development (Mahmud, 2009 and Lekan, 2011). And lately, there has been a global debate on whether or not the practice of online publishing has any effects on readership of newspapers, especially in the less developed countries, considering their literacy levels. Newspapers are popularly known to development agents as viable instruments for the education of the masses, and are undoubtedly good instruments for the improvement and conveying of development communication messages by development agents (Tsav, 2011; Onyia (2011) and Bridge, 2005). As humans, we have to read if we are to develop. Thus, the more educated a man, the more development-friendly he is and vise versa (David, 2009). In the light of this, a drop in the readership level of the people as a result of the introduction of online publishing means a drop in the likelihood of the people to either develop or be developed and a rise in the readership level of the people as a result of the introduction of online publishing means a rise in the likelihood of the people to either develop or be developed.
If online publishing negatively affects the readership level of the people, it will definitely affect the sales outputs of newspapers in Nigeria, and will also affect the revenues of the publishing houses and hamper their survival. Bridge (2011) records that, between 2009 and 2011, the United States has seen a number of major metropolitan dailies shut down or drastically pruned because of diminishing sales. These include The Rochy Mountain News and The Seattle Post-Intelligencer, two of US most widely read newspapers, and just as close to 75 provincial newspapers in the UK have closed shops within the time frame as well.
Tsav (2011) also laments that in the past five to six years, some notable Nigerian newspapers have been sold out by their original owners, with the new owners vehemently battling for survival. Could this be as a result of the emergence of online publishing? Lekan (2011) prayed that the revenues of Nigerian newspapers and consequently their income may not have been affected by online publishing, because if it does, many newspaper publishing companies in Nigeria will soon shut down and a large number of offices will be left with few and unsafe means of keeping records which will undoubtedly hamper economic development in the country.
A study by Sobowale and Adim (2009) revealed that, considering the production and distribution costs of newspapers as well as the salary frames of Nigerian newspapers in relation to their advert rates, a newspaper publisher must record daily sales of, at least, two hundred thousand (200,000) hard copies in order to survive the trends of online publishing.
These previous findings have necessitated a thorough analysis of the effect of online publishing in Nigeria, on the sales, revenues, efficiencies and employment of major newspapers using top newspapers like ThisDay and The Punch newspapers. Has the introduction of newspaper online publishing in 2005 affected the sales and revenues of these newspapers outfits? Has online publishing affected employment and capital investment levels of these newspapers? Similarly, has online publishing affected the technical and productive efficiency of these newspapers? These are some of the questions this study seeks to provide answers to.
1.3 Objectives of the Study
The main objective of this study is:
1. To determine the effects of online publishing on the sales and revenue (profitability) of The Punch and ThisDay newspapers in Nigeria.
Other specific objectives are:
2. To determine the effects of online publishing on the employment levels of The Punch and ThisDay newspapers in Nigeria.
3. To determine the effects of online publishing on the capital investment of The Punch and ThisDay newspapers in Nigeria.
4. To determine the effects of online publishing on the technical and productive efficiency of The Punch and ThisDay newspapers in Nigeria.
1.4 Research Questions
1. What are the effects of online publishing on the sales and revenues (profitability) of The Punch and ThisDay newspapers in Nigeria?
2. What are the effects of online publishing on the employment levels of The Punch and ThisDay newspapers in Nigeria?
3. What are the effects of online publishing on the capital investment of The Punch and ThisDay newspapers in Nigeria?
4. What are the effects of online publishing on the technical and productive efficiency of The Punch and ThisDay newspapers in Nigeria?
1.5 Research Hypotheses
The following null hypotheses guided the study:
Ho1: Online publishing has no significant effects on the sales and revenues (profitability) of The Punch and ThisDay newspapers in Nigeria.
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