Cathy Ibal, is the Sales Director, Middle East, Africa, Southern/Central/Eastern Europe, Turkey and CIS, CNN International news.
In this interview with Emeka Aginam, she spoke on a number of things about international news and why African audiences are particularly interested in following the international news agenda.
How media audiences are following international news agenda
Just about anyone working in international news will tell you that we are living in an unprecedented news cycle, from big economic and political stories such as Brexit and the US Election to terrorist attacks in many corners of the world.
Even though we can receive countless news updates 24/7 from a variety of sources, audiences still look to trusted brands and news organisations to try and make sense of it all.
New independent industry research published this month by Ipsos shows that African audiences are particularly interested in following the international news agenda.
Whether on TV or digital, the Ipsos Affluent Survey Africa study found that upscale audiences across the continent are tuning in, scrolling down or sharing news in their masses. The survey is worth taking note of as it is the most significant of its kind on the continent, based on a sample of over 2,500 people from the top 15% of working adults aged 21-74 in seven African markets.
Trends across Africa
The survey names CNN as the #1 international media brand, not just amongst news competitors such as BBC or Sky News, business channels Bloomberg and CNBC, but also over media such as Eurosport, Nat Geo and Discovery. Researchers found that CNN reaches 60% of Africa’s affluent audience every month on TV and digital, and we’re the most popular international news source in key markets such as South Africa, Nigeria and Kenya. This interest amongst African audiences in international news was also evident in research that we commissioned earlier this year around international audiences and US Election. In Africa, 89% of respondents to the survey had followed the US Election story on CNN – either via TV, online, on social media or via our app.
Combining TV and digital
To serve this demand for international news, media owners are investing in an ever-growing mix of TV, digital and social across multiple screens and platforms. Take CNN – we started out as a TV channel over three decades ago but have shifted our approach from being purely linear to become a 24/7 multi-platform news organisation. We are as comfortable publishing bespoke content to Snapchat or an Apple Watch as broadcasting it to over 425 million households & hotel rooms worldwide through our TV network.
Africa is at the forefront of the changing media landscape and is one of the most exciting and fast-changing digital markets in the world. The Ipsos research emphasises this by showing that our monthly reach amongst the continent grows from 55% linear only to 60% when digital is added to the mix. Mobile is a fascinating area too, where Ipsos found that 17% of all affluent Africans access CNN via their mobiles, tablets or smartphones every month. As the world’s most followed news brand, we also know that audiences regularly discover news content through social media, particularly Facebook but increasingly through messaging apps.
Just as international news media operate a mix of linear and digital, so too is our output much more diverse than solely news. While breaking news is the core brand promise of a channel like CNN, it’s important that we also offer a range of supplementary original programming on TV and digital. This portfolio spans content around key premium business such as CNNMoney, CNN Style and CNN Travel but also includes no less than five strands dedicated to covering Africa – everything from culture to entrepreneurs. Diversifying our output gives depth to coverage of trends and issues, and enables us to drill deeper into topics we know that audiences care about.
The marketing opportunity
Almost all of the conversations that I have with brand marketers revolve around combining quality content, the right environment, and audiences at scale. The Ipsos research shows that international news media delivers on the scale amongst affluent audiences across the continent, and you only need to turn on CNN International or browse CNN Digital to see premium content and compelling original programming that brands want to align themselves with.
For marketers, there is an opportunity to capitalise on the exciting changes taking place in international news media. Long gone are the days of being confined to the 30 second spot ad. There is now everything from native advertising and dynamic ad formats on digital, to engaging social campaigns, to smart content partnerships and sponsorships that leverage the brand-building qualities of pan regional TV.
The underlining insights in the Ipsos research are just the latest evidence that international news media continues to be a powerful force that is evolving to meet the demands of both advertisers and consumers alike.