August 07, 2017 marked total divorce between the historic enigmatic and neo-colonial Messagerie de presse du Cameroun (Messapresse), a subsidiary of the French Pressstalis group on the one side and the national press on the other. In a press statement published mid-July this year by Messapresse, the company stated inter alia that it is bringing to a halt the distribution of local newspapers as from August 07. Having played the newspaper vendor role for several decades in Cameroon, the rupturing of the contract with local newspapers is something to worry about. And as fate would have it, publishers have not been at ease since the final divorce was pronounced. Whether this separation could be avoided is another issue, but the events that preceded the act leave much to be desired. Whereas Messapresse during a series of meetings with the Minister of Communication complained of poor turnover and losses incurred in the distribution of newspapers, 80 per cent of which remain unsold, publishes showered blames on the French tailored company accusing it of poor coverage of the national territory. At this point in time, the issue is no longer the unsold papers or the incapacity of Messapresse to effectively cover the national territory. The real challenge is how to proceed. As rightly stated by Haman Mana, President of the Federation of Cameroon Newspaper Publishers (Fédération des Editeurs de Presse du Cameroun -FEDIPRESSE) newspaper distribution is entirely a profession of its own. In effect, in a newspaper organization, there are various factors that determine the successful operation of the sales and distribution channels. Accordingly, even minor issues in these operations can adversely affect the newspaper. A customer may choose a newspaper for various reasons. The reach and popularity of a newspaper to a large extent depends on its distribution network. Newspaper distribution does not necessarily follow the wholesaler-retailer-consumer channel like many other market products. Unlike supply chains for many other products, which are retailer-driven, the newspaper and magazine supply chains are publisher-led. In particular, publishers appear to exercise a strong degree of influence over pricing at all stages of the supply chains up to recommending the margins earned by Newspaper vendors. This is where the real problem lies at this particular moment that publishers are taking up the distribution challenge. Going by the challenge, they have to decide and this should be a matter of emergency, whether to do the distribution themselves or look for a new partner. How ready are they financially speaking? Who can be these partners and what can be the terms of contract to engage in? These and many other questions must be dealt with if publishers want to avoid a business embarrassment.
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