Morocco: Market leader in less than a year

Zineb Hmouna, Head of Communication and Marketing at the Massae Media group, explains how Al-Massae became Morocco's leading newspaper in only a few months time.

Also read's profile of Al-Massae's editor-in-chief Rachid Niny: 'From oranges to riches: the saga of Rachid Niny'.

APN: Tell us about your group.

Zineb Hmouna: The Massae Media group was founded in September 2006 with the launch of Al-Massae, which is an independent Arabic-language daily. In just four months, it rose to become Morocco's leading daily, with a readership of nearly 40,000. Since January 2007, Al-Massae has held on to this position by increasing both circulation and sales. Our current print run exceeds 200,000 copies, whereas our sales rose from 90,425 in June to 132,000 in September. Our title has boosted the printed press market in Morocco.

In September 2007, Al-Massae signed a partnership with the Arabic edition of Le Monde diplomatique. Through this co-branding initiative we can offer opinion pieces and analyses by renowned authors from different horizons to intellectuals in Morocco.

During the first quarter of 2007, the group launched two new publications: Nejma, which is a women's magazine, and Al-Massae Assiyassiya, which is a quarterly magazine. Of course they were able to capitalise on the daily's positive image and were soon challenging other publications in their respective categories.

How do you explain the success of Al Massae?

This success story is largely due to a positioning based on proximity and interaction with readers, the breaking down of taboos, an unwavering defence of freedom of expression and most importantly, a professional, impartial and modern approach which respects the intelligence of the reader.

Besides this, Al-Massae is a newspaper free of any political or economic influence. This independence is positively perceived by the readers, who give us feedback via letters, website postings and field surveys. Since its launch, Al-Massae has mapped out an editorial line based on freedom of expression, courage and the non-glorification of people or institutions. This has, in my view, played a big part in its success with readers and also given a new dynamic to the Moroccan press.

At the launch, the project was already promising given the personalities involved. I'm thinking particularly of the co-founder, publisher and columnist Rachid Niny, who was recently described as a Moroccan Robin Hood by the French daily Le Monde, but I'm also thinking of writers such as Taoufik Bouachrine, Ali Anouzla, etc.

How do you assess your first year?

Al-Massae is already the most-read newspaper in the country and this extremely positive result far exceeds what we initially anticipated. Nonetheless, the newspaper team is only too aware of the challenge of maintaining and developing this leadership in order to continue to meet the demands of the Moroccan readers.

What is the breakdown of Al-Massae's revenue?

Sales represent 75 percent of the newspaper's revenue, and advertising accounts for the remaining 25 percent. Al-Massae does not offer subscriptions because of the high cost of outsourcing distribution and the the fact that so many of our readers live outside of the large cities. However, we are looking at launching an entirely new, non-discriminatory subscription formula, which would fit everybody's needs.

Finally, what do you think of the current press freedom climate in Morocco?

The climate is very favourable. We enjoy a considerable margin of freedom of expression compared to other Arab countries. However, certain judicial-political obstacles remain, particularly for the independent press.

This article was first published on the Arab Press Network, a web portal of the World Association of Journalists (WAN), on October 25, 2007.