The role of advertising -
Who pays the piper...
The apparent diversity in media ownership does not automatically translate into media pluralism or content diversity. In Morocco, the functioning of the media market does contribute to a mainstreaming of tone in the media, like it has been the case for the economic press for example. As it plays in favour of several outlets, the advertising industry makes it exceptionally hard for an independent press to survive. Following a global trend and as a direct consequence of this market environment, some outlets have toned down their editorial lines in order to avoid boycott.
Opacity and overbearing weight of the advertising industry
There is a significant lack of transparency when it comes to the advertising market. The absence of a transparent and well-established mechanism to distribute state as well as private-businesses advertising contributes to creating a shadowy market (See Media Funding Indicator). As such, popular and successful publications can be – and in fact have been boycotted by the industry, as it was the case with historical outlets such as Telquel, Nichane and Le Journal Hebdo.
The only data we were able to obtain regarding the advertising industry is the overall weight of the market and its division by investor industries as well as by platform (Print press, Radio, TV and Street Advertising). Of the $US 386 Millions invested in ads throughout 2016, the telecommunication sector, the banking and financial sector and the food industry represent 44% of total investments. It should also be noted that the telecommunication sector, made up of only three companies - all of which have foreign capital (French, Kuwaiti, Emirati) invested in them - represent one quarter of all advertising investments.
This data was obtained through the Moroccan Association of Advertisers (Groupement des Annonceurs Marocain [GAM]). However, they were not able to communicate any more specific information as to who the most important advertisers were.
Most wanted, still: the broadcast sector
All-in all and reflecting a worldwide picture, the most attractive platform for advertising remains television in Morocco with a market share of 39.80% in the first half of 2017. The radio and print sectors follow behind with 16.70% and 13.20% respectively. In 2016, the amount of advertising revenue for broadcasting (TV and Radio combined) amounted to US$ 219 Millions. This is more than 4 times the amount of the print sector.
Due to the opacity of the advertising and media market, it is however difficult to know who are the first beneficiaries of this advertising.
The print press: highly prized despite poor sales
As opposed to television, radio and the online press, the print sector generates income from sales in addition to advertising. A rough estimate of ‘revenue generated by sales only’ can be computed based on number of yearly sales and unit price (both available from OJD). Having access to the total revenues of 13 out of the 16 print press companies, we were able to get the ratio of non-sales generated revenue. The results are consistent with our findings regarding the French-language print press. For ALM Publishing (publisher of Aujourd’hui Le Maroc), Impression Presse Edition (publisher of La Nouvelle Tribune) and Horizon Press (Publisher of Les Inspirations ECO), the total revenue is respectively 11, 13 and 14 times that of ‘sales generated revenue’. Maroc Soir and La Vie Eco Presse are not far behind with their sales representing 1/9th and 1/7th of total revenue. Telquel and the group Ecomedias (publisher of French-language l’Economiste and Arabic-language Assabah) both present a ratio hovering around 3.8.
It is reasonable to deduce that the fair majority of gaps between total revenue and sales-generated revenues are a good measure of how much advertising an outlet receives. For example, the case of the company Maroc Soir, publisher of the French-language daily Le Matin, stands out in the analysis. The revenue generated by its aforementioned flagship publication averages $US 1.2 Millions (2016) while the company’s revenue sits at $US 11 Millions and its operating profit hovers around $US - 950,000 and had $US 15 Millions injected in its capital in 2005. However, Le Matin remains highly prized by advertisers and is commonly perceived by professionals as an outlet through which a company can position itself or at least signal its affiliation to the power in place.
Due to the lack of data on online advertising, it is impossible to draw any conclusion about this specific market. However, Morocco’s online advertising trend seems to follow the global one : as social networks become more popular (see Intro Online Media), the advertising spending is more and more shifting toward Silicon Valley giants such as Google and Facebook.
Khairi, G. in Le Nouvel Obs (2010). Maroc : le magazine arabophone Nichane meurt étouffé. Accessed on November 16th, 2017.
Mouillard, S. in Libération (2010). Au Maroc, le «Journal hebdomadaire» jette l'éponge. Accessed on November 16th, 2017.
Finance News (2003). Presse partisane et presse indépendante. Quoted in Maghress. Accessed on November 2017.