There are at least 60 newspapers in Nigeria. More than half of them started out as national dailies but were eventually forced by realities to go regional.
Most of these newspapers also started out as daily or weekly printed publications, but due to high operational costs and dwindling readership in Nigeria, a huge number of them are now only published as online newspapers only.
Some have adopted a very irregular publication frequency and print only once a month. But there remain the kings in the jungle – the most influential ones that have been in the game since independence.
So, as a media relations practitioner, your media planning must revolve around these top national dailies if you are running a campaign that targets a national audience.
The list is based on the most recent annual survey of national newspaper readership in Nigeria 2020.
Note that there are some popular newspapers that did not make it to this list. This only means that their national coverage is not enough to get them to this list.
The list is below in their ranking order:
Punch ranks number one on this list. It is hard to conceive any media planning targeting a national readership in Nigeria that does not prioritise Punch Newspaper. The Punch was founded on August 8, 1970, as a daily newspaper.
It was designed to inform, educate and entertain Nigerians and the world at large and they have stayed true to that mission by maintaining unbiased editorial standards and sterling print quality publications.
Punch lists its average daily circulation at 80,000 per day but this is unverifiable. A third party verified figure obtained by Squirrel pegs the newspaper’s average print readership at over one million readers per month.
Punch boasts strong political editorial coverage but also maintains strong coverage in business reporting and even lifestyle. Its online edition also has a wide reach with hundreds of millions of daily readers.
2. THE GUARDIAN
The Guardian is one of Nigeria’s privately-owned national newspapers that boasts significant national influence. The Guardian was established in 1983 as an independent daily newspaper. The Guardian Newspapers Limited in Lagos, Nigeria publishes it.
The Guardian Newspaper was established in 1983 by Alex Ibru, an entrepreneur, and Stanley Macebuh, a top journalist with the Daily Times newspapers, with its model copied from the original The Guardian in the UK.
The Guardian was a pioneer in introducing high-quality journalism to Nigeria with thoughtful editorial content. The paper was first published on 22 February 1983 as a weekly, appearing on Sundays. It started daily publication on 4 July 1983.
As of 2020, The Guardian maintained a monthly print readership of over one million. Its online edition also ranks in the top 10 in Nigeria.
3. THE NATION
The Nation newspaper surprisingly made it to number three on the list of 12 most influential newspapers in Nigeria. With printing plants in Lagos, Abuja and Port Harcourt, the Nation newspaper target audience include the business and political elite, the affluent, the educated and the upwardly mobile.
Starting in 2006, the newspaper covers business and economy, public policies, the democratic process and institutions of democracy, sports, arts and culture, and became the first of its kind to gain nationwide circulation across the 36 states of Nigeria within two years of operation.
As of 2020, the Nation newspaper enjoys over 900,000 print readerships per month across the country.
The co-founder of Punch, Sam Amuka-Pemu 1983, founded Vanguard newspaper. The first edition of the paper was a weekend paper that hit the newsstand in 1984. The newspaper has lived up to its billing in its commitment to a better life for the people, through an unflinching commitment to free enterprise, the rule of law and good governance. It remains one of the few national dailies in Nigeria independent of any political affiliation or control.
As of 2020, Vanguard ranks as the most read online newspaper in Nigeria and averages over 800,000 monthly readerships in print.
However, Vanguard says its paper circulates 20,000 copies (daily) in Lagos. Others include Abuja-12,000 copies, South-West 15,000, South-South 25,000, South-East 15,000, North Central - 18,000, North-East - 7,500 and North-west - 7,500.
These figures, which can be obtained from their website, cannot be independently verified at the time of writing this article. There is also no time stamp on these circulation figures.
Also read, How To Discover Journalists In Africa
In any case, it remains one of the top four most circulated/read national dailies in Nigeria.
5. THE SUN
The Sun newspaper copied its model from The Sun UK and originally branded itself as Nigeria’s king of the tabloid.
The Daily Sun was incorporated on 29 March 2001 and started production as a weekly on 18 January 2003 and as a daily on 16 June 2003.
From the beginning, the Sun inculcated a bit of sensationalism in its editorial strategy, which endeared him to a large and curious audience of young adults in the 18–45 years age bracket.
As of 2011, The Sun had a daily print run of 130,000 copies, and 135,000 for weekend titles, with an average of 80% sales. This made The Sun the highest selling newspaper in Nigeria at the time. But online journalism has dealt a huge blow to print circulation in the country and recent surveys show that the Sun as of 2020 enjoys over 700,000 monthly print readerships across the country. It does, still enjoys a significant readership in the South-East part of Nigeria.
6. DAILY TRUST
One of Nigeria’s largest media companies – Media Trust Limited, publishes the Daily Trust newspaper. The newspaper publishing company is based in Abuja and publishes the English-language Daily Trust, Weekly Trust, Sunday Trust and the Hausa-language Aminiya newspapers, as well as a new pan-African magazine, Kilimanjaro. Daily Trust commands the largest readership in northern Nigeria, so media planners prioritise when targeting the northern market. As of 2020, it averages a national readership of over 530,000 monthly.
7. NIGERIAN TRIBUNE
Established in Nigeria by one of Nigeria’s founding fathers, the Sage Obafemi Awolowo, the Nigerian Tribune remains one of the oldest surviving private Nigerian newspapers. It is still published in Ibadan where it started in 1949. The newspaper still enjoys some popularity, especially in the South West of Nigeria. The monthly readership stood at over 490,000 as of 2020.
8. COMPLETE SPORTS
Sports is a huge business in Nigeria and it is no surprise that a sports newspaper makes the list of Nigeria's top 12 most influential newspapers in Nigeria.
Complete Sports is a daily national sports newspaper headquartered in Lagos, Nigeria. It was first published in 1995 as the flagship newspaper of Complete Communications Limited and has gone on to become one of the most widely read newspapers in Nigeria. The newspaper focuses primarily on Nigerian sports news, personalities particularly Nigerian footballers.
Complete Sports is circulated around Nigeria and some parts of Benin Republic and Cameroun thus making it one of the most circulated newspapers in West Africa.
As of 2020, Complete Sports enjoyed a monthly readership of over 390,000.
9. SPORTING LIFE
Sporting Life is the second most-read sports newspaper in Nigeria. Published by Vintage Press in Lagos, Sporting Life covers daily national sports news in a refreshing style.
The paper covers local, national and international sporting events and enjoys over 370,000 monthly readerships across Nigeria.
Aminiya is a Hausa language newspaper published by Media Trust Limited and read by over 350,000 people across Nigeria every month.
Alaroye is another local language newspaper that made the top 12 influential newspapers in Nigeria. Alaroye is a weekly newspaper published in Nigeria in the Yoruba language.
Alaroye means 'the explainer' in Yoruba.
An important objective of the newspaper Alaroye is to help sustain the reading and speaking of the Yoruba language.
The first edition of Alaroye was produced in May 1985. After suffering several episodes of setbacks that forced it to suspend publications, it achieved financial success and now enjoys a wide readership among the Yoruba people of South-West Nigeria.
As a result of the success of Alaroye, publications have expanded to include other titles, such as Iriri Aye Alaroye, a human angle stories monthly magazine and Akede Agbaye, which is a weekly entertainment magazine popular among Nollywood stars and artists, including Juju, Fuji, Apala, Christian and Muslim singers.
Over 330,000 people read Alaroye every month across Nigeria, making it one of the most circulated newspapers in the country.
THISDAY is one of the most influential newspapers in Nigeria. The publishers of the newspaper are the THISDAY Newspapers Ltd., a company that was noted for its early investment in colour printing, giving the paper a distinctive edge among the few durable national newspapers that exist in Nigeria.
THISDAY also creatively pioneered the idea of devoting the back page of the newspaper to informed commentaries from nationally acclaimed columnists as well as guest writers occasionally drawn from among the leading lights of public service and seasoned technocrats in the private sector.
At its peak, Thisday had a circulation of 100,000 copies and an annual turnover of some $35 million, but as of 2020, the newspaper enjoyed a monthly readership of over 287,000 readers.
THISDAY is well reputed for its rich content highly in demand by the business, economic, political and diplomatic elite; middle-class professionals as well as aspirational millennials.
When running a campaign in Nigeria, it is important to consider media with national coverage and that can guarantee that your message will reach the target audience. We hope that the list above will provide a much-needed guide to PR agencies and media officers to make an informed decision on media placement or media relations campaigns that will deliver value to clients.