Out of Africa
|Hugh Oram outlines the origins of Xclusive, Ireland's only African lifestyle magazine|
Publishing for the ethnic market in Ireland can be challenging and difficult at the best of times. But few would have a better idea of how to cope than Peter Anny-Nzekwue, publisher and editor-in-chief of Xclusive magazine, produced in Mulhuddart.
Xclusive is Ireland's only African lifestyle monthly, although there are other African print and radio media. Since its launch in March 2006, Anny-Nzekwue has jumped several hurdles to keep the A4 glossy on the go. The magazine now sells around 6,000 copies.
Anny-Nzekwue comes from Nigeria, where he completed his third level education, including a masters in literature from the University of Lagos. He is a published and award-winning poet, literary critic and fiction writer and has newspaper experience.
He came to Ireland in 2002 and while he was waiting to get full residential status and start working, he started the Dublin Quarterly online literary journal. Then came Xclusive, which can be a labour of love. “Even when the road is rough and the money is not coming in as it should,” Anny-Nzekwue said, “I still enjoy my job.”
The life of an immigrant is demanding and most are required to keep several jobs. So Anny-Nzekwue felt that the little time they have to read would be to best served by something more relaxing. “I also wanted to celebrate and honour Ireland's African people and our contributions to the country's economic and socio-cultural life.”
At least 60,000 Africans live here, mainly in Dublin, Cork and Galway and in smaller towns like Balbriggan and Ennis, Co Clare. When he started up, some of the money came from his personal savings and he also got a credit company loan at a high rate of interest.
“I thank God for an understanding wife, Gloria, who gave me and still gives me all the support I need and who's an integral part of my publishing business.” The couple have three children – Nonso, aged 12, Onyinye, 8 and Ogochukwu, 4.
With a cover price of €3, Xclusive is sold through Easons, supermarkets, newsagents and African stores. It is on shelves in Belfast and in parts of London. While circulation is holding up well, Anny-Nzekwue is happy to admit that he needs to generate more advertising revenue if the magazine is to survive these straightened times.
Xclusive publisher Anny-Nzekwue says advertising has failed to live up to expectations due to the mainstream media's lack of interest in ethnic matters, but he remains hopeful.
“It's failed to meet my initial expectations, not for want of trying, but because of lack of interest in ethnic media by mainstream brands,” he said. Regular advertisers include MoneyGram and Western Union money transfer, while Bank of Ireland and Vodafone have been infrequent. The aim is to get more mainstream brands on board.
To help matters, Anny-Nzekwue dropped the advertising rates. An outside back now costs €1,700 and a quarter page is €350. Ethnic Media helps with ad sales.
Xclusive has regular features covering entertainment, business, technology, religion, women and children sections, a resident agony aunt and lots of social photos. The main subjects that appeal to African readers are family-orientated and fashion. The magazine has 13 editorial contributors. St Columban missionary Fr Shay Cullen is a columnist.
The magazine support events in Ireland like the African Film Festival, the Most Beautiful African Girl in Ireland beauty pageant and the Miss Ebony show staged in Galway.
The magazine's main event is the Xclusive annual awards, which encourage initiatives that impact well on African people living in Ireland, as well as rewarding examples of African enterprise and lifestyle. The magazine sets out to give a sense of the vibrancy of the African community in Ireland and its zest for life.
To promote Xclusive, ads run on BEN (Bright Entertainment Network), a TV channel in the UK whose target audience is African expatriates across Europe, including Ireland. Mainstream media coverage of the magazine here in Ireland has been sketchy, with some exceptions like the Evening Herald and a number of articles in local newspapers.
The magazine has had a website, www.xclusive.ie, from day one. Anny-Nzekwue wants to attract Irish readers and get more advertising support from main brands. He would like to develop more titles around the world, capitalising on the Xclusive name.
He rates Ireland highly as a business environment for publishing. But it is small in terms of population. As Anny-Nzekwue says himself, if he produced Xclusive in Nigeria, he would have a market of over 140 million. But the flip side of that economy of scale hindrance often means more competitors jump on the bandwagon.
Keeping the magazine on the go has not been easy. Despite the odds stacked against it, the title has done remarkably well and with its publisher's professional approach and perseverance – and some more ads – Xclusive could be around for some time yet.