Academic journal article History In Africa

Africa's Media Empire: Drum's Expansion to Nigeria

Academic journal article History In Africa

Africa's Media Empire: Drum's Expansion to Nigeria

Article excerpt


Publishing in Africa remains so difficult an enterprise that many publishers have collapsed, their dreams disappearing with them. This is especially true of the print media, particularly newspapers and magazines.1 During the past century, many magazines and newspapers failed to establish a loyal readership, keep costs down, insure wide circulation, or turn a huge profit. Consequently, not many African magazines can be viewed as "successful." Drum magazine, however, remains an exception.

In 1951 Drum, a magazine written for and by Africans, was established in South Africa. Drum enjoyed a great deal of success and is now widely recognized as having been a driving force in black South African culture and life throughout the 1950s and 1960s. In the South African historiography Drum has been thoroughly researched.2 The magazine's impact on South African journalism, literature, gender configurations, African resistance, and urban South African culture has been documented and often lauded by various scholars. Many former members of the South African edition's payroll, both editors and staff alike, have gone on to become successes in literature, journalism, and photography. Often such staff members credit Drum for directly shaping their careers and directly state this in their writings.3 Consequently, Drum is often associated only with South Africa. While Drum greatly influenced South Africa, its satellite projects throughout Africa were no less important. These satellite projects cemented Drum's reputation as the leading magazine newspaper in Africa and each edition became fixtures in west African and east African societies.4

This essay aims to fill a gap in the current historiography by opening up for discussion Drum's satellite projects. The focus of this essay is on Drum's expansion into Nigeria. The Nigerian edition of Drum was arguably the most successful and profitable of all of the magazine's endeavors, and proves that the creation of a pan-African popular magazine was both feasible and profitable if properly administered. This essay argues that the Nigerian edition was an exception in comparison to Drum's other expansionist projects under Jim Bailey's ownership, and, although its existence was brief, the Nigerian Drum enjoyed a large amount of success. Consequently, special attention will be paid to both the successes and failures of Nigerian Drum. In yet another essay, we will show the usefulness and limitations of Drum as a source for history writing.


Drum was founded in 1951 by Robert Crisp and Jim Bailey under the title of African Drum. The two set out to produce a magazine that offered the black South African population a publication that addressed their interests. Initially, the magazine was a complete failure: deadlines were not met and its circulation was extremely low. Its base in Cape Town kept the magazine out of touch with the non-white South African population throughout South Africa, as the city had a rather small African population.5 In the beginning months, the circulation of Africa Drum was estimated to be only 20,000 copies per issue and, by his own admission, Bailey was "losing two thousand a month."6 This failure was largely due to the magazine's paternalistic approach to its African readership. African Drum suffered from what long-time Drum editor Anthony Sampson refers to as the "white hand," the obvious influence by white management. This turned potential readers away from the magazine.

Desperate to turn the magazine into a profitable enterprise, Bailey hired Sampson as the magazine's editor-in-chief, and Crisp left the organization soon after due to fundamental differences with Bailey, thus leaving Bailey as sole owner of the magazine. Bailey and Sampson had met as undergraduates while at Oxford and became close friends soon afterwards. Although neither had prior experience in business or in journalism, together the two transformed the magazine. They investigated what potential readers wanted. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed


An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.