In Summary
  • Journalism in Kenya and the world over has competition from ‘more interesting’ media bundles like Netflix and Amazon Prime.
  • Sometimes readers — Kenyan readers — don’t know what they want until you show them value for your new product.

It is not looking good for the newspaper industry — at least by US newspaper standards.

An analysis by Pew Research Center which involved the unenviable task of sifting through data from the Alliance for Audited media, has shown that 2018 was the worst year yet for newspaper circulation, the lowest since 1940.

It doesn’t end there. The year 2019 started on a sorry note for journalists. Major newspaper companies and digital publications like Buzzfeed and Huffpost announced a series of layoffs.

Another research by Pew Research has shown that newspaper jobs have declined by 45 per cent between 2008 and 2017 and even the fast rise of jobs within digital publications is not enough to cover for the newspaper jobs lost.

Now, we may not have such studies in this side of the world, but it is pretty obvious that our newspaper industry is on its deathbed.

Editors may not readily admit, but circulation figures are not as luring as they were in 2012-2014.

Newsrooms are haemorrhaging journalists, losing them to PR, academia and corporate communication.

STORYTELLING

Kenyan media is no longer in the golden age. Gone are the days when journalists would take home eye-watering bonuses three times their salaries.

It doesn’t help that a good number of Kenyans consume news and media through their mobile phones now more than ever. But that you already know.

There has been a scramble for a solution for the future of journalism. Buzzwords have been thrown around — Artificial Intelligence, Big Data, Augmented and Virtual Reality.

To use a common Kenyan phrase, money has been poured into these projects with enthusiasm previously reserved for life jackets in the Titanic.

In the midst of all these experimenting with technology and new ideas — which is great — I’d like to urge my media colleagues to step back, take a deep breath and for a moment forget about all the fancy tech words and focus on the most important thing: storytelling.

MONETISE STORIES

“Innovation” in the media space is not about tech and all other big and shiny buzzwords. Media innovation is about storytelling.

It is about telling a good story in different, exciting and convenient formats — convenient here being purely for the benefit of the readers.

It is about telling stories that resonate with readers, stories that readers care about, stories with a high potential for engagement with an otherwise busy audience.

There has been a discussion on whether Kenyan media can sell journalism. Can a paywall work in Kenya?

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