Category Archives: Media in Kenya

Bank Clerk in the Kenya Colony

In April 1923, the East African Standard, ran an anonymous blog-like column by a bank clerk in the Kenya Colony. He narrates how he wakes up slowly, is brought tea by his servant Juma (which means Friday), then is brought his bath, of which there are two types, before he goes to work.

Excerpts:

“… and then on to the business of the day. Monotonous life? don’t you believe it! I doubt whether a bank clerk’s life is ever really monotonous as some make it.

In Kenya, it certainly is not as our customers are so varied. One minute, a newly-retired colonel of the Indian army, moustache and all. Next, a retired lieutenant commander from the Navy who perhaps goes one further and sports a beaver. Then one of the boys – Navy, Army or Air force for the duration, now farming. Then a lady farmer, charming, even wearing breeches. Government officials and visitors.

In they come, day after day. Monotonous? Never. All as different as chalk from cheese except in two respects; they are all jolly good sorts and they all want overdrafts.

It’s all very well to be light-hearted about it but I am afraid that we often miss the gleam of bitter sadness which lies behind it all. Kenya is a young colony and fortunes cannot be made in a day. There are as many who failed to grasp this. They come out here with family and little else. The wife is still here, the family perhaps has increased but an ominous overdraft and a mortgage form have taken the place of the little ones.”

The day ends with sundowner drinks and an early night, to be repeated all over again.

Digital Newspapers boost during Covid

At the end of May 2020 digital copies of leading newspapers were availed to Kenyans through a partnership with Safaricom.

The newspapers are the Standard and the Nairobian from the Standard Group and the Daily Nation and the Business Daily from the Nation Media Group. The digital copies all cost Kshs 20 each, which is about 1/3 of the street prices of Kshs 50 and Kshs 60 for the print newspaper copies.

This comes at a time of declining readership, and declining advertising for newspapers and in recent months both the media groups have issued profit warnings – the Standard for 2019 and the Nation for 2020. During the Coronavirus outbreak, there have been readers who have stopped buying and reading print newspapers for fear of contracting the virus, despite newspapers running advertisements about the safety and hygiene of their printing and distribution processes. Safaricom is powering this initiative as a Covid-19 response and the digital newspapers are available for a period of two months.

The digital newspapers are very easy to buy with the payment deducted from a user’s airtime, not from M-Pesa. Sign-up requires no cumbersome registration and there is no app to download. One also has to be on Safaricom data to download it, not Wi-Fi, though the download does not consume data, and the purchased copies are available to read for 7 days.

Whether this will accelerate a more permanent shift in readership will be seen after the period ends in the second half of the year. Local media houses have tried for many years to get readers to pay for online subscriptions without much success.

Early in the Covid-19 period, full PDF copies of newspapers would circulate on WhatsApp, but these seem to have stopped since a crackdown was initiated. This is also a period of increasing political activity and a key tool of propaganda is the use of doctored government documents and fake newspaper covers to mislead online readers – so having actual digital copies is a welcome tool to verify which are with the fake covers.

There is also another Nairobi newspaper that is completely free – both online and in print. The People Daily that is handed out to motorists and also distributed to a smaller clientele around the country. The packaging of the newspaper during Corona is indicative that costs may not be an issue at this paper.

*Get the digital newspapers from Safaricom.com  under “discover” then “newspapers” or by dialing *550#.

EDIT: On June 22, Radio Africa and Mediamax joined the partnership, availing their The Star and People Daily newspapers for Kshs 10 per issue.

EDIT: On July 1, the Nation Media Group announced a “change its business model from print advertising and physical reader copy to digital advertising, ePaper subscription and content-driven reader revenue.” This was accompanied by a reduction of workforce effective July 3, 2020 and salary reductions, of, in some cases, 40%.

EDIT: May 2021: The portfolio of publications has been expanded beyond newspapers and now includes magazines like Swara and Parents as well as the government classifieds’ publication – MyGov.

Baraza Media Lab launch

This week saw the launch of the Baraza Media Lab in Nairobi as part of an initiative to foster more collaboration towards a better future for journalists and media to tell their stories.

The Baraza Lab is a $1 million investment that is supported by the Luminate Group which is a spinoff of the governance and citizen engagements funded by the Omidyar Network. Ory Okolloh, the Managing Director, Africa for Luminate said that different media organizations were dealing with their industry problems in their own silos. The new Baraza lab, which is being run in collaboration with Mettā Nairobi, is a place where like-minded creatives could meet, share, and collaborate on the future of media.

At the launch, it was said that no industry has been as disrupted by technology as much as the media, whose business models have been eroded by new advertising platforms. This is also a time when propaganda and fake news divides societies and where personalities had more followers than countries. Yet media remains a necessary arm of inclusive and democratic societies, and organizations such as AmaBhungane and Africa Uncensored were cited as two entities that had done a great deal to expose corruption issues in South Africa and Kenya, respectively.

Media coach and “recovering” journalist Uduak Amimo, who was the keynote speaker at the launch, spoke about the revelations and opportunities brought on by new media in the last few years. As an example of collaboration, she said that the data dumps by Wikileaks had not made much sense until the organization partnered with traditional media houses. But the opportunities for media had been hampered by a focus on profits over purpose, media that shared messages that they had not checked or analyzed, pay discrimination and tolerance of harassment among other factors.

Social Media That Matters by Ogilvy

Ogilvy Africa and Ogilvy Social Lab held a session in Nairobi a few days ago. Speakers tackled the state of social media in 2019 in terms of technology usage, making brands stand out, and the role of influencers, among other items. 

It looked at trends in the world of media dominated by platforms like Facebook, Twitter, Amazon, Google (the four horsemen of the internet), and we learnt that we are in the middle of the biggest social experiment ever as billions across the globe use these platforms every day to network, communicate, transact, engage and get information.

Some of the highlights included:

  • People look at their mobile phone screens an average of 53 times a day – consuming information as text, images, video, and stories in bit sizes.
  • Users spend an average of 6 hours 45 minutes per day consuming digital media, with social media accounting for 2 hours and 20 minutes of that. In Kenya, one study found that young users spend 3 and ½ hours a day on social media.
  • Kenya has 8 million Facebook users and 700,000 Twitter users. It also has 1.5 million on Instagram and 2.1 million on LinkedIn.
  • But engagement is a poor predictor of business results. Brands should produce less content, personalize it and pay to promote it.

  • Everything is becoming a shop – thanks to tools like augmented reality, ordinary objects like posters and benches can come to life when viewed through a phone lens – and lead to hidden videos and links to merchants as seen in Snapchat Lens, Google Lens and Shopping on Instagram. An example was cited of the Jordan shoe sale marking the 30th anniversary of Michael Jordan’s iconic dunk – people at special Nike parties who watched a geo-located augmented-reality advert on Snapchat were able to order a new release of the vintage shoes, in their size, and have them delivered to their homes in two hours. The shoes sold out in a few minutes.
  • People go to YouTube with ‘intent’ – they know what they are looking for and want to watch (usually in the evenings) and this contrasts with ‘discovery’ driven video consumption in the daytime. Also, the first seconds matter the most – there is 47% awareness created in the first three seconds of a video message.
  • The most ignored influencer is the one who works in customer care.

Media Moment: Kenya Landscape Report

This morning a, joint report by TIFA Research and Reelforge Media Intelligence was released about the media landscape in Kenya.

Excerpts from the report

  • Advertising remains a key source of revenue of media. Also the media, while still powerful faces many challenges including global competition for advertisers (Facebook and Google), and for consumers from other digital platforms.
  • Audiences are fragmented, with people interacting with five radio and 3 TV stations every day. TIFA has tried to improve on the traditional data collecting methods for audience measurement by using an app in the phones of test subjects.
  • For brands, Facebook is the most effective – used by 71% of corporations to reach audiences, followed by Twitter 26%. Least used are podcasts, email and surprisingly WhatsApp – despite its prevalence (all below 2%).
  • Social media and content marketing are the most effective ways of reaching consumers, according to the report. The least effective methods are email campaigns, public relations and outdoors advertising (all below 8%).
  • Whatsapp and Facebook are the most popular platforms with internet audiences – used by over 80% of the respondents – and this is largely because they are free from Telecom providers.
  • The top media spender in 2019 is projected to be Safaricom with Kshs 9.7 billion. In 2018 it was gambling company Tatua which spent Kshs 5.3 billion. In 2017 it was the Government of Kenya which spent Kshs 8.6 billion in that was an election year. Spending by gambling companies has been on the rise with half of the top advertising companies now being betting firms.
  • Radio remains attractive because it is free for audiences access. It also had the has the highest advertising over the period – mainly by political parties during the  2017 Kenya elections.
  • Newspaper circulation continued to decline, and the authors estimated at circulation went down by 33% between 2013 and 2018.
  • Digital migration has increased the reach of TV. Today, Kenya has 173 radio stations, 68 TV stations and 9 newspapers. 

The report by TIFA and Reelforge is now available for download.