What you need to know:
- The year 2022 will likely be a period of economic recovery for Kenyan media following a rather stable 2021.
- A spike in newspaper subscriptions particularly as we draw closer to the elections is an obvious prediction.
The year 2022 will be a consequential year for Kenyan media after weathering two major storms: the digital disruption and the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic. If 2021 was the year of extensive investment in media – infrastructure and key staff – 2022 will be the year Kenyan media will begin to see some returns on investment trickling in, not forgetting a few major shifts.
First, 2022 will likely be a period of economic recovery for Kenyan media – a growth spurt of sorts – following a rather stable 2021. Specifically, the subscription-based business model, previously at take-off stage, will begin to show early signs of maturity.
A spike in newspaper subscriptions particularly as we draw closer to the elections is an obvious prediction, but the challenge will be how Kenyan media handle the churn rate from September 2021, that is the number of readers who will discontinue their subscriptions after the elections.
Second, and related to the first point, Kenyan media and specifically legacy media, will continue to leverage on their traditional platforms (television, radio and print newspaper), while actively seeking out opportunities in alternative sources of revenue such as digital, events, outdoor advertising and courier services among others, in what we call ‘organisational ambidexterity’.
We should expect legacy media to continually invest in traditional platforms such as print newspapers. This may seem counterproductive in the age of digital disruption, but we must not forget that advertising on legacy platforms still contributes a significant chunk of the total revenues. In lay language, the print newspaper, archaic as you might think, still pays the salaries.
Rise of journalism startups
Third, at the granular newsroom level, I predict a generational shift. A handover of sorts from the Generation Xers to the Millennials. We should expect younger, fresh faces on our screens and in the by-lines, a change that is by default or by design, depending on whom you ask.
Whichever way you look at it, nearly half of journalists covering these elections either as beat reporters or editors will be doing it for the first time, which, in my opinion should not be a cause for worry, but an opportunity for the older generation to mentor, train, coach and pass the baton to a new generation of journalists.
Many of them will be fresh from college, newly minted from a media lab and the elections will be an opportunity to cut their teeth. My prediction is that these elections will give us a new line-up of star reporters and editors.
Finally, I predict the rise of journalism startups who will make a significant contribution to the industry by producing high-quality, well-sourced, brave journalism. Led by some of the country’s strongest and most competent independent journalists, I predict that these peripheral players will come all out very strongly this year and they will leverage every powerful digital storytelling format there is out there to attract and maintain their audiences.
Expect an avalanche of eloquent long-reads and think pieces, content partnerships with legacy media and thought-provoking docuseries that will excite the audiences.
The writer is the Director, Innovation Centre, at Aga Khan University; [email protected]