I worked in a media house, the Nation Media Group to be exact, from 2005 to 2008. Besides a day or two spent in the newsroom, I mostly worked on the 5th floor championing the brand.
Today, I am amazed at what 10 years can do to an entire industry. In 2005, your day wasn’t complete if you hadn’t read the Daily Nation. If you were a PR person, your job wasn’t complete until the client’s story appeared in the Daily Nation.
While briefing the client, the more forthright ones would ask, “Was it in the Nation.” If it was, chances were that your contract would be renewed at the end of the year.
The fall of legacy media
The media was easily the most powerful institution in the land. I remember NMG running the Save a Life campaign together with the Kenya Red Cross Society, Standard Chartered Bank and EABL and corporates literally fell over themselves for a chance to contribute just for the good feeling it provided, to be associated with the largest media house in the region and sometimes in return for free publicity.
On the other side, any politician who was unable to stop a damning story about him/her from being published spent sleepless nights pondering how to counter the negative publicity and its unpleasant consequences.
Then social media happened – Twitter, Facebook, YouTube and other platforms – and everyone became a journalist. A swarm of bees would attack mourners in a remote West Pokot village and we would know about it instantly, complete with photos and videos of folks running for dear life.
Then we moved from analogue to digital technology and anyone could become a media owner. All you need is good content, reasonable looks or some rib-cracking humour and voila, you got viewers and you could negotiate for advertising alongside the giant media houses.
Rise of alternative media
The net effect is that folks no longer care as much as they used to about mainstream media as they have lots of alternatives, some of them credible while others are just entertaining.
The shift from analogue to digital has had media houses that had spent millions on analogue technology competing for business with those who have spent very little on digital technology.
The floundering economy, the decision by the Jubilee government to tie a tight noose around the media’s neck in 2013 through the creation of the Government Advertising Agency (GAA) as well as a quid pro quo policy (you do your job properly, you don’t get business from us) has left mainstream media gasping for breath. Recent job losses are, therefore, not surprising at all.
The 2020-2030 decade will be very interesting. Some media houses will emerge stronger due to innovation, others (especially smaller radio stations and newspapers) will die and new ones will emerge. Such is life. Only change is constant.
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