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Unmasking ‘Small Issues’ Causing Big Trouble For Media Houses

Media managers ignored the disruptive wave of social media platforms which are now chipping away their market share

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The recent mass sackings in mainstream media houses put an ominous spotlight on the future of corporate journalism in Kenya. News anchors, investigative journalists, popular columnists and talk show personalities have been shown the door. Employers have sometimes exited employees without addressing the root cause of the problems bedevilling their business enterprises.

Media houses seem to have slept on their laurels when the disruptive wave of social media platforms began chipping away their market share. Denying the potential loss of readers, some houses were reluctant to embrace digital transformation. Others stepped up showing foreign movies wishing that the likes of TikTok were mere moving clouds.

Since the inception of print and electronic media, advertisement revenue has been its mainstay. With the advent of interactive social media platforms, traditional revenue streams are flowing to individuals. The lucrative advert-based business model is at crossroads as media companies frantically resort to restructure their operations.

Quoting the mantra in political circles, earning from advertisements has become “a game of numbers.” Key players in the competitive media industry are struggling to attract more followers. When the chicken will come home to the roost, platforms accessible on hand-held devices will have the last laugh.

In the ongoing changes in the media ecosystem, newspapers are attempting to use the digital subscription business model. Although the model might rope in existing loyal readers, it will not bear instant fruits. Newspapers need to improve on content creation and layout designs to satisfy a wide range of readers.

The morning hours shelf-life of hard copies of daily papers has been overtaken by “as it is happening now” news coverage on all forms of media. News and information consumers are perpetually being exposed to easily accessible sources. To stem losing ground on the “now” news, newspapers should develop appropriate apps.

The massive mushrooming of YouTubers, Facebookers, Instagramers, WhatsAppers and bloggers, among other social media warriors, have by default given established media behemoths the red card. With a smartphone and bundles, self-made journalists create content to meet reading and viewership needs of different niches. With no battalions of journalists and mega operational costs, the new media ambassadors are giving renowned media houses a run for their money.

Corporate organisations are placing advertisements on one-person owned channels which attract followers for a variety of reasons. For instance, a cosmetics company introducing a new lipstick would advertise it on a YouTube channel of a popular socialite.

Besides reaching niche audiences, the army of sole content providers charge reasonable fees compared to reputable TV stations and daily newspapers. The advertisement market has degenerated into a Goliath versus David duel. Without beating wár drums, the small media outfits are attracting sizable readers’ and watchers’ traffic.

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Smart bloggers post information in a condensed form that meets the reading habits of millennials. The old media guards with their long-winded stories scare the youth who are easily distracted from written matters. The growing youth population would rather read the digested content of bloggers’ click baits. Traditional media houses face the challenge of “putting old wine in new goatskins,” a factor that should be tackled head on.

Authoritative journalism and scoop are the bedrock of media houses. This competitive edge is being infiltrated by self-taught journalists who operate without noticeable overheads. For the mainstream media to compete in its traditional space, it needs to engage the adage: “If you can’t beat them, join them.”

Owners of media houses are shielded in a cocoon which is impervious to consumer trends. If they do not interpret and respond to the trends’ implications, their businesses would be on the queue for closures.

Out of desperation for advertisement revenue, cornered newspapers are seeking government intervention. Such pleadings will not be a panacea for the frailing media industry. The government seems to understand the changing times and will not place advertisements where they cannot reach a wide audience.

Thinking outside the box, the media industry can venture into provision of e-learning resources for students.

The “gods” of the media industry have been reluctant to identify the industry in which their businesses operate. For a long time, railway authorities focused on the rail line forgetting that they were in the transport industry. Like the railway companies, media houses do not appreciate opportunities lurking beneath the huge publishing industry.

Thinking outside the box, the media industry can venture into provision of e-learning resources for students at different levels of the Kenyan educational system.

Read >> Kirubi Media Workers To Be Sacked After Rejecting Pay Cut

Fearing to descend into oblivion, a local mail delivery and money transfer corporation decided to convert their extensive physical facilities into agencies of various commercial banks. Years ago, BAT bought a chicken business which had nothing to do with cigarettes.

As a last ditch attempt to stay afloat, the mainstream media should search for other business opportunities. For instance, they can take advantage of their existing distribution systems and related resources to serve entirely new customers.

The writer is HRD Consultant and Author of Transition into Retirement. He can be reached on email: [email protected]

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SAMSON OSEROhttp://www.businesstoday.co.ke
Samson Osero is Human Resource Development Consultant and Author of 'Transition into Retirement'. My personal email is: [email protected]
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