Kenyan Media is Dying
By Warris Kimathi
As the Internet continues to drive revolutionary changes in the News Media industry, Kenya’s top media brands are in a staring contest with their own demise, and the clock seems to be ticking faster for them than it was ten years ago.
When the Coronavirus pandemic hit early 2020, Media Houses were already—albeit silently—wallowing in unbalanced books and unpaid salaries.
The once-profitable media giants had been bleeding in muted agony for many quarters, and the setbacks of the pandemic gave the corporations a perfect excuse to scratch the long-due itch.
Media employees, cheap and dear alike, were laid off in droves across Nairobi’s loudest broadcasting houses.
As the virus spread its killer tentacles across the fabric of the globe, men in overpriced suits huddled together in city boardrooms to devise one last excuse for investors.
Enter more layoffs.
By the end of the last financial quarter of 2021, the hushed whispers had been amplified to gasps of financial desperation, and the hornbill’s problem had become everybody’s problem.
Since the early 2010s, many media players in Kenya had started to feel the paradigm shift that was going to redirect the media’s only river of gold, and channel it into a whole new direction.
Now, if you’re at loss about what this golden river is, let us take a detour, and break down how NTV, Citizen TV and their runners-ups make their money.
Take Gitau, a middle-aged, tax-paying, flag-saluting Patriot from Juja, borderline Kiambu.
Every Wednesday, Gitau fumes and curses his way through the notorious city traffic to get home in time, slack before his Television, and watch his favourite late-night host on Citizen TV’s Jeff Koinange Live.
Due to the sheer number of people watching the show, Citizen TV charges a leg and an arm for deep-pocketed corporations to run and advertise their products during the commercial breaks to millions of Kenyans, all held captive by Jeff Koinange’s baritone charm.
The Cost of running a single 30-second advertisement video could set an advertiser back as much as a million per week.
This model means the bigger the show and the channel it runs on, the higher an advertiser pays to sell to the audience.
Everybody gets paid, and everything works like clockwork.
Since the year 2013, video giant YouTube has invested billions of dollars in understanding the nature and needs of people who watch videos.
Today, a YouTuber with a sizeable following has a better understanding of their audience than the good folks at Nation or Royal Media.
As more Kenyans flock online to get the news before the appointed “primetime” hours, hundreds of YouTube channels and Facebook pages are breaking immediate events before the most seasoned reporters can get a whiff of them.
Simply put, the digital revolution has not just disrupted what people watch on where, but it also has advertisers scuttling, trying to decide who between Krazy Kennar, K24 Tv, and the Wajesus family has a more captive decision to sell their latest product.
The spectacular end result is individual twenty-something-year-old Internet creators signing deals that were previously signed by a room of top-floor executives.
With these top channels continuously haemorrhaging top talent, the worst doesn’t seem to be over for mainstream media, and it appears they ought to adapt— or die.