A Brief Introduction
The Kenyan media industry has grown accustomed to layoffs thanks to investors who once pumped money into the industry now realizing that the business models that fund news are challenged. This has weakened professional journalism and left news media more vulnerable to political and economic pressures. The journalists however have an opportunity to jump out of these sinking ships and establish themselves
A case Study
A case study is the Nation Media Group (NMG). This is the largest independent media house in East and Central Africa. The NMG was founded in 1959 and the group made its first profit in 1968.Since then the group’s revenues were soaring and the Group was listed on the Nairobi Securities Exchange (NSE) in 1973. In April 2013, the NMG an all-time high share price of Ksh 390, however that was the beginning of group’s misfortunes. For the past four years beginning 2016,the NMG has been recording a fall in profit , from a turnover of 5.6B in 2016, to 5.3 B in 2017 to 4.9B in 2018 and 4.5B in 2019.The group’s share price has also been through a tumultuous path that has seen the company lose over 89% of its share price value to open the year 2020 at Ksh 39.75. By June 2020, the NMG had lost nearly 50% of its share price in 2020 alone to hit an all time low of Ksh 14.95. As for the year 2020, the Board OF Directors has already issued a warning to investors to prepare for a significant decline in the revenues of 2020.
Why are they sinking
As one may wonder, what is leading to the collapse of these media companies? Well, ever since the disruption by the digital media, the traditional media companies have not been the same. The digital media has empowered people worldwide to create content and the media companies are no longer the gatekeepers. This is not to say that they have no place in the content production, they still create the news agenda even in the famous social platforms like twitter however it is the social media companies that control access to audience.
The platforms are sinking because the readers are going online and the advertising money is also going online. The changes I believe are going to be permanent because there is a high supply of content created online and when quantity is up, the price is down.
An opportunity for journalists
The old platforms are in trouble but it’s the best thing that could ever happen t journalists- the good ones by the way. Unlike people in most fields, journalists are constantly building brand equity through their work. They should therefore take advantage of the technological and cultural shifts which are responsible for the sinking of the media companies and go into the business for themselves. But the opportunity is not ‘’work for hire’’ where they earn peanuts while the company keeps a disproportionate amount of ad revenue.
So how might these ventures look like:
Ten journalists can come together and develop an online publication where each one owns 10% of the company in terms of equity. (They can be twenty journalists owning 5% each or even one hundred owning 1% each). They will not have to “ break the news”(even traditional newspapers report on the previous day’s news) instead they will use social media to pump provocative analysis to their audience and if they are good enough, they will land advertising deals , after all, the ad money follows the eyeballs.
What if the journalists are not good at business? Then they will have to partner with a business development person who will own a proportionate amount of equity. An example of this model is Tuko.co.ke
Professionalism of Journalists
I know many critics will hit back and argue with me saying these models demean the training, the insight and education it takes to be a journalist and I agree it is true however pondering and crying on how things should be instead of how they are will not do any good.