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Catching Gen Z: Multimedia opportunity for Kenya’s struggling journalism

In January, one of Kenya’s renowned social scribblers, Silas Nyanchwani, asked whether Kenyan mainstream organisations would ever be profitable again. He shared that the trouble began for traditional media circa 2015 and that the onslaught from bloggers, YouTubers, and social media personalities has been unrelenting.

What makes Nyanchwani’s piece worth revisiting is what he mentions while discussing this seemingly unavoidable decline in legacy media. He says that, in a fair world, the local press must not be allowed to die. And we agree completely. So, how do we prevent the local press from dying if the onslaught he describes will only get worse?

The answer is in traditional media’s ability to understand audience fragmentation, particularly the consumption patterns of different generations and how to fit into these habits.

Since the media business model is heavily reliant on advertising, particularly from the government, which has now shrunk, and the remaining advertisers are also putting more money into popular content creators, thereby taking another chunk from the mainstream media, a starting point would be to pay attention to the targeted audience that is working and therefore targeted by the advertisers.

For instance, it’s safe to assume that Generation X (circa 1965–1980) is happy with the traditional media, considering they didn’t grow up on social media and the internet. It’s also safe to assume that the Millennials (circa 1981–1996), are happy with the way media produces content to a great extent but would prefer more content that was financially inclined, at least according to the latest research on media consumption by Aga Khan University. The survey, Media Consumption in an Evolving Digital World: Millennials and Digital Natives’ Consumption Habits and Implications for Legacy Media in East Africa, revealed that Millennials are ambitious and serious about wealth creation and see the media as not doing enough in terms of providing content that addresses two critical issues in this area: making money and how to become financially independent.

The other assumption is that Generation Z (circa 1997 – 2012) are the internet generation. By the time the oldest of Gen Z was starting school, platforms like Facebook were already established, so this is the group that grew up on information overload and consumed their news mostly from social media.

The oldest of Gen Z is 27 and the youngest is 12. This is the group that legacy media risks losing, and some of them already entered the workforce like three years ago.

Folks who’ve grown up glued to their screens have a big love for content that pops visually. They’re all about scrolling through TikTok, double tapping on Instagram, and binge-watching YouTube videos. Successfully adapting to their wants could offer opportunities for new advertising channels without compromising journalistic standards. Legacy media must therefore embed themselves on these social media platforms.

So, what we’re seeing here is a golden chance for journalists to get into Gen Z’s world on social media in a way that resonates. A great trick is to keep it simple with video storytelling for news. Stick to formats that are not only good-looking but also easy to get into, like explainers, interviews, and polls. Consider utilizing TikTok and Instagram Reels in particular, may entice Gen Z to their favoured digital domains while also creating potential advertising opportunities from these platforms. Such targeted content is suited to attract advertisers looking for audience engagement from this demographic group.

If done correctly it could potentially open a new revenue stream from YouTube and similar platforms.

So, to respond to Nyanchwani’s question of whether legacy media would ever make profits again, we think Kenyan journalists have a golden chance to catch the eye of Gen Z by diving into vibrant spaces like TikTok, Instagram, and YouTube. It’s all about striking that perfect balance – keeping up with solid journalism while tapping into these new advertising playgrounds. This can be accomplished by incorporating multimedia storytelling techniques, prioritising relevant financial information for audiences, and teaming up with influencers for added reach impact and credibility maintenance.

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