Even before the outbreak of Covid-19, mainstream media houses were already struggling to remain relevant and generate profit. Apparently, the disruption had been caused by the rise in big tech companies like Facebook.
For mainstream media, revenue streams had shifted and old advertising models to technology-aided ones. Newspapers also recorded a continuous decline in sales as similar contents would be accessed online by the audience.
But then, Covid-19 struck and everybody in the journalism profession had to reconcile themselves with the new reality. Pay cuts and layoffs became a common thing. This, however, sparked a debate in the country in regards to the disparity between the huge six-figure salaries earned by ‘bosses’ against the peanuts earned by reporters and producers who do donkey work to provide content. An alleged leaked email of an aggrieved employee of Kenyans Royal Media Services is the latest to bring the foregoing into sharp focus.
Writing for The Elephant, Isaac Otidi Amuke, concerns himself with the question as to whether Covid-19 had come as a media extinction event. Of course, it is not only Otidi who is speaking about this: it is the honest conversation that not just Kenyans but everybody in the world must grapple with.
Why is this so? Well, society cannot do without the media, especially because bad people still exist and the tribulations of this world are just too overwhelming and so the need to entertain and educate.
Covid-19 came with a full package of tribulations and bad people. An investigative titled ‘Covid-19 Billionaires’ piece by Kenya’s NTV was sufficient testimony that bad people would go on a looting spree even as Coronavirus ravaged the country.
First, it was the Nation Media Group (NMG) that moved with speed to lay strategies to monetize their online content, and lately, the Standard Media Group (SG) has indicated that it won’t wait any longer because money is online – no longer on the streets.
Recently, the editorial team had to pay sh150 to subscribe to the Nation. Africa’s weekly content. At first, it was because there is a past article that we needed so much and it was only available on their website.
Things have changed and while Covid-19 seemed to have come as the last nail to be driven into the coffin of quality journalism (mainstream media houses), the trick for survival is available. It is in the monetization of digital content.
The future is bright for those media organizations that will lay deliberate strategies to get subscribers for their websites and tell impactful stories that conform to the media needs of their readers. Money from online channels will be enough to ensure good salaries for aggrieved reporters who toil all the time to tell stories.
Covid-19 must have come as the final reminder on the need for finance departments in media establishments to smell the coffee and do the needful. For once let us thank this goddamned virus!