Did you know that in 2021 Kenyans watched less TV and spent more time on social media? Or that some Kenyans rely on family, friends, or even social media icons and bloggers as a source of news and information? These are some of the conclusions highlighted in the 2021 State of the Media Survey conducted by the Media Council of Kenya (MCK).
The report which was released in January 2022 illuminate discussions about media trust, emerging trends, and future business models. Here are five key takeaways from the study.
i). Less TV, more social media
Fewer couch potatoes? Well, according to the survey, last year, 58% of Kenyans, or approximately 17 million people aged 15 and up, watched television daily. In 2020, that figure stood at 74%. That’s a significant 16% drop in TV viewership.
However, in 2021, Kenyans spent more screentime on their social media platforms than in 2020. Respondents spent approximately 3 hours per day tweeting, posting, liking, commenting, and sharing on social media. That is longer than the global average of two hours and twenty-four minutes.
“Yes, social media or digital media is gaining every other minute,” Leo Mutisya, the lead researcher of the MCK study, told the EAST Site. “It’s gaining because if you look at print media, the mainstream media, which we call the legacy media, has introduced fireworks! Before, we used to consume print media for free online, but now it’s impossible,” Mutisya said, alluding to the many online news paywalls coming up.
Mutisya noted that most of the brains behind these platforms are bloggers who have a lot of followers online. “So, probably that can lead to growth and development,” he added.
ii). Radio still the king
Despite the growth of social media usage, 74% of Kenyans listened to the radio in 2021. That translates to about 21.4 million people consuming radio content daily. Interestingly, MCK recorded a similar figure in the 2022 survey.
Moreover, on average, Kenyans spent 2 hours listening to the radio each day, higher than the global average of 1 hour per day. The finding will come as good news to the many Kenyan FM radio stations and audio content creators, especially since there has always been this debate about whether or not radio is relevant as a means of communication in the digital age.
Surprise, surprise! 96% of respondents said they turn on their radios because of entertainment. The news came in second at 93%. In other words, the average Kenyan listener prefers music, lifestyle, and other “soft topics.”
iii). Taste for local content
The MCK survey found that about 70% of the overall content Kenyans partake in is locally produced. But how good is the quality? “Actually, I think we have improved the quality of local content over the past five to ten years,” said MCK’s lead researcher Mutisya.
“We are getting a lot of quality content from our local media houses than foreign.” However, he warned that local media faces an existential threat.
“There is an issue of media viability and the market not being able to support local content. So we are getting very cheap content from Mexico. Very cheap content from Thailand, very cheap content from Northern America, and they [local producers] cannot compete.”
“There is no money to fund the local content. So who is paying the artists? Do you expect the owner of the media enterprise to get money from their own pockets to pay the artists so that producers can produce some local content? Or do they even have the money to buy the same local content production?” Mutisya posed.
He used the analogy of importing chicken from the Netherlands, saying: “It kills our chicken [industry] because it’s cheaper and subsidized!
So, the content you get from outside is subsidized compared to our own. The [media] industry has to fund its content from its pocket. The government does not pay for this.”
iv). Online news subscriptions growing
The survey found that 25% of Kenyans now access newspapers online. But what does that mean in terms of numbers and online news subscriptions? “It means that Kenyans are impressed by the idea of consuming a lot of online content as opposed to buying the hard copy newspaper,” Mutisya said. However, he also clarified that many Kenyans still purchase a newspaper.
“So, it’s a fascinating phenomenon. But now, it’s for the print media to take advantage of the increasing digital consumption. That is what we see from across the country.”
v). Questionable source of news
Another surprising discovery was that a section of Kenyans relies on family, friends, relatives, social media icons, and bloggers as their primary source of news and information.
According to Joshua Obuya, a research consultant, there is a need to create awareness of accessing media. “They should know the bias that comes with getting information from others,” Obuya said. “As much as they could trust the person they are getting the information from, they need to be informed. They need to interrogate further discussions,” Obuya said.
“For example, where did you hear it from, or who’s talked about it? If you watched it on TV, is there any [other] place where I can get it?”
Obuya concluded by saying the media should encourage people to be inquisitive of the information they get. “Then it can increase the level of accessing information and avoid getting fake content.”
Isaac Swila contributed to this article.
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