OPINION: Is Media Still Viable?

Innocent Nahabwe

By Innocent Nahabwe

When Kenzo operates like a full TV station, who needs a trained journalist anyway? Last week, I shared with top media practitioners in Uganda and journalism professors about what I think about media viability and sustainability. This was at the #MediaWeek organised by Media Focus on Africa Uganda.

The Question was, “Is Media still viable?” My belief is, yes, media will always be viable. People will always want to know, learn and be entertained. What will keep changing still, will be the channel through which they access this and the form in which they want to consume the content.

If we use the food analogy, humans will continue to be hungry and want to eat. However, the food preparation will have to change and most definitely the type of saucepan as well as the cooking.

For a media house to survive, it must constantly identify or even better, anticipate the changes in tastes and consumption habits of the consumer and orient themselves accordingly. The consumption of media content is changing and so, we too, as media practitioners must change.

One big game changer in all this is the power of a new gadget – the mobile phone. In its compact nature, it has quickly replaced the camera, the newspaper, the radio receiver, the TV set etc. in many ways. Everyone seems to have it at all times.

UCC says we have over 20M handsets in this country more than 30% data enabled. You now don’t need to be an expert or a journalism graduate to broadcast content. Some individuals like Ashburg Kato, Stella Nyanzi, Kakensa, Bad Black and others have a bigger following than some of the ‘big’ media houses.

When Eddy Kenzo was live yesterday, his post was being viewed by over 16,000 people at a time. His videos have millions of views on YouTube.We therefore, must wake up quickly and appreciate that the phone is taking over and as a media house find a way to adjust and orient our teams to go digital, producing content for the phone. The person or media house that perfects this migration to the mobile will most likely be the most viable.

Amidst all this, media houses must find a way to distinguish themselves as consistently reliable providers or relevant and relatable content via the phone. What might be the victim in all this, will probably be journalists. As phones and other technology make it easier to gather and process content, the reliance on journalists to take the lead in gathering and broadcasting/publishing content will continue to diminish.

Remember people don’t consume content as works of journalism but bits of information we need. We don’t care who worked on it. Most journalism graduates who are coming through seem unready to do things the new way. They are still being trained in delivering content in traditional way which has since changed.

It is strange that all the higher institutions of learning haven’t absorbed the need for tabloid journalism in their course units yet the trend of consuming news among the younger population is steady fast switching from hard to light content.

WhatsApp and Facebook messenger apps have changed the way in which news and content are shared and consumed. How do journalists and media houses make themselves relevant in such a fast moving technology where millions now resort to obtain breaking news?

Celebrities now choose to go to social media and broadcast live their communique instead of seeking out journalists from media houses for a press conference. Eddy Kenzo’s clear the air message on the current state of events within his relationship on his official Facebook page had historic 16,000 viewers. The press conference has changed.

Kenzo in this case is the broadcaster, the ‘journalist’, producer and editor. How does the journalist fit it? There is need for an overhaul at the higher institutions teaching journalism courses. Many are rigid and brand new technology or phone use a thing for the unethical and untrained.

Phone or Social media use for instance should be a part of journalism or mass communication departments in all these institutions. How can students tap into it to improve their chances and delivery?

Nowadays, talented cameramen, DJs, comedians and aggressive bloggers are taking center stage in media practice. Considering there is so much noise, media must make themselves relevant by delivering value worth the data and time of the busy consumer. Journalists and media must find ways to adapt a digital first approach to remain viable.

So, media will be viable but journalism as we knew it might not be!

The writer is the CEO Galaxy FM, Blue Cube, Kagwirawo Sports Betting, UG Ziki & Howwe.Biz_

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