The media landscape has changed over the last decade due to the internet and the introduction of digital technologies, as a result, newsrooms and media publications had to change how they present news to different audiences. During a Jamfest Africa 2022 session on the digital news funnel journeys, experts from digital news publishing houses with online platform experience shared their insights on how to cater to audiences in an ever-changing media landscape.
The session was moderated by Adenike Aloba, the managing editor and programme director at Dataphyte Nigeria and the speakers were, Soud Hyder, the deputy director of strategy & audience at TRT, Julia Majale, the managing editor at Tuko Media, Lance Witten, the editor-in-chief at IOL and Kobus Louwrens and Ivor Price, the co-founders at Food for Mzansi Group.
“Africans have been paying for content for well over a decade, this has been validated, the problem lies with distribution infrastructure at a scale that allows content creators [media publishers] to easily and effectively reach paying consumers,” said Hyder. He noted that “content is king and audience is queen.” Hyder explained that media publications, need to figure out who their audience is and if are they willing to pay for content”.
Hyder said there are opportunities for media publications to monetise content in Africa, however, there is a need for a platform made for Africans by Africans.
Tuko Media is a Kenyan online newspaper and entertainment website that features aggregated, exclusive and user-generated news content. Majale said Tuko Media monetises its content in two ways: through programmatic and direct sales. Programmatic advertising is a system that automates the processes and transactions involved with purchasing and dynamically placing ads on websites or apps.
“It is difficult in African content to monetise content, despite audiences being used to paying for content,” said Witten. He explained that audiences are discerning and media houses are no longer playing in the news media economy but are playing in the attention economy. “With the dawn of digital news media, audiences have been trained to receive their news for free and we need to carve out spaces for ourselves in order to attract young audiences,” said Witten.
Witten explained that the attention economy means that media publications are in competition with other platforms other than news media platforms such as Spotify, YouTube and Netflix. Witten said it is important for news publications to meet young audiences on the platforms they regularly use, for example, TikTok. “At IOL, we are on a mission to TikTokify our news streams, we are serving up content that the audience likes on a platform they enjoy and in a medium that they are most likely to consume and engage with,” said Witten, adding that “the moment you start building an engaged audience the more you can start monetising content”.
Food for Mzansi is a South African publication that focuses on the agriculture sector and mainly targets younger audiences. According to Louwrens, the publication has built its audience by being a publication that is approachable, a trusted source of information that has strong family community relationships. Price said they have carved out a new audience, unlike health-based publications that always only target a certain demographic of the population.
Content is the ultimate product, and the product needs to have an audience. It is important for media publications to tailor their content to audiences, said Hyder.
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Watch the full discussion here