By Jean-Pierre Afadhali

Kenya’s media ecosystem is changing as media and creatives explore new ways to tell stories while some media owners and innovators embrace and experiment with various forms of doing their work to remain relevant, and sustainably sell their content.

Media sustainability remains a key challenge to ecosystem players leading to efforts to find new and creative forms of journalism, storytelling and business models.

Now Baraza media lab, a relatively new entrant in the media ecosystem that appears to be a hub for media innovation, hopes to boost local media sustainability by supporting the experimentation of new business models, storytelling and collaboration among various players and different media genres, offering the space for testing new ideas and collaboration in the East African country.

In a recent interview, Maurice Otieno, Baraza Media Lab’s executive director, cited a study that the storytelling models for local media had not been interesting to the audience, coupled with political interference through ownership of media houses. The media lab hopes to contribute to media sustainability by giving space to media innovators, entrepreneurs, and creatives to address some gaps in the ecosystem. Collaboration is one of the areas Baraza is pushing.

“There were a few collaborations between different media genres which was making it difficult for information to get there,” explained Otieno in a recent interview. Amid a growing creative industry that sometimes competes with legacy media, the integration of social media influencers, musicians, and animators into mainstream media is another area the media hub is advocating.

Media professionals and creatives are using Baraza Media Lab to test new models of storytelling, and businesses within media and collaborate. Kenya’s media ecosystem like the rest of the world is changing, legacy media is not always the only one that informs, educates and entertains society.

A recent study on the state of media in 2022 commissioned by the Media Council of Kenya revealed that social media was the third main media platform in Kenya at 18% after TV and radio.

Bloggers, social media influencers, podcasters and artists are mainly using social and digital media platforms to reach the audience and monetise their content. Baraza Media Lab brings multidisciplinary media practitioners together to interact for possible collaborations in business.

The Baraza Media Lab recently hosted the Africa Media Festival which brought together various stakeholders in Africa’s media ecosystem to discuss challenges the continent’s media faces and learn from one another’s experiences. The conversation is still going on with major ideas from the forum.

According to the Lab’s executive director, collaboration is very important in media sustainability in Kenya and wider Africa. Some local media have started exploring collaboration with social media influencers which Otieno hopes can lead to a variety of smaller media houses that are part of the space [ Baraza].

Media innovation

The space is advocating for collaboration in the ecosystem by various actors. “I think the simplest example is let’s say a social media influencer and a media house, where they are both going after the same clients … The social media influencers use their social media platforms to distribute the content and are paid by the same client who is paying a mainstream media house to either write an article or [broadcast on] radio, TV.”

According to Otieno, the best way to collaborate where Baraza has been involved is to put both these people (legacy media and creatives) on the table and show them the potential opportunities if they both collaborate and go to the client as one and offer a package.

One of the media innovations that came out of Baraza is called Semabox which is said to be the first studio purposely built to host podcasts in Africa. However, Otieno says some of the experiments have worked while others haven’t. Semabox appears to be one of the well-known product initiatives created from the Nairobi-based media space.

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Podcasting incubation

In a recent interview the founder of Semabox Dan Aceda, who calls himself an ‘Imagineer’, has worked in the creative industry in different capacities. A trained architect and urban designer who worked as a musician and audio professional among other areas, refers to SemaBox as “the first Kenya’s purpose-built podcast studio”. “Before us, there was no podcasting studio that was built for a purpose as a podcasting studio. People were converting other spaces to be podcasting studios,” he explained.

Semabox is accelerating the work of podcast creators who are working in the audio and digital storytelling space. The podcasting incubator focuses on small and micro-podcasters. “We provide space, equipment and a team to help you produce content more consistently and at a higher technical level,” said Aceda, adding that it is easier for them [podcasters] to start building communities around their work and later monetise their content.

Kenya is one of the African countries where podcasting is growing fast according to the 2022 report on audio storytelling in Africa released recently.

Initially, SemaBox was a studio that was providing space for people to hire. “It was like Uber for creation. You just book a time and we take care of you,” Aceda explained. “In addition, we are now early investors in our podcasters that we are incubating and we have invested in. We are helping them to create content and we say when you monetise we can then do the [revenue] split.”

Other creators and media professionals are using Baraza’s space for various projects that include training and exhibitions. Jeremiah Onyango, a 22-year-old documentary photographer from Nairobi, has attended photography sessions, networked, and marketed himself. “I had an opportunity to present my work and continuously attended other sessions to learn about creative space.”

Furthermore, Aceda who says Semabox has worked with more than 300 creators to tell stories, stated that despite opportunities in podcasting there are challenges such as a lack of training. “Our creators because they are amateurs and small and micro creators don’t have knowledge on how to create businesses, even on how to operate in a legal framework.”

Collaboration between media genres

Aceda believes there is potential for collaboration in Kenya’s media ecosystem. I think legacy media is more receptive now to collaboration, I think at the beginning they were not, but now they are now more receptive.

“We are having interesting conversations with legacy media players on what’s possible together,” noted Aceda.

Other entrepreneurs and innovators have used Baraza Media Lab to start their businesses.

Shahara Video is one of them, a video-on-demand platform that offers its users Kenyan and African videos and shows that are accessed on demand.


Podcasting in Africa: an introduction of new voices, ideas and topics

Kenya’s SemaBox launches first women only podcast incubator in Africa



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