By Nasser Kasozi Akandwanaho
Proprietors of media houses in the East Africa region have been asked to look for alternative revenue sources instead of relying on traditional advertising.
According to researchers, traditional advertising is shrinking and can no longer sustain the operations of media houses.
This was revealed during the launch of the report dubbed ‘The State of Innovation and Media Viability in East Africa Research Project’ in Kampala yesterday.
The research was conducted by DW Academy together with Media Challenge Initiative (MCI) and Aga Khan University between September 2020 and August 2021.
Dr. Rose Kimani, the lead researcher, and project officer at DW Academy Kenya, highlighted the report findings indicate that most media houses in East Africa have failed to sustain their workforce because of limited revenue collection.
According to the report, most media houses across the region over-rely on commercial advertising followed by sponsored content and government funding yet they are not sustainable.
“There is over-reliance on commercial advertising as a key source of revenue yet the advertising base is smaller than the number of media houses because they are growing every day,” she said.
Ms. Kimani urged that media houses start thinking about alternative revenue sources such as grants, sponsored content, subscription, and crowdfunding to support their operations.
“We have found out that even new media houses are still thinking in the old way of depending on advertising and it’s a big problem because they are not thinking innovatively even though they are new in the industry,” she said.
Mr. Moses Wetasa, the commissioner-in-charge of communications at the Ministry of ICT, suggested that media houses begin operating like hubs where content, equipment, and production are shared.
“As a government, we encourage media to consider working together, including mergers, because we have realized that upcountry media houses fail to hire professional journalists, which also reflects in the quality of journalism we have in the country,” he said.
The commissioner explained that for print media, there can be sharing of printing facilities and office space so as to reduce operating costs.
Mr. Wetasa noted that under the Information and Communication Bill, 2022, currently under review, they want to clearly define who should be a journalist so as to bring order in the profession.
At the same event, about 100 journalists from across the region participated in the East Africa Storytelling Festival under the theme, ‘Local change, Global Impact: Building Informed and Thriving Communities through Journalism.’
The festival brought together media experts, journalists, and analysts to discuss the future of journalism.
The Methodology Used in Research
During the research, 273 media managers and 814 journalists were contacted.
The key areas of focus in the research were newsroom structure, ownership/ business model, organizational structure, financial performance and revenue models, and innovation culture, among others.