The pandemic has seen the rise of various news sharing and storytelling innovations around the world. In order to remain relevant, newsrooms and other forms of traditional media as well as independent online content creators have had to get creative in many never seen before ways, all while adhering to the COVID-19 prevention measures.
The third session of our ongoing #FutureorFuneral series was titled: ‘Stronger Together: Opportunities for Collaboration in Media during a crisis,’ where we mapped out what the pandemic has meant for the media landscape, looking both at the opportunities and challenges that have emerged.
Innovation within the media ecosystem has been heightened by the pandemic — in many ways, accelerating content creation in alternative spaces and bringing new possibilities even in a challenging season.
The panelists for this discussion all brought diverse, well-curated new ways of media expression to this crucial conversation: Muthoni Maingi, Nyambura Mutanyi, Abel Mutua, and Barrack Bukusi. They reminded us that the challenges in media have not prevented creators from taking bold risks, braving new waters and delivering content in new, fresh, adaptive ways. Journalists, storytellers and content creators of all forms are still dreaming, still creating, still taking risks.
Barrack Bukusi of The Catapult Agency gave an overview of the content creation ecosystem through his keynote presentation, where he laid the facts of media collaboration, from looking at opportunities to collaborate with government agencies, businesses and with other creators. He also emphasized the importance of centering the consumer in the process of content creation, hoping that we can get to see more creative ways of generating revenue while keeping the audience central.
Muthoni Maingi, head of digital campaigns for Oxfam, thinks of social change as a fire and individual people as embers, looking for that spark that will light the fire. She says that social media can be that spark that ignites the flame, bringing the embers together. For her, social media as a medium of exchange, allows things and information to come to life, bringing forth the ‘how.’
“People are at home, making it a great time to create content because there has been a spike in content consumption. However, most of this content has largely remained inaccessible to those who struggle to buy data. The pandemic has highlighted many inequalities, and what I would like to see being prioritised is content that is accessible to lower data platforms in what I like to call snackable bits.”
Actor, writer and content creator Abel Mutua, alias Mkurugenzi Mkuu, talked about his Youtube storytelling sessions, describing them as first and foremost, for the people. His Youtube channel, launched mid-2020, grew its subscriber and viewership base astronomically – in fact, hitting 100,000 subscribers in a matter of weeks. “The fact that I sit on a stool talking doesn’t mean much, but what I am saying is what matters. I realized one thing, we have all been lied to.”
“For the longest time, we have believed the narrative that politicians are superstars, when the truth is that people just want to be told basic things. No one is giving people hope in mainstream media and that is where I come in – to give hopeful and joyful stories.”
In reflecting on this, we went back to a fascinating piece of information that Odanga Madung had shared during our second session where he gave us insight to the top stories that went viral last year. He shocked us when he revealed that none of the political stories which we are constantly bombarded with made it to the top of the most-watched list, emphasizing that the fact that politics dominate news is not the doing of Kenyans.
Nyambura Mutanyi, a leading voice in both augmented reality and virtual reality, envisions a future where audiences are immersed into stories and content through AR and VR. “There can be many opportunities for AR and VR creators, something that would create new possibilities and new ways to bring audiences into the stories, though I wonder a lot about the accessibility to such content.”
Nyambura also hopes for a change in tired approaches to storytelling. “How can we tell stories from a different perspective?” she posed, and highlighted comedy Youtube creator Njugush as an exemplar of pushing the boundary in the fusion of news commentary and entertainment. “One of Njugush’s most recent videos does this perfectly, where we see the possibility of absorbing facts with a dose of humour. Political stories are important, but other ways to tell these stories are important.”