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By PHILIP MWANIKI @Mwanikih

A recent study by Kenya Audience Research Foundation (KARF) on media consumption in Kenya has elicited a battle between Traditional and New Media.

Dubbed “Media Consumer Survey”, KARF broke down the different ways Kenyans get their news and which is their go-to medium.

No breaking news really that traditional media is still king in Kenya. The survey shows 94% of the media consuming population consume TV, Radio and Print while only 33% consume new media, though not exclusively.

Now comes the part where the battle lines were drawn. The traditional media proponents kicked their fists in the air for what they deemed as a “win” over new media and new media flexed their muscles.

TWITTER BUBBLE

The most notable comment came from one of the biggest TV personalities in the country, Larry Madowo, who tweeted; “Only 33% of Kenyans have access to social media, compared to 94% who consume traditional media. Your Twitter bubble is not the country.”

Of course the supporters of new media who always feel that traditional media is on its last legs felt slighted and attacked Madowo taking issue with his “running to social media to tell us about traditional media” strategy.

One of response to Madowo that gained traction was by @Trackmann who retorted; “Yes please. Come on social media to tell us social media ain’t shit. And you hosted a show primarily fed by social media.”

I am from the most traditional of the traditional media, Newspaper; where everyone seems to be on a deathwatch rising every new day to check our pulse and celebrating whenever the pulse feels weaker. Of the three traditional media, newspaper is the one bearing the biggest brunt of new media, readership is up but newspaper sales are sinking.

There are many reasons why traditional media is still king in Kenya; one, more people trust it in the era of fake news and also the small issue of internet penetration. While still growing, Internet penetration is yet to hit a point where everyone turns to it for information.

A report released earlier this year by Jumia Business Intelligence and GSMA Mobile titled ‘White Paper 2017: Trends from the Kenyan Smartphone and E-Commerce Industry‘, shows that 67 per cent of the population in Kenya is classified as internet users.

SMARTPHONES

This means that two in every three Kenyans have access to the internet and this is all thanks to smartphones. But being an internet user does not mean a lot since bundles are still expensive and internet penetration is still largely in major urban centers.

Many probably are online but only for WhatsApp and Facebook as a way of keeping in touch with friends and family.

Let us go back to the KARF data and look at the 33% and see why it is not a bubble. Casual look into the local media will show you just how much Kenyans on Twitter (KOT) and those on Facebook influence the traditional media.

Traditional media keeps a bloody sharp eye on what is happening on the Kenyan social media scene. Pretty much every TV has a show or a segment that tracks KOT and KOF (Made this one up) and they cover whatever happens here with glee.

You can actually say new media has become a major source for traditional media. A few years ago, the only way traditional media guys like me kept abreast with how people thought or consumed our media was via SMS and snail mail.

Those days are gone, everyone has multiple social media accounts as a way of interacting. Newspapers have columns where they look at what happened through the week.

When #KOT takes on CNN over biased coverage, it gets a lot of coverage both locally and internationally. That does not look or sound like a bubble.

TRADITIONAL MEDIA

Here is how new media affects the rest of the country. It does, in a big way, dictate what traditional media covers.

If a story proves to be a hit on social media, then you are most likely to see a lot of reruns for it. If it is on newspaper, then you will see an article the next day explaining how “Kenyans on KOT reacted to our story.”

Unlike before where feedback could take days to get back to the source, new media gives you feedback on the spot. If people think your article is distasteful, you will only blink twice and you are trending for all the wrong reasons.

When a story proves to be a hit, you will see a trend where they will start carrying similar stories as a way of mining the goodwill. Hits are good and so is trending.

Speaking of trending, it has not become a dirty word. Everyone wants to trend and I mean everyone.

Traditional mediums will gleefully take screenshots of their shows or articles sitting atop the Trending Topics chart and share widely.

You do not need a lot to trend really, just a few accounts (real or fake) tweeting same thing and in a few minutes you will see your hashtag on the Top Trending Topics list. Now, this wouldn’t be of concern if new media was a bubble right?

PRESIDENT FACEBOOK SESSION

When the President decides to hold a Live Facebook session and declines to do media interviews, then you see why the bubble allegation does not hold water.

When the media has to get statements from politicians from their social media pages before the same statements hit their mail, it shows that new media is influential.

When the first thing an anchor does before presenting the news is remind the viewers of his/her Twitter handle and ask people to use a specific hashtag… you get where I am going with this.

Yes, 33% is low compared to 90% but when the former starts dictating the habits of the latter, “low” changes meaning.

I will address what many are probably thinking, Peter Kenneth. In the run up to the 2013 General Election, he was the man to beat and based on his Facebook following and engagement, many thought that he would be the first Facebook President only for that bubble to burst as he performed so poorly in the pools.

Now, that was a bubble because of several things; the silent majority who will scream they are with you but vote differently and also not everyone online is of voting age or will even participate.

So do not look at PK when talking about social media bubble.

Mwaniki is the editor the Buzz magazine that appears in the Sunday Nation.