- Guest post by Jimmy Gitonga (@afrowave)
On the 25th of August, Kwani? held a Content Meets Techdiscussion at the iHub that brought together Buni Media, DDD, Kama Si Sisi (KSS) and Kwani?, with Jimmy Gitonga moderating and representing the tech community. The aim was to figure out what content creators coming from a traditional background are doing to take their content online and reach new audiences.
Technology is driving many societal changes in the ways different players in the content-technology chain create, disseminate, receive, consume and perceive content and information. Content providers in the arts, culture and public media, like Kwani Trust and Buni Media, are entering these spaces with renewed energy. Online technologies like social media now take up huge market sectors in the consumption of content.
A number of questions were raised that can be found here.
Billy Kahora of Kwani? opened the meeting, laying out these questions and highlighted the peculiar situation that Kwani?, as a donor-funded content creating institution, is grappling with.
Marie Lora-Mungai of Buni Media explained that coming from a donor-driven background, they started on a course to create value from their work on the “anchor” brand, the XYZ show. XYZ is an obvious hit with cheap VCD versions appearing on the street in a short time. But for audiences outside the country, Buni Media tried online rental and that did not work. Buni Media’s current strategy is to offer world-class African entertainment on the Buni TV platform and and tap into Africa’s love for the mobile phone. The plan is to get to 1 million visitors a month and then launch Buni TV’s premium platform. Questions came from the audience on how the monetization will be carried out. The current solution is through mobile micro-payments that means working with the mobile network operators. These payments are in the form of “airtime”. This is the system similar to the “Skiza Tunes” service on the Safaricom network.
Billy Kahora for Kwani? then picked up after that, giving a short history of Kwani? and the current issues that Kwani? is grappling with. One was that a lot of data is collected by NGOs and other donor funded organisations. Considering that a lot of the information is from public sources and spaces, do these products belong to the institutions or are they in the public? The release of government collected data as the Open Data initiative is a going to help this debate. But as NGO funded initiatives move from public-funded, agenda-driven content to privately-funded, original content, their modes of existence and relevance will need to change as well. Kwani? called out to savvy techies to tell them how to transpose their content for tech.
Peris Were of DDD, opened by stating that DDD is a social enterprise that offers Business Process Outsourcing (BPO) " while offering young people from disadvantaged families a path out of poverty." This is the basis for creating eKitabu, an online bookstore that processes books and magazine products to distribute and sell on any digital platform that is out there. It is possible through eKitabu to lock a purchase to a user access to 2 devices. The product can be time limited as well to facilitate rental and limited offers. Peris talked of some of the teething challenges eKitabu was experiencing but having already digitized 1000 books including those from Kwani?, she believes that as they continue to train more youth in this content development business, by the end of year eKitabu will have 1 million books online.
Stephen Mwakesi of Kama Si Sisi talked of building an online brand as the first thing they embarked on with Juliani as the anchor brand. Considering their audience, the age group and economic power, KSS believed that it was important to first create an engaging experience through the Internet. By combining, alerts through Twitter, conversations on Facebook and the happenings on YouTube as well as blending them together, what the audience felt about Juliani could be seen offline in the concerts.
Juliani jumped in and made it clear that growing the online experience will not immediately trnaslate to sales because the transfer of online numbers to offline has not been big. The current situation was that the online experience was being used to market the brand and not necessarily generate income. He believes that is somewhat in the future and asked the other content providers to take this into consideration.
A question on piracy was asked and the issue of online music web sites such as Spotify arose. Stephen said that contrary to popular opinion, a lot of the music that is listened to in Kenya, whether local of international would not be here if there was no level of piracy. So the question that even Nollywood contends with is how to make piracy work for the content creators without starving them to death. One thing that piracy has done is increase the speed of content development and delivery. Billy asked whether by concentrating on the digital medium, are there certain audiences that going to be locked out. It was an important question considering that the migration conceptually from offline to online has to happen in sync with the audiences and thus with the revenue centres.
The conclusion of the meet-up was that:
- Traditional content creators have to move online
- The money payment systems for micro-payments have to be come easy to integrate into
- Direction in legislation and policy development have to be made clear by the publicly mandated bodies such as the ICT board
- The content creators have to become savvy in technical developments and digital platforms.