A Freeze Frame of African Audiences’ Changing Media Behaviour – the users and what they are doing

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African Audiences’ Changing Media Behaviour - Key Trends:

 

In 2013 Balancing Act carried out a detailed market research study in seven Sub-Saharan countries in the vanguard of adopting the Internet and social media. The study has four parts – which are available for free as downloads – and looks at how the Internet and social media are changing Africa’s communications and media landscape.

Russell Southwood highlights some of the key findings from the study that are directly relevant to those working in Africa’s broadcast media.


The study has three components: nationally representative face-to-face surveys; a survey of featurephone users and qualitative groups to explore issues in depth. One of the face-to-face surveys covers Northern Nigeria with a regionally representative sample. The seven countries covered are: Ethiopia, Ghana, Kenya, Nigeria, Senegal, Tanzania and South Africa.

Sub-Saharan Africa is the cockpit of change in terms of the global digital divide and changing media and communications use; in little over a decade it has gone from being largely unconnected to the Internet to having millions of people using it. Because media have been relatively undeveloped—for a host of reasons, including education, income, and lack of access to electricity—the impact of the digital changes have and may continue to be somewhat more dramatic than in countries where traditional media and communications have been much better established.

Some of the key findings of the study are as follows:

The Rise of Social Media: Over five years Facebook has grown from practically no users in Sub-Saharan Africa to become the most widely used social media platform. In the four countries where face-to-face surveys were carried out for this research, between 14% (Tanzania) and 27% (Ghana) of all respondents were using it. This finding is reinforced by the recent announcement from Facebook that it has 100 million users in Africa. A large number of these users access Facebook to follow other media online while on the move.

People “like” news media (newspapers, radio and TV stations) on Facebook to get information and receive similar “news” or “research” alerts from friends and colleagues. Examples of high “likes” for media organisations are easiest to illustrate with those taken from Nigeria and South Africa. South Africa’s Metro FM has 301,208 likes and the Daily Sun 275,82 likes. In Nigeria, Information Nigeria has 1.4 million likes and Naija.com 1.25 million likes.

More Media Choice in an Increasing Number of Countries: The focus group and one-to-one interviewees for this research were asked what had changed most about media and communications in the last five years. Two responses were common to all those who took part: the greater amount of media available and the presence of the Internet. The greater availability of media is a product of the liberalization of media markets in Africa and is not true for all countries. Slightly under half (25) of all African countries have liberalized both radio and TV stations and a number of countries (like Zimbabwe) are committed to doing so.

The two responses – more media available and the arrival of the Internet - are interconnected as wider media generally drives a wider set of viewpoints and information with the Internet acting as a backstop where people can get information not provided by traditional media or actually restricted by Government. From the group and one-to-one research this is very much the role the Internet plays in slightly different ways in Ethiopia and Senegal.

The Move from Mass To Niche Audiences: In broad terms, when there are only a few radio and TV stations, they have the potential to address most people (except those in some rural areas) because there is little or no choice. This is a mass audience that is largely undifferentiated in any way. With more channels and stations, eventually commercial pressure force owners to address particular niche audiences (18-25s, women, etc).

If there are many private radio or TV stations, then the commercially sensible thing to do is to focus on a niche audience: for example, Classic FM in Kenya focuses on slightly older listeners with “soul and great hits.” Another way of focusing on smaller, niche audiences is to broadcast in vernacular languages. For example, Royal Media’s Chamgei FM is in Kalenjin and aimed at that community. These niche channels – whether TV or radio – may not have an impressive national, mass audience but are dominant within their niche audience.

Although there remains key players in the market, there is considerable fragmentation of both radio and TV audiences. This trend will be reinforced by the increasing number of TV channels after the digital transition has been completed.


This change will encourage a number of things that will increase the number of TV channels and may lead to increased TV audiences for many broadcasters. In the past, the state broadcaster usually had the most extensive national transmission network and its private rivals focused on the larger cities. With one or more signal carriers, all broadcasters will have access to a larger national footprint.

New entrants will be able to launch TV channels without having to put up their own TV transmission structure. For example, in Kenya, two signal carriers isare already transmitting 50 new channels. In the past, international news channels like BBC, CNN and Al Jazeera were only carried by satellite Pay TV providers like DStv, meaning that their reach was limited. However, in Uganda all three of these channels have indicated that they will be interested in appearing on the national signal carrier, meaning that there might be be free-to-air access in all TV households, giving them potentially a much larger audience.

Changing behavior in terms of news and information: Both the feature phone user research and the qualitative groups emphasize how those with access to the Internet use their mobile phones for getting both news and information. In the case of the feature phone users, using the Internet in this way comes just behind radio and TV as a means of getting news and information whereas the percentage using Internet in this way is much lower in the overall population.

Access to electricity: This plays a key role in the differences in reach between television and radio. Whereas radios can be run on batteries of one kind or another, it is much more difficult to run TVs on battery power and will become impossible with the new generation of digital TV sets. In those countries where the percentage access to electricity is high, television has a reach that is broadly comparable to radio. But in those countries where electricity access much lower, the majority of people with electricity access are in urban areas and TV access is broadly similar to electricity access.

Urban vs Rural – The Rural Media Deficit: On almost every measure, those living in rural Africa are at a disadvantage to their urban counterparts. In terms of this research, the most striking shortfall is their ability to access media. The majority has no access to TV and can listen to far fewer radio stations than their urban counterparts. Because of the geographic distances and lack of good roads, newspapers either arrive late or mainly not at all. Until recently, access to the Internet was an almost entirely an urban phenomenon, although a small number of rural people now have access. But even in a more developed country like South Africa, only 24% of Internet users are in rural areas . Furthermore the speed of Internet connection has accelerated faster in urban areas (allowing access to video material) than in rural areas.

An Overall Increase in the Number of Devices: Over the last five years, the number of Africans who own or have access to mobile phones, computers, laptops, smartphones and tablets has grown considerably. These both act as media carriers (a mobile with a radio or TV receiver) or a media in their own right (a mobile accessing the Internet and Social Media).

Wider Access to Computers and Laptops: Computer ownership is much more constrained by the cost of the device. Nevertheless, the face-to-face surveys show that there has been an increase in computer use and what is probably a much wider pattern of shared use. Ownership of desktop computers and laptops is highest in Ghana (18% and 19% respectively) and Senegal (19% each) and lowest in Tanzania (3% and 6% respectively) and Northern Nigeria (6% each). Taking into account sharing, 37-50% of respondents had access to some type of computer in Ghana and Senegal and 14-16% in Tanzania and Northern Nigeria. Tablets users were almost non-existent amongst face-to-face survey respondents in Northern Nigeria and Tanzania but in Ghana (6%) and Senegal (5%) a significant number of respondents own a tablet of some form, which might also include “phablets” (large screen smartphones).

The Haves and the Have Nots:
Until recently, access to the Internet was an almost entirely an urban phenomenon, although a small number of rural people now have access. But even in a more developed country like South Africa, only 24% of Internet users are in rural areas. Furthermore the speed of Internet connection has accelerated faster in urban areas (allowing access to video material) than in rural areas.

The Meteoric Growth of Social Media: Over five years Facebook has grown from practically no users in Sub-Saharan Africa to become the most widely used social media platform. In the four countries where face-to-face surveys were carried out for this research, between 14% (Tanzania) and 27% (Ghana) of all respondents were using it, a significant number on basic phones using SMS. Facebook is the dominant platform although there are interesting local variations. All forms of social media serve as a source of news and information alongside more traditional media. People “like” news media  (newspapers, radio and TV stations) on Facebook to get information and receive similar “news” or “research” alerts from friends and colleagues.

For anyone working in NGOs dealing with health issues, the report contains detailed findings of the impact of health information and different health messages.

The study has four detailed reports and you can choose which of them you want to download by clicking on the links below:

 

The Sub-Saharan Media Landscape - Then, Now and in the Future

Face-to-Face Survery - Overview and Summary Results

Feature Phone - Users Survey 

Qualitative Research


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Digital Content Africa: Balancing Act's web TV channel Smart Monkey TV has launched a new e-letter called Digital Content Africa. On a fortnightly basis, it covers online film, music, publishing and services and applications. We have already produced 25 issues and these can be viewed on this link: Essential reading for those in broadcast or film. If you would like to subscribe, just send an email to info@balancingact-africa.com with Digital Content Africa in the title line.
Here are some examples of past issues below:

You Tube provides a platform for piloting new TV series: An African City and Al Bernameg light the way

Licensing delays stall Kenya’s “i-Tunes” content platform on a Raspberry Pi but end may be in sight

The Mobile Deal that is keeping Africans from having more music, film and TV on their mobiles

Online film, music and TV content in Africa – In search of the elusive business model

Video Clip Interviews - This week:

Abukar Abba Tahir on Gotel's plans to launch the Al Jazeera of Africa from Abuja

Michael Wanguhu on a TV series that follows Kenya's marathon runners in the USA

Khalid Shamis' film The Colonel's Stray Dogs about the Libyan opposition in exile who went back

Kene Mkparu, Filmhouse on having 25 cinemas in Nigeria by 2019

Director Abey Esho on the trials and tribulations of shooting the web/tv series Festac Town

Ulrich Stark on how broadcasters can make money on social media platform Wezwa

Man on Ground Akin Omotoso on his latest film a rom-com called Tell Me Sweet Something

Director of Dr Bello, Tony Abulu on his next film Superstar slated for release in March 2015

Evert van der Veer, Head of Comedy Central, Africa on the South African comedy scene and programmes they make

Three competition winners talk about the film they'll make for Afrinolly's Cinema4Change

Mandy Roger on exclusive African content coming on Pana TV inc a Basketmouth series

Jason Njoku, iROKO on launching its production arm ROK Studios to test film and TV series