AKU graduation: Here’s the future of journalism

Princess Zahra (second left) and Mr  Ezekiel Machogu Ombaki, Kenya’s Cabinet Secretary for Education (centre), with university officials and graduands of Executive Masters in Media Leadership and Innovation at the Aga Khan University convocation ceremony in Nairobi, Kenya, on Saturday. Photo | NMG

What you need to know:

  • The Aga Khan University graduated hundreds of students in a global convocation held across five countries last weekend. Nation Media Group had five employees graduate with the Executive Masters in Media Leadership and Innovation degree. Below, we summarise what they sought to solve in the fast-changing industry

Caroline Wafula.(Employability of graduate journalists in modern media houses; A case study of Nation Media Group as an employer) 

The study sought to establish the current status of employability of graduate journalists in modern media houses in Kenya, with Nation Media Group (NMG) as the case study. It specifically sought to identify essential skills that modern media houses in Kenya currently need from journalism graduates, assess the skills capacity of fresh journalism graduates and determine challenges currently faced by employers in accessing skills needed in modern media houses.  The study established that essential skills set desired from journalism graduates, which could guarantee their employability in modern media houses are worryingly missing, and this is linked to their training.  From the study, a key challenge for employers recruiting for newsroom roles is finding the right people with the essential skills needed to handle current and emerging demands on a digitally evolving profession. Respondents were strongly dissatisfied with the ability of fresh journalism graduates to handle newsroom roles, expressing frustration that they were inadequately prepared for the job market.  The study recommends that J-schools be aligned to changing industry skilling needs through structured and intentional engagement, and to continuously refresh their curriculum.  A Journalism Skills Development Manual is developed from the findings to guide J-schools on training needs. 

Emmanuel Waiswa,Head of Digital Enabling. (Exploring the challenges and opportunities of digital transformation in media organisations: a case of Nation Media Group Uganda)

The study on Nation Media Group Uganda’s digital transformation reveals significant challenges and opportunities. Key findings include organisational resistance to innovation rooted in traditional revenue streams, bureaucratic hurdles, and a generational gap in embracing digital competencies. 
Despite advocating a digital-first strategy, NMG-U exhibits a preference for analogue practices in content processes, necessitating a cultural shift towards digital adoption.
In terms of revenue models, promise is identified in the subscription model with a focus on audience engagement, but delayed adoption of a paywall is seen as a missed opportunity.
Weaknesses in digital marketing and a lack of loyalty programs for retention are acknowledged, while various revenue models face challenges such as pricing issues and competition with social media platforms.
The study concludes with an emphasis on NMG-U’s imperative to diversify revenue streams for long-term viability, highlighting the significance of ethical considerations. Overall, the findings contribute nuanced insights into the complex landscape of NMG-U’s digital transformation, offering valuable lessons for media organisations in the region. 

Harry Misiko,Lead Editor, Digital Platforms, NMG. (Adapting legacy-press digital platforms to Generation Z media needs: a case study of Nation.africa, Kenya)

The study found that Nation.africa’s products that target to serve Generation Z media needs are those that seek to empower them, entertain them, inform them, help them progress in life, and get information in their most preferred formats— audio and visual. 
However, the study found several gaps in Nation.africa’s products targeting the iGeneration such as lack of a clear, deliberate and explicit strategy to serve audiences aged 18-26 years; failure to fully meet and serve the media needs of Gen Z; failure to fully target, involve and feature the young demographic; and lack of or slow pace of innovation. 
The research equally revealed deficiencies in Nation.africa’s content design for serving Generation Z, such as limited content formats, and weak platform nativity for content published on third party platforms, including social media. 
Based on the findings, the study recommended drawing of a comprehensive and explicit strategy to serve media needs of the digital natives, and communication of the plan to all managers and junior staff.

Sheila Adam.(Digital transformation in a legacy media house: A case study of Nation Media Group’s Tag Brand Studio)

Financial constraints and technological changes plague Kenyan media. Thus, media firms must accept digital transformation to survive and remain relevant. International companies have established in-house brand studios or agencies to provide creative services and support their branding and marketing initiatives by doing activities traditionally performed by external agency. Nation Media Group created Tag Brand Studio, an in-house digital marketing agency that develop and execute digital marketing strategies and campaigns that put people and products at the centre of every interaction and provide marketing and communication solutions to internal and external clients to drive digital transformation for digital commercial generation.
This study examined NMG’s Tag Brand Studio five years after its inception to assess its positioning, success, and challenges. NMG employees were interviewed comprising of managers and nine representatives from editorial, commercial, strategy, finance, production, and external affairs in a qualitative study. Tag Brand Studio transformed NMG’s digital landscape, affecting brand awareness, online campaigns, audience growth, and content production. Tag Brand Studio struggles with resource limits, management support, and internal competition despite its success. The ongoing argument concerning Tag’s place in the commercial department highlights the difficulty of reconciling income creation with long-term strategic goals in NMG’s digital transformation. 
The researcher suggests improving internal communication and awareness, collaborating with other departments, and repositioning the brand studio within the commercial department. Overcoming restrictions and achieving success requires significant resource and technology investment and leadership advocacy and support. Tag Brand Studio should work with other departments to prioritise content quality over revenue targets, where a cooperation framework and thorough measurement of KPIs could help Tag drive NMG’s digital transformation.

Samuel Barata(Exploring the viability of a hybrid e-commerce portal as an alternative revenue model for Nation Media Group Uganda).

My project explored the viability of a hybrid e-commerce portal as an alternative revenue model for Nation Media Group Uganda. Findings reflected that the opportunity existed for this. Further research would be necessary to determine ideal price points .  The global media industry, shaped by technological advancements, is facing existential challenges.
Uganda’s NMGU, like industry counterparts, grapples with declining circulation, viewership, and advertising revenues. 
These hardships test NMGU’s sustainability, pushing exploration of new digital revenue streams. Paywalls, initially slow globally, prompt a quest for alternative models, notably a hybrid e-commerce portal, prompting this research. 
The research has recommended a hybrid e-commerce portal and gone ahead to suggest a detailed guide that should be considered and followed as Nation Media Group Uganda designs and launches the hybrid e-commerce portal.