NAIROBI, Kenya, Feb 9 – Convergence of media platforms is the future for Africa, as innovations in mobile technology and improvements in Internet access begin to shape news consumption across the continent.
Google Director of Communication for Southern, Eastern Europe, Middle East and Africa Scott Rubin said as more users look for a more interactive experience when sourcing for news and information, finding new ways to engage them online will be crucial for African media.
“It’s a matter of thinking of different ways to tell the story. So if the radio presence is the primary medium, the broadcast remains the broadcast. The website provides something more, where you can have a social experience and add information that simply can’t make it on to the radio,” he said.
Rubin, who was speaking during a media roundtable on Thursday, added that with social media beginning to take off in the continent more news media networks need to take advantage of the interactions in that space to grow their audience.
“There’s a real strong potential by using social media to raise awareness. So much of what’s happening on the web in the social space is that people are counting on each other to figure out what’s cool, what’s interesting,” he said.
In the fourth quarter of 2011 Kenya was the second most active African country on Twitter with 2,476,800 tweets posted on the social network site.
Rubin added that Africa’s media fraternity would have to embrace the idea of ‘rich media,’ which simply is the use of interactive multimedia to engage users often in the form of streaming video live or an interactive ad on the website.
Such methods can help raise revenue, Rubin said, highlighting the fact that Google generates 90 percent of its revenue from online ads.
Taking the aspect of rich media to mobile devices he explained is another way to generate funds especially with over 90 percent of traffic to the internet in Kenya over mobile phones.
“Mobile usage in Kenya has just shot up. We have mobile ads products so people can use revenue enhancing models where they can monetize their mobile presence by using our mobile ads,” he said.
In 2010, the total number of mobile connections in Africa surpassed both Western Europe and Eastern Europe, while as of September 2011; Africa had overtaken Latin America, making it the second largest mobile market in the world after Asia Pacific, according to a GSMA report.
Between 2007 and 2011, the number of connections in Africa had more than doubled from 283 million to 620 million, representing a 22 percent Compound Annual Growth Rate (CAGR) over the four year period.
Google Communications Manager for East and Francophone Africa Dorothy Ooko said Google has already taken steps to get more local content to users via mobile devices by assisting local developers create applications to facilitate more interaction.
“You can have a Capital FM app on an android phone and enable this continual engagement there because online sometimes is a bit hard or people cannot afford it, but if the app is updated you are continually engaging. So developers are helping us get the local content that is relevant,” she said.
Other tools such as Google + Hangout that offers a virtual space for online interaction through video, Ooko adds is one way Google is maximizing on new forms of communication.