newmediadev2011



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THE CLIENT

Insight News TV is an independent news production company. They strive to use local journalists whenever
possible. Insight News has just begun producing Africa Investigates, an exciting documentary series made by Africans, for Africans, about African issues. Al-Jazeera has already begun showing the series, and the response has been very positive from an international viewership. Yet, Africa Investigates wants local ownership of the documentary series- not only in terms of those producing it (the journalists) but also in terms of the public that will be watching the series. Currently, many talented journalists in Africa must confront censorship (at best) and intimidation and death threats (at worst) as a consequence of their profession.



THE MISSION

Africa Investigates seeks to provide a supportive platform for their materials and to make African institutions, businesses and politicians more accountable and susceptible to pressure to change things for the better. Africa Investigates hopes to reach a significant audience within the African continent to support and encourage the investigative journalists and modern-day heroes.























Al Jazeera in Africa
2009 was a year of significant growth for Al-Jazeera in the African television market. Al-Jazeera English has a worldwide viewership of 140 million and a viewership of 25 million in Sub-Saharan Africa alone. Al-Jazeera's programs air on various television networks in eight countries across Africa, including Sierra Leone's ABC TV Africa, Ghana's Metro TV, and Kenya's Citizen TV. Episodes from Africa Investigates air daily during the evening, with new episodes each week.


CURRENT EPISODES


"What Price the Story?" Revealing the hidden lives of four of Africa's bravest investigative journalists.

"Fool's Gold" Ghana is the second-largest producer of gold on the continent and is now home to a large network of gold fraudsters. Investors have lost millions at their hands. Africa Investigates goes undercover to lift the lid on this illusory pot of gold.

"Zimbabwe's Child Exodus" What motivates thousands of children to take great risks smuggling themselves across the border into South Africa?

"Sierra Leone: Timber!" In this edition of Africa Investigates, reporter Sorious Samura exposes the high level corruption that is stripping his Sierra Leone bare.

"Ghana Gold" Ghana is experiencing a new gold rush but widespread corruption is causing illegal mining to flourish. A Ghanian investigative reporter uncovers corruption, even among those who are supposed to be stopping it.

"Spell of the Albino" In this episode of Africa Investigates, Tanzanian journalist Richard Mgamba, albino community representative, Isaack Timothy, and Ghanaian investigative journalist Anas Aremeyaw Anas set out to discover what lies behind the attacks against albinos.



THE RESEARCH PROBLEM

By training and hiring local African journalists, Africa Investigates has easily accomplished one part of its mission, in terms of local ownership of the production of the documentaries. However, the brand also wants a strong following among African viewers, not only to incite the youth to aspire to better standards and to uncover the truth, but also to show powerful people in the country that their acts of fraud, embezzlement, corruption, etc. will not go unexposed. Africa Investigates is watching.

The challenge for the research team was to come up with innovative ways to distribute the documentaries in Africa as well as create a "following" or "buzz" around the brand. Indeed, in order for distribution to be successful and appealing, potential distributors as well as consumers need to first hear about, and be interested in, Africa Investigates. Therefore, the team conducted the following research:

  • Investigating new, innovative and local ways to create buzz around the Africa Investigates brand
  • Develop a distribution strategy for Africa Investigates documentaries with old and new media platforms

The team decided to focus market research on the following five Anglophone countries: Kenya, Ghana, Nigeria, South Africa, and Uganda, as Anglophone Africa is, for now, Africa Investigates' primary target audience. Additionally, these five countries are also leaders on the continent in terms of telecommunications and media development.

Research Unit


The research unit is composed of a team of students from Columbia University's School of International and Public Affairs. The students were enrolled in Anne Nelson's New Media and Development class.



CREATING "BUZZ"

Reaching out to the African public, and especially the African youth, is critical for the success of Africa Investigates. As a documentary series made BY and FOR Africans, ensuring that the series becomes a "household name" is paramount. Beyond the newspaper cartoon ads that Insight News TV plans to use to promote Africa Investigates, the team also investigated the following mediums as a way of targeting the African market:

Media Strategies

Radio
One of the older forms of media, radio remains an incredibly powerful tool in the African context. In many countries, radio is the most widespread media. This makes radio an integral part of Africa Investigates' buzz creation strategy- especially for reaching rural populations.

Social Media: Facebook, Blogs and Twitter
In contrast to radio, new media has only recently emerged on the African continent. Nonetheless, its use is growing at an impressive speed. For instance, Facebook is the most visited website in several African countries. This suggests that Africa Investigates' online buzz creation strategy should target these social media sites- especially for reaching Africa's young, urban population.

Diaspora Reach
The African diaspora can also play a formidable role in disseminating information about Africa Investigates and promoting it in their home countries.

Mobile Phones
Mobile phones are widespread in Africa, and are being used more and more in innovative ways to disseminate and gather information. Africa Investigates may want to use mobile phones (text messaging in particular) as a way to easily engage the African public across the board.


AFRICA INVESTIGATES IN AFRICA

After creating a "buzz" around the documentary series, Insight News TV must ensure that the documentaries are accessible to their target audience. Africa is witnessing rapid change in technological advancement: while Internet penetration is on the rise within the continent, the available broadband has yet to reach a level where film streaming is easy, fast and attractive. Therefore, the three main forms of distribution on the continent remain television, DVD sales via informal markets and public screenings. However, as internet access expands, particularly through mobile phone platforms, Africa Investigates may also want to capitalize on these available technologies along with the possibility of distributing the documentaries instantly through Online Video on the Demand platforms.

Distribution Strategies

DVDs
DVDs has grown in popularity across Africa since they are inexpensive and relatively easy to replicate. Though the profit margin is rather low, this strategy can be effective in reaching a wide range of young Africans. Beyond basic sales of DVDs, distribution centers at Universities, NGOs, etc, coupled with film screening, can also be effective.

Public Screenings
Public screenings of video content remain a powerful means for distribution-especially in rural areas. This section explores the possibilities for Africa Investigates to distribute and show its documentaries in film festivals or at public screenings set up by NGOs.

Mobile Phones
More so than laptop or computers, Africans are accessing the internet via their mobile phones. In addition, Africans mobile phone internet users do download content such as games and music, which suggests that downloading documentary clips may be a viable option for distributing the Africa Investigates series.


Competitors

It is important to know who are the other companies in the market that are doing the same type of work. It will allow Africa Investigates to explore how it can position itself in the market in a unique way, as well as, maybe collaborate with some of the competitors to increase the visibility and distribution of its series.

Funding Options

Funding is an important part of the overall project; it is useful to map all the different foundations and organizations that are interested in funding online documentaries. Africa investigates can take advantage of its innovative way of producing documentaries to apply for grants.

Monitoring Africa Investigates

Video and Social Media Metrics
Africa Investigates is in the very beginning of developing a following that corresponds to the importance of their news reporting and the potential impact that it should have. It began to generate interest after partnering with Al Jezeera. Currently, most of the viewing on youtube.com has been confined a small subset of their target audience. Much work needs to be done to syndicate links to their videos and content to create multiple referrals from anglophile Africa and around the globe. In the short time that they have been generating interest, viewership has picked up and they have received 74 blog mentions in six months, 34 news mentions in six months, 238 tweets (estimated total), 28 forums postings in six months, and 675,000 total web hits. These numbers are encouraging.



Conclusion

One of the main finding of our research suggests that Insight News TV lacks a active online media strategy. In order to build the impact of the brand it's crucial that Insight News TV continues creating buzz through the different social media platforms such at Facebook and Twitter. On the one hand, the Facebook page should keep the viewers up-dated on the activities of Insight News TV on a weekly basis, the Facebook page also permits to create links for fans to watch trailer directly on youtube. Twitter on the other hand permits viewers to share their opinions. Once the social platforms are actively maintained African Investigates should monitor the use of the devises to understand in which part of the world they are influential and where they can still ameliorate their outreach. We suggest that keeping an active social media strategy probably involves employing a person part time.

Using a combined strategy of both old and new media forms, Africa Investigates has a plethora of opportunities to create buzz about, as well as to distribute, its documentaries in Africa. Strategies within the continent best serve the goals of distribution and awareness creation, while monetizing opportunities lie mostly among the diaspora in advanced economies. Insight News currently has a strong momentum and should seized these opportunities as early as possible capture growth.

WL/SK/JC/KA/WB