Technological innovation continues to fundamentally change the global media industry. Consumers today face a proliferation of sources and social media platforms to navigate, with algorithms influencing how people engage with news and creating limited space for meaningful dialogue. Meanwhile, media companies are increasingly investing in data science and automation to better engage users and provide them with a better product.
It’s in that online information landscape and amid these new trends that industry and society face one of the biggest challenges – misinformation. Trusted, impartial information is at the heart of impactful news reporting, and keeping up with shifting digital and information consumption trends requires consistent investment and innovation.
This is understandably creating skepticism amongst consumers, particularly in Africa, with more than three-quarters of people suspecting the news they’re reading, watching, or scrolling through could be fake. The proliferation of misinformation, fuelled by polarised societies and enabled by new technology is creating a febrile media environment. That’s even before AI, the next major global disruptor, really makes its impact.
However, with change and evolution come opportunities. If Africa’s media sector can come up with new and innovative solutions needed to tackle the challenges of the 21st-century information landscape, it will reap significant benefits for the continent’s economy.
The opportunity for growth is there for the taking. Although traditional media consumption is declining, media consumption is growing overall, driven by digital media. In fact, by 2025, African markets will make up around 10% of the $2.5 trillion global media and entertainment industry.
In addition to driving up revenues for African news publishers, the rise of digital also presents important advantages for people in all corners of the continent, with new and more engaging cross-platform experiences available at the click of a button across video, audio, and mobile.
We’re already seeing this opportunity play out across Africa. Streaming video usage is higher in the Middle East and Africa than anywhere else in the globe – with users spending one minute more per day than the average North American.
How Africa capitalizes on this opportunity and tackles global challenges like misinformation will be front of mind for some of the world’s most prominent media, business, government, tech, and community leaders as they gather in Cape Town this week for the Bloomberg Africa Business Media Innovators Forum 2023. The event is part of the Bloomberg Media Initiative Africa (BMIA), a collaboration between leading African universities, non-profit groups, and the private sector, aimed at strengthening financial journalism and economic data across the continent.
With ongoing political and economic instability across the world, the need to build a vibrant and responsible media ecosystem that promotes transparency and accountability from governments has never been more important. Reliable news enables, informs, and engages its audiences so that everyone can make better decisions – the public, business, and foreign investors. This includes boosting access to news online. Reliable internet access and cellular infrastructure are critical and that requires investment in fiber networks and broadband connectivity that is still lacking in some parts of the world.
Bloomberg recently invested in new media operations in the region. Adding live reporting and new TV programming from Johannesburg, Kigali, and Lagos has enhanced our breaking news operations and analysis on the continent, and as part of it, demonstrated how a commitment like this can show investment in infrastructure. The great work we’ve started in Africa will be a content engine for all of Bloomberg’s distribution platforms.
As well as capitalizing on new technology and infrastructure, a key part of the solution is making sure we’re investing in Africa’s next generation of journalists, ensuring companies work hand in hand with business and journalism schools. The BMIA is just one small example of this, launched in 2014 to advance business journalism in Africa. Ever since it’s been leading educational programs and fellowships to increase the number of highly trained financial journalists and working to stimulate new media innovations.
Boasting the youngest and fastest-growing population of any world region, the potential for continued job creation and economic growth across Africa is palpable. The importance that the media plays in educating and empowering people means that the industry will be a crucial part of this growth. By harnessing technology and innovation across the sector, we can foster the right environment for journalists to flourish, powering prosperity now and in the future.
M. Scott Havens is the CEO, of Bloomberg Media