How TikTok Era Is Making Kenyans Not Read News Anymore
A long time ago, some of us (including myself) would wait for our parents to read the newspaper before we got our turn, mostly focused on youth content and stories that would interest us.
Back in September, I posed the following question on my Facebook page:
“What's the need these days of writing and publishing news articles and sharing them on social media platforms when we know that a lot of you won't read them anyway? Kenyans have become too lazy to read news articles online.
“These days picture posts are getting more engagements than link posts.”
Comments were aplenty, from vague ones such as ‘busy looking for finances’ to informative ones such as a shift in consumer trends, however, one comment struck my attention:
“There's a guy I listened to on TikTok. He was suggesting that stories, news and information should be read out aloud to people. We're becoming lazy when it comes to reading!”
Side-by-side image of TikTok logo and President William Ruto during a virtual meeting at State House on August 24, 2023. /TIKTOK.PCS
Recently, K24 published a news article detailing Tiktok sensation Azziad Nasenya's battle with suicidal thoughts, but what sparked criticism by Kenyans to the point that Azziad herself issued a clarification on Friday, December 1 saying her harrowing experience with cyberbullying and contemplating suicide occurred three years ago when her video to the “Utawezana” song by Femi One went viral was this;
From the article, you can see two things; a title that many think is clickbait and a recent photo collage of her.
In her video which she published on her social media handles, she said "I'm just wondering why some news outlets decided to report half the story or decide to report something that happened three or four years ago and use a current photo without highlighting the fact that you know what, this was about three years ago when that video went viral
"But you know what, in this country, there are a lot of people who do anything for clickbait or clout, and it's just shameful...it's sad," she goes on.
Digital News vs TikTok
A long time ago, some of us (including myself) would wait for our parents to read the newspaper before we got our turn, mostly focused on youth content and stories that would interest us. Then came the digital news websites which made news consumption in real time possible.
The emergence of TikTok however through short-form videos is just enough to convince anyone that reading has become an alien culture in Kenya.
Simply put, reading online news these days, even the newspaper, does not come naturally to most of us anymore and no longer seems to be in our blood. Kenyans have become too lazy to read, and the numbers on our end confirm it.
While one might argue that K24 was wrong to publish a clickbait headline and use a recent photo of Azziad, this goes to show how news outlets are always coming up with ways to drive traffic to their digital platforms, and since they know Kenyans don't read, they used what I would call a 'viral' headline to make them read.
Traffic translates to revenue...money in simple terms. So when Kenyans don't read our news content, they are denying us an opportunity to earn money, so digital news outlets have to devise ways to keep you coming, and coming back every day.
As stated earlier, picture and video posts are getting more engagement on social media than links to news articles. Kenyans have turned to the easy way of content consumption, even though it is considered one of the most expensive and demanding ways to produce, and download it compared to reading just one article, which takes up kilobytes of your mobile data.
There was a suggestion from my post to ‘TikTok’ news articles. While that may be a good idea, there’s still a huge problem, Kenyans still won’t read because you watch that clip once and a message pops up from Brayo asking ‘My guy, si we do Vasha this weekend?’...distraction.
It is quite sad that Kenyans have become too lazy to read news content when news outlets are stepping up their reporting to include educative articles…whether on their own or within news stories. One of them I read covered how a news anchor fell in love with the HR months into his new job and ended up marrying her…and went on to do an explainer on the pros and cons of office relationships.
It is even worse when the demographics show that men are reading more news content than women, even though stories about women have been on the rise recently. Maybe the question should change from Kenyans to why our beautiful Kenyan women are not reading the news we put out every hour, beating crazy deadlines.
When I started as a writer, there was a suggestion to make my articles shorter, hence my other finding that Kenyans have a super-small attention span that has made journalists in newsrooms compress articles to a few hundred words to summarize everything or break down one report into five short articles to make sure readers accommodate as much content as possible.
I sat down and thought if there would be a need for news websites in the future, especially with monetization on X and journalists sharing their news on socials which could make audiences not see the need to click on links to access information. Without a doubt, the business aspect is why many news organisations still have websites, if not curbing impersonation on social media.
As I exhaust my 700 words, I’ll state just this; it takes 1-2 minutes of your time to read a story and 10 minutes or more to watch someone rant explicit and charged words about the number of taxes the government has introduced.
About 200KBs of mobile data to read a news article and 20MBs to download a video which will unnecessarily fill up your phone’s storage.
The choice is yours.
DISCLAIMER: Any views, thoughts, and opinions expressed by this writer are solely those of the writer and do not reflect the views, opinions, policies, or position of Viral Tea.