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WhatsApp, Facebook & the streets: the new markets for Zim content creators

Paraffin, Mukadota, Gringo, Mutirowafanza, Neria, More Time, Jit, Yellow Card, Flame. Seemingly random names, but all these titles register some significance with Zimbos that lived in a bygone era.

It’s just a handful of productions that represent the great local content that we used to consume from the good old TV. Then technology started changing things like it always does. The world became digital first and our local content wasn’t as visible anymore.

Now, in 2015, we still have local productions being churned out, but the game has changed astoundingly. From the variables that are involved in its production, the way it’s consumed, where it’s consumed and how the market pays for it, if it’s paid for it all. Each small component has been touched in many ways by tech. It’s best described with one word – Disruption.

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One part of this entertainment and content creation equation that’s at the heart of the entire industry’s progress is the marketing and distribution of new material. Everyone who’s in the entertainment business has been trying to tweak the way this is done ever since people started giving up on ZBC and VCRs as the sole providers of good entertainment.

All variations of business models and distribution channels appear to be falling short of providing a seamless and consistent way of giving creators a decent and fair return for the work they are doing.

The switch to digital content has also meant easy transfer of content from one medium to another which has nurtured another problem, piracy. So how are content producers making it past all these obstacles? Well, each is being taken separately, and there are some solutions or workarounds.

For content marketing and distribution, it’s ironic that technology is offering salvation for all of this. Locally the more visible producers of content have done what anyone in content creation should be doing really and have embraced social media platforms, not only for the feedback that comes easily through that line but also to promote new work.

At the Digital Future Conference, content creators like Nafuna TV‘s Nqobizitha Mlilo highlighted the impact of WhatsApp in promoting new productions and sharing short videos which are more relevant to the demands of mobile content consumption.

(You can catch the discussion around this issue from the podcast available here)

Facebook has also offered content creators another popular platform to reach out to a large part of the market. Video has become a priority for Facebook and when used effectively as has been done by producers like Zvirikufaya naKeda and the P.O BOX team.

The frustrating bit is that all the activity on both Facebook and WhatsApp is difficult to monetise. This has left youTube as a viable platform, even though in reality these dividends haven’t been fully experienced by local content creators who are still building momentum there.

Which gives room for another channel of content distribution, the DVD. In an environment where internet access is still expensive, this is the most affordable and easily accessible form of content distribution. A good representation of its market relevance is the success of Nollywood in Nigeria.

In fact, the DVD distribution channel has such an impact that even content distributors in VOD also acknowledge the competition it presents. The DVD has always appealed to many people because it’s cheap and easily exchangeable, something that VOD services don’t offer.

In all of this, the DVD is traded on the street and validated the efficiency of street vending for the local market. It is something that has also captured the imagination of musicians and even some entrepreneurs that sell WhatsApp and other phone app installations on the street.

While we wait for internet to be easily accessible to the majority of us at reasonable prices, it looks like content producers in music, movies and series will have to make the most of WhatsApp, Facebook and street vending.


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