Stories for the ear, consumed through radio, have been around for more than a century. Today, thanks to technology, there is a wide selection of audio content to choose from, to enjoy and to share.
It’s thus no surprise that there are more than 485 million podcast listeners—more than the entire United States population— across the world enjoying the relatively new audio format.
The continuous increase in audio content beyond the offerings of traditional media has seen various social networking platforms shifting to meet this new demand for audio content.
For the digitally conscious, Clubhouse, an invite-only mobile app, offered the next level in that – conversations with influential thought leaders, where one could listen in as the likes of Elon Musk discussed a variety of topics.
The downside of Clubhouse, however, was that one needs an invitation to join, which means that if you don’t have an influential person in your circle of friends, it might be impossible to ever get into the room.
In what looks like a move to fill this space, Twitter entered into the audio foray when they launched Spaces in May this year, allowing anyone with about 600 followers being able to set up the initially elusive audio rooms and platforms.
Spotify, an audio streaming and a music streaming service provider, launched GreenRoom, a live audio app that allow artists and other creators to have conversations on topics “they care about.”
Like many Kenya Twitter users, Koome Gitobu, Shirley Wangui and Karey Mwari jumped onto the bandwagon to find out what was going on in Spaces.
“We actually found out that we were always in the same Twitter Spaces, so I decided to chat up Shirley, then with time I asked her about Karey and coincidentally, these two were also talking online,” says Koome.
Their plan has coalesced as an organization called ‘Into Spaces’, which they use to develop a way to organize constructive, meaningful discussions with sober debates and informed discussants.
Until they met Safaricom Newsroom, they had never met each other in person and had relied on the increasingly popular conveniences of the internet through Zoom calls and WhatsApp messages to communicate.
Kenya has about 13.2 million active social media users, according to the Digital Kenya 2021 report by Hootsuite, and most of them are active in the evenings as they catch up on the events on the day and talk online.
Now most Spaces in Kenya are held in the evenings and late into the night.
These late night shows via Spaces, are a platform for users to join and participate in debates—with people you would probably never have met—virtually.
The trio at ‘Into Spaces’ have seen some growth and increased engagement when they host spaces.
It all comes down to the ease with which audio content is consumed, says Eunice Kilonzo, who manages content generation at Safaricom. While the convenience of consuming the content as one does other things is easy, she says, it’s important to capture the attention of the consumers.
“For instance, I personally listen to podcasts and it’s a chance to always learn something new. You can listen when you’re cooking, driving or even doing laundry. However, content creators now need to be creative and be keen on details. When I am listening to audio content, it has a lot to do with imagination as I try to create the picture of what you’re talking about; if its walking let us hear the steps, help your listener paint a picture of your story,” says Eunice.
Monetizing content in Kenya, however, has not been easy, even for traditional media, as the digital age has taken audiences away from the media they could pay to consume to media that is relatively free, such as websites. Traditional media houses are now beginning to do that by putting their content behind paywalls.
The trio at Into Spaces can see some likely opportunities.
“Currently there are tip jars that Twitter has just introduced. You can go to your favorite host or moderator and tip them. There’s a service that Twitter is about to roll out soon where you have paid spaces and can sell tickets for people to come in. But before we get there, sometimes brands would want to partner with you and offset some of your costs such as your data or devices. Some can say they want to sponsor a conversation and they pay you for that,” says Koome.
Some brands have started using Spaces to reach audiences and explain their products and services. Safaricom did it recently when they launched Baze, the video-on-demand platform.
As the audio audience continues to grow and technology continues to evolve, the task ahead for content creators is how to keep their listeners engaged and to find sustainable means to earn from their craft.
Watch the video below to learn more about the boom in audio.