Once Again, Late to the Party. When is Our Time?


By Rahaman Abiola

Nigeria’s modern media landscape hardly appears to be modern. It races behind in the realm of technology and its integration into the media ecosystem. This discrepancy is particularly noticeable in the context of the burgeoning era of artificial intelligence.

Only 20% of media companies in Africa are using AI in some way. This is compared to 40% of media companies in North America and 30% of media companies in Europe according to the Reuters Institute of Journalism’s Digital Media Report for 2023

According to the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development, a low share of skilled talents and slow download speed has impacted the adoption of Artificial intelligence in low-income and middle-income countries like Nigeria. This was reported by Punch newspaper in January 2023.

Before we delve deeper into AI and all that would bring us closer to the ‘party’, there is a need to understand the African media scene and the need for technology acceptance. The changes we’ll discuss vary from one country to another but share common elements that can benefit journalism, media outlets, and public discourse. The three most important developments driven by technological and market forces today are:

  1. The move to an increasingly digital, mobile, and social media environment is marked by increasingly intense competition for attention. Legacy media, like broadcasters and especially newspapers, continue to play a crucial role as news producers. However, they are becoming relatively less important as distributors of news and are under growing pressure to develop new digital business models as their existing operations decline or stagnate.
  2. The growing importance of a limited number of large social-networking, and technology-dependent companies like Meta, Tik-tok, Twitter and LinkedIN is noteworthy. These companies enable billions of users across the world to navigate and use digital media effortlessly through services like search, social networking, video sharing, messaging, and more. As a result, these tech giants are playing an increasingly significant role in (a) the distribution of news and (b) digital advertising.
  3. The development of a high-choice media environment. Internet users have access to an ever-expanding pool of information in convenient formats, often at no cost. It enables new forms of participation. News enthusiasts are encouraged to get, share, and comment on news at any social media platform they like.

Africa, Especially Nigeria, Seems Late to the Trendjacking of the New Tech Innovation in the Media

In an article written by Eloine Barry, titled ‘Africa Needs a New Generation of Media,’ Barry inferred that the African media industry has to pick up the pace on leveraging new technology. However, it is essential for the industry to grow its base of knowledgeable and upskilled media professionals. These professionals should be equipped not only to navigate the new age of technology but also to succeed in it.

The question to our media counterparts is how many of our companies have these skilled professionals who can wield new technologies to turn the media landscape around? If none, what are we doing to evolve like our foreign counterparts?

AI is already having a major impact on the media industry around the world. It is being used to personalise news feeds, generate new content, and even identify and fact-check misinformation. But in Nigeria, the use of AI in the media is still in its early stages.

This is a problem. If the Nigerian media does not embrace AI soon, it will be at a serious disadvantage. In a world where information is increasingly consumed online, media companies that can use AI to deliver personalised and engaging content will be the ones that succeed.

There are a number of ways that the Nigerian media can embrace AI. One way is to use AI to personalise news feeds. This can be done by using algorithms to track what users read and watch, and then recommending similar content to them. Another way to use AI is to generate new content. AI can be used to write articles, create videos, and even generate entire news shows. Finally, AI can be used to identify and fact-check misinformation. This is especially important in Nigeria, where misinformation is a major problem. But there are a number of challenges that the Nigerian media face in embracing AI.

One challenge is the lack of access to resources. AI is a complex technology, and it requires a lot of computing power and data to develop and use AI-powered applications.

Another challenge is the lack of expertise. There are not a lot of people in Nigeria with the skills and knowledge necessary to develop and use AI applications. Sadly, one would expect that where Nigeria is low on special resources, we would turn to collaboration, to ensure we aren’t left behind, or turn to our government or parastatal companies to aid investment in the media landscape evolution, instead these routes are hardly explored.

Despite these challenges, it is crucial for the Nigerian media to adopt artificial intelligence. This technology represents the future of the media industry, and media companies failing to embrace it may find themselves falling behind.

When is Our Time?

The time for the Nigerian media to embrace AI is now. We cannot afford to fall behind any further. We need to invest in resources and expertise. We need to start developing and using AI-powered applications.

Here are some specific things that media companies in Nigeria can do to embrace AI:

  • Invest in AI-Driven Advertising to optimise ad placements and targeting. Beyond the regular Google Ads and Facebook Ads, media companies can widen their earning horizon by leveraging other AI-Driven advertising channels like Amazon Advertising, Adobe Advertising Cloud, The Trade Desk, AppNexus, MediaMath, Criteo, Taboola and Outbrain. Once done, employ people who are skilled in using these platforms to successfully run advertising campaigns for clients and make more money.
  • Adopt AI-powered apps for daily routine in the newsroom. Media companies in Nigeria can use AI to personalise news feeds, generate new content, and identify and fact-check misinformation. Now than ever, the Nigerian media needs to amp up on Automated fact-checking tools like Full Fact or ClaimBuster to verify the accuracy of news and information; leverage predictive analytics tools that use machine learning algorithms to predict audience behaviour and trends; personalization engines to tailor content to individual users preferences; and even cybersecurity solutions to detect and prevent threats real-time and protect cyberattack incidents.
  • Partner with tech companies. There are a number of tech companies that are developing AI-powered applications for the media industry. NVIDIA’s Inception programme for startups, a Nigerian company that developed Africa’s first speech-to-text AI chat tool capable of understanding 200 African accents. Another Nigerian startup, Data Science Nigeria (DSN), enables AI talents and builds AI solutions to enhance the lives of people. The possibilities of these collaborations are endless. Media companies in Nigeria can create content to cater to a diverse audience, cutting through language barriers and expanding coverage.

On a Good Note

Several Nigerian media companies are taking proactive steps to embrace artificial intelligence. For instance, Legit.ng is employing AI to personalize news feeds and create fresh content. Similarly, media outlets like Dubawa and The Cable are harnessing AI to detect and fact-check misinformation.

This trend shows a significant realization within the Nigerian media landscape about the crucial role AI can play. With this momentum, there is confidence that the Nigerian media will soon align with global AI trends in the media industry. If we are lucky to catch up soon, then maybe by then, we wouldn’t be too late to the party.

Rahaman Abiola is Legit.ng’s Editor-in-Chief, and the youngest EIC in the history of the leading digital media news publisher. He is a Reuters-trained journalist and content writer with over 7-year experience in digital & traditional media and social media communications. 

Rahaman has been published in Nigerian national newspapers, including The Nation, The Punch, Nigerian Tribune, and THISDAY. His works have appeared in top digital media platforms, including Sahara Reporters, The Cable, The Capital, YNAIJA, Lawyard, Paradigm. 

A graduate of English and Literature from Obafemi Awolowo University (OAU), Rahaman is one of the 25 journalists in Africa selected for the Kwame Karikari Fact-Checking Fellowship in 2021.

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