By ‘content’, this post refers to movies/videos, music, computer games and other similar media but NOT “text-based” content.*
Now, the question is: can a ‘content based’ business
thrive survive in Kenya? The sad truth may very well be a big NO.
Case in point: Silverbird Kenya. This once vibrant cimena company looks like it is shutting down in Kenya! If you look at the image below, you will see that their website has been suspended adn their Twitter account (@silverbirdkenya) lies dormant. What could have happened? What may have caused this company’s downfall.
Well, there is this court case.
Additionally, I believe it is very difficult to run a content-based business successfully in Kenya. Here, piracy is rampant – you can get DVDs of brand new movies at Kshs 40/- in town!! How can you compete with that? Indeed there is a thread over at Skunkworks Kenya that makes this very point. It would seem that “competing” with piracy is one of the reasons of Silverbird’s failure in Kenya. How sad. 🙁
But can any other content based business survive in this market? Music and games are equally well-pirated in Kenya. I would estimate hardly anyone in Kenya ever buys an original game or music album. Although we must note that this is the case not just in Kenya but pretty much everywhere.
However, local music seems to be doing ‘okay’ and I would attribute that ‘success’ to the very strict attitude towards the piracy of local music. It is sad that this same attitude is not extended to cover other forms of content. I believe this shines some light on what needs to be done for ‘content’ businesses to thrive in Kenya. Very strict anti-piracy laws have to be introduced and enforced in this market or the producers and legitimate distributors of the content we consume so voraciously will continue to suffers.
However, even as we talk about anti-piracy measures, we must face the truth: it is much, much easier to get your hands on pirated stuff than to buy it legitimately. This means that the type of content that consumers will get will be the one that is easier to find i.e. the pirated stuff. This is not a “Kenyan thing”. It is the same everywhere. Even so, in the face of overwhelming piracy worldwide some content producers have found ways to survive and maybe even thrive. Surely we can learn from this?
The main idea here is that we’re in a new era – one in which it is easier to get pirated stuff than to get the legitimate content. This means that the old rules of the content business are changing or have changed. It is time for the players to change how they play. You can stand and shout all day waiting for the government to intervene to save your business but there are better ways to spend your energy – you can build your content business in a way that is is as immune to piracy as possible. It requires that you change they way you think about how to run a content business.
For example, a music band in the US realised that their album sales were plummeting because people could just download their music for free. What did they do? They started giving away their music for free online. More often than not, people who download your music actually like you and if you give them a way to access your content as easily as through piracy, they will pick the legitimate way. This particular music band’s strategy let them build a huge online fanbase. But how did they make their money? Well, now that they had so many fans, whenever they performed at concerts they almost always had the tickets sold out. I would call that “thinking outside the box”.
Another example is Netflix. In the USA, piracy also thrives. Netflix is a company that allows very easy access to legitimate (i.e. not pirated) movies. Well, guess what? Now that one can get movies easily and legitimately through Netflix, online movie piracy rates are going down in the USA. Interesting, eh?
While I believe that piracy is wrong, I also believe that it is not going away any time soon. Content producers should realise this. We’re in a new age that requires new ways of doing business.
The only way to decrease piracy is to compete with it and offer products that are superior to their pirated counterparts.
Something to ponder: the introduction of strict anti piracy law in Kenya will definitely lead to the immediate bankruptcy of hundreds of people who make their living by selling pirated content. Is this a good thing?
*In my view, the ‘textual content’ business is very different and deserves to be treated as such.