Merriam Webster online dictionary defines crowd-sourcing thus: the practice of obtaining needed services, ideas, or content by soliciting contributions from a large group of people and especially from the online community rather than from traditional employees or suppliers.
It took a long time for media to realize the benefits of crowd-sourced content. When they finally caught on, the media landscape was never the same. First came talk shows then reality TV and the trend has taken over radio and the web. On TV, people like Jerry Springer in the US, understood that it would be more fun to interview Delilah, an unknown, loud, drama queen who cannot, cannot be scripted, than interview a poised and media savvy celebrity who has her own personal PR and Media team. The results, we know because the shows made it to Kenya, were out of the ordinary. Unsuitable for family viewing, unscripted, unhealthy, sometimes inhumane, always stereotypical, making conclusions for you about blacks, about women, about the poor and about what people do in any given situation. Simply put, the worst kind of TV. Still, no one could move away from the screen. It is so real (or well faked) that it sells, even if we all admit how we hated it.
Fast forward to the 1980s when Oprah Winfrey and many others decided that crowds could be sourced in order to serve as lessons for others. The decision was not made that simply. First, the show started and the production team tried to contact the leading bands of the time for an interview and they wouldn’t come to the show. Oprah who? They asked. And out of a lack of choice, she decided to interview a few normal Anne, Delilah’s and Marys, the girls next door. Later she, Dr Phil and so many others would place cameras in people’s homes and we would watch with awe as dysfunctional families showed us how to be dysfunctional.
Fast forward again. The year 2000 plus and we’re in Kenya. The media, especially radio, has understood the power of crowd-sourcing content. It’s cheaper than interviewing prominent people. It’s easy to do, the crowd does all the work and it pays. The crowd sends contribution through premium rate phone and sms lines. True, that everything that starts in the US will eventually land in Kenya. The good and the bad. Why can’t we learn from the best and ignore the worst. Why can’t we use the crowd to teach, inspire and encourage?
On a typical morning, Kenya’s leading radio stations will have live call-in shows for people to share experiences, mostly regarding relationship sorrows. And God, I have to admit, it’s riveting. If you happen on that radio channel, you are disgusted and still, you can’t get yourself to turn it off. If you are young or fainthearted. the lessons that enter your subconscious are not good. And there’s not much room for turning because many stations are similar unless you try the Christian ones. The radio moderators are excellent at what they do, listening and making you feel heard and that’s what the content contributors want.
If you really want to know, the subjects range from, how to hide an extra marital relationships to which callers will boast about “3 years without getting caught….you’ve got to be clever.” Others examples are :”how my kids are not my husbands, and he doesn’t know…” Yes, of course, it’s Jerry Springer on radio and in Kiswahili. Since Jerry Springer is here, I just hope that some new media figure will appear to turn all that rich content available “out there” into positive learning examples that we can be proud of. And if you look at examples like Oprah, Dr Phil and others, you realize, there is money in positive media. There’s a wealth of listeners just waiting for that content so that we can turn the dial.