While social media is currently the heartbeat of the nation and a global force to be reckoned with, in this era of fake news, it is at least wise to be able to get a constant stream of news from a trusted source. More often than not, that trusted news source can be a mainstream publication that many have relied upon for decades (maybe even centuries as is the case of the Standard) instead of the many “news sites” mushrooming online. Some of these “old school” media houses have embraced digital, albeit hesitantly, and have promising apps while the new media generation is also not being left behind in the game with multi-million dollar investments giving the former a run for their money.
As a result, I have narrowed down to just 5 apps that I can recommend for catching up on the latest in Kenyan, and at times, world news, though I’ll have another more thorough look at options for the latter later.
These 5 applications are, in my considered opinion, some of the best ways to get a quick grasp of the goings-on without making much of an effort. Just make sure you have stocked up on (data) bundles since they tend to eat up much of that – which is why many will still find it more comforting to use good old Opera mini for their news needs or seek alternative means like social media and pricey SMS news and breaking news premium rate subscription services.
Not only are these 5 apps quick with updates on what is happening across the country, they are, unlike the tens of others on the Play Store, well-designed, deliver timely notifications, allow one form of user customization or another e.g., allowing users to select the type of news items that appeal to them and offer a few desirable extra features like live streams.
1. Nation News
The Nation Media Group is the largest media house in the country. Its new application, though belated, is a testament to this status. The Nation News app did not exist until early this year (at least as far as I know). This is despite the Nation’s competitors having had apps going as far back as 4 years ago. Better late than never, they say. From the look of things, the Nation News app was worth waiting for.
Its interface is clean, navigation is a breeze and it lets users save news for reading later when they are offline from the clearly-labelled Offline News section. The latter is more important because mobile data costs can be very steep and where possible, those in the know would very much prefer to fetch as much content as they can while on the school/office/public Wi-Fi for consumption later on.
The application also acts as a gateway to accessing other content from the Nation Media Group like access to NTV, the media house’s premier television channel, the entire day, live! This is a Godsend given the fact that streaming directly via the NTV website on mobile is a nightmare and the little I have to say about YouTube the better. For fans of radio, Nation FM can also be streamed straight from the app without any issues.
Users are able to personalize the news content delivered by the app through the app’s settings menu.
The only problem I have consistently run into while using the app on and off for over 2 months now are the irregular notifications. I’d prefer to be notified every time there’s a major story developing but for some strange reason, I’ve found myself missing out on quite some big news simply because there was no alert. When notifications arrive at around 10AM, I have likely already seen (and read) that story from some other source.
The app is currently in its first version (literally 1.0.0) and I really hope it gets better going forward.
2. Standard Digital
If I was to rank the apps on this list, this would top the list. I am not particularly a fan of Standard Digital on the web as it is a mixture of chaos/a noisy homepage, clickbait (I’m looking at you SDE), poorly edited articles, stories that have not been developed properly (they end abruptly just as you have started to either enjoy them or understand what the writer was up to or both), a lack of explicit differentiation between citizen-generated content (UReport) and content from its in-house journalists/reporters or all five rolled into one. That is a recipe for chaos, without a doubt.
Questionable or not, the content is presented well on the app and using the content’s shortcomings to judge an app as well-designed as Standard Digital’s would be doing it a huge disservice.
Like Nation News, Standard Digital lets users stream its sister TV channel, KTN, directly through the app by simply swiping open the hamburger menu on the left of the app.
Users are also able to customize the type of news they get and the look of the app (card-based interface or the default setup). Unlike Nation Media Group’s app, Standard Group’s Radio Maisha, a popular FM radio station in the country, does not have a home on the application. Maybe this can be added in a future update to the app?
Genesis Media’s Tuko.co.ke has taken the digital media landscape in Kenya by storm. As a result of its aggressive marketing (Tuko is everywhere you go. From Google ads online to stickers in matatus, you can’t evade it).
I am not particularly a fan of the Tuko website, more so on mobile where the banner ads appear to be much larger than my cravings for Pizza every Tuesday and there are more irritating pop-ups than potholes on Nairobi roads. Really, ads ruin the entire experience for any user on tuko.co.ke. You find this interesting read on Twitter. You click on the shared link so that you also know what KOT (Kenyans on Twitter) have been going on and on since you were offline the entire day but before you can do just that, an email subscription form (and whatnot) pops up on your mobile phone. As soon as you’re done with that, another product being marketed is shoved right in your face, blocking the content you wanted to access in the first place. Bad user experience is the norm.
All that takes a back seat when you start using Tuko’s Android news app. Yes, it still has ads but they are less annoying and save for the occasional full page banner, I have no qualms with the app. (Note: ads can be done away with if you purchase a subscription…LOL).
It is well designed and, like the news apps from the Standard Group and the Nation Media Group, allows users to personalize the content they receive, send them notifications of the latest happenings and, gladly, if allowed in the settings (set on by default) prefetches and caches the latest articles in the background when you’re on Wi-Fi so that you can continue reading when you’re offline.
As was my observation with the Standard, Tuko.co.ke is literally the home of clickbait in Kenya. You are bound to find the most “interesting” news headlines on Tuko than on any other news app mentioned in this article. The approach to content, however, should not take anything away from the fact that the app is really well done, responsive and fits the bill of what you would expect of a modern news delivery medium on mobile. Also, I have found the news, however sensational they may be, to be at least truthful, which is all that matters in this era of “fake news”.
4. Citizen News
While Nation News slacks with the notifications, Citizen News overwhelms you with them and makes sure you’ll want to hit the settings menu to really rethink whether that’s what you are interested in.
The app is literally littered with ads but not that you can’t manage. Unlike Tuko, it doesn’t give users an option to purchase a subscription and do away with them.
However, it presents news well, lets me watch Baha and the gang on Machachari when I am working late in the office on Friday or on a bus to the Coast with unlimited Wi-Fi and also does one thing that all the other apps, more so those from mainstream media outlets, featured here lack: podcasts.
The only problem is that there are very few of these podcasts. I am not sure if the guy tasked with uploading them at Royal Media Services is still on the job or was fired two months ago, the last time the app’s podcast section was updated. That’s a good thing that has seemingly been abandoned. Also not regularly updated and related to the podcasts is the News Shows segment. The latest content is from 3-4 months ago which is like a millenium in the fast-paced news business. Revival, perhaps?
The app’s search functionality is also good.
5. Capital FM
Capital FM Kenya’s app is last because it is the one that I have been using the longest. It has been around for much longer than all the other apps on this list. Over the years, it has never disappointed. Its design, while basic, does not get in the way of one’s news consumption and intrusive ads and annoying notifications every now and then are not an issue.
Capital FM being a Nairobi-based upmarket radio station that broadcasts to the entire nation from the capital, the app is first and foremost meant to make streaming FM radio easy. It does that so well. For those with high-end devices like Huawei’s P9 and Mate 9 and practically every high-end Samsung Galaxy smartphone on sale since 2013, FM radio can only be streamed. Fans of Capital FM will find the app invaluable. It’s how I listened to President Barack Obama give his only interview to a local media outlet when he visited the country back in 2015.
Capital FM has over the years expanded to properly cater for the needs of today’s digital listener. On YouTube, it has gone big on video content over the last few years and Capital TV is usually one of those channels that one has to look out for. It is baked into the app and it is just a slide out away. As are job adverts and news items which also greet you when you first open the app.
News content is categorized appropriately and users have customization options. While in college, I found Capital Campus, the section dedicated to content targeted at the college-going youth, invaluable. Most young people will likely find it the same way and it can be enabled from the settings menu.
Users are also able to save articles for reading later on when they are offline.
So, there you go. 5 easy ways to be in touch with what’s happening in Kenya regardless of where you are in the world using a wide variety of ways: the written word, audio or visuals. What app(s) do you use to stay on top of local news?