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7 reasons why Africa bloggers could become stars

Originally published at senaquashie.com on April 28, 2016.

Because of the (very) fast changes to the ecosystem of technology in Africa, I avoid making predictions.

But in terms of the online publications, I am convinced that the bloggers who decide to put it in a professional effort will take over many local publications. And thus become super-stars of this ecosystem.

This also applies as well to developers who will create high value-added applications that will spur these African professional bloggers on to be the stars of internet and mobile in Africa. Here are the reasons why I believe this to be true.

  1. Most African journalists are missing in on the action on the internet.
     I have no exact figure, but from my experience with several editors in the Ghana and Nigeria, I think less than 20% (probably 10%) of trained journalists have mastered the use of the Internet and more so social networks. Truthfully, most journalists certainly go online and use the internet, to read their emails or to share with loved ones, but rarely helping them with their work. They are not exposed (or very little) to the numerous tools that can help in different types of storytelling. And with the fast-paced nature of the online industry, non-journalistic bloggers, who have a greater grasp of new media technologies will be well poised to surpass the native journalists and become superstars in the ecosystem of publishing in Africa. However, it is worth a mention that, some media houses, (eg, Omnimedia, operators of Citi FM in Ghana) are fast catching on to new tech, but the number of these media houses is not very encouraging.
  2. Leading editorial is taking a lot time to catch up: Leading newsrooms (eg. Vanguard Nigeria, Joy FM etc), though having caught on to social media and online trends, are still playing catch up. This is mostly because their very traditional setups have no clear switchover policy in sight. But we are in the 21st century. Surprisingly for these companies, the delay is not related to financial lack. Joining the new school of online powerhouses would cost them almost nothing. In Ghana, my home country, the power of new media is being harnessed by organizations such as Blogging Ghana, a group of bloggers in the country; over the years, the organization has championed various online campaigns which have resulted in positive action, an example being the Ghana Decides project. Full Disclosure — I am a member of Blogging Ghana. For most media houses in Ghana, social media and online is just another platform to disseminate information. The media industry is a hulking, stupid, slow moving beast that has little awareness about its threats and surrounding environs. I would say mark my words, but those are not my words. Media in Africa is still thinking of their online platform not as an actual platform, but just as a delivery method.
  3. African journalists tend to deal only with political subjects and it is a shame: Yes I know that political issues still occupy an important place in the lives of Africans. But even with the massive amount of political reportage by African journalists, they are still not innovating in that section. Most journos in Africa reports just basic political issues and only seem to think a bit further ahead during election periods. The other problem with topics related to politics is that, there are so many articles that are published but it is only a handful of journalists who are doing actually reporting. These problems with political reporting are issues for another day, the major buzzkill is how most African journos fail to inform on other topics of interest. I rarely see African newspapers devote columns to telecom, technology or even social issues. Even less devotion happens online. There are hundreds of early morning shows that pay about 80% attention to politics leaving a meagre 20% to be shared among the rest, say business, tech, innovation, fashion etc. Ironically however, it is telcos, beauty products etc that are headline sponsors and advertisers on these shows. It’s a cash business for immediate profitability.
  4. On what subject can bloggers/journalists write?: Over the years, I have identified some niches where African journalists/bloggers could host successful blogs. And even if you are not a journalist, you can try it. It is a very short list based on the habits of publications that I have seen on Facebook and Twitter. It would be most interesting to see new bloggers not look up to the Linda Ikeji and Ameyaw Debrahs, who have created successful niche blogs with entertainment and celebrity content.
  5. How long does it take?: Taking a top position as a niche blog is now easy in Africa because for the moment there are very few professional bloggers. Thus, with regular activity, a blogger who implements standard principles of online publishing has good chance to become leader in such a niche in less than 6 months. And if s/he wants to, can make money he can count by the 12th month (and perhaps before).
  6. Why bloggers succeed: One of my resolutions for this year, 2016, is to help increase the amount of African content on the Internet, which also includes an evolution of e-journalism in Africa. In doing my research before making that resolution, I realized that many users outside Africa were willing to pay for reliable information on almost everything about Africa. Add the lack of quality African content online (compared to other continents), now is a very good opportunity for bloggers who wish to specialize. Also keep in mind that most bloggers are already very well connected. They mostly have numerous contacts (or fans) through social networks. You easily go on Twitter to find such people starting discussions around various topics. Most often these discussions resolve around very little political (although political issues may be the passion of some bloggers) to benefit their passions and topics they address in their blogs. Thus, gradually, he earned the trust of users. Turn those contacts / fans readers or subscribers to their blogs is just a matter of application of conventional techniques conversion.
  7. Problems to arise and messages of caution: Not to throw a downer here but some editors react desperately by using bloggers as journalists. To be frank, nothing prevents bloggers from coming to work as professional journalists, especially now that the line between the two get blurred everyday. But my experience from my lead days at Pulse Ghana teaches me that it is very difficult to turn a blogger (no matter how good s/he is) into a journalist. To avoid these problems it would be easier for editors and media houses to take the time to train their journalists on blogging and use of social media and other digital tools for their trade.

Did I miss something? Let me know below.


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