SA blogging bonanza
As more South Africans discover the world of blogging, the South African blogosphere is exploding into life.
Veteran South African bloggers are looking over their shoulders with smug “I told you so” attitudes as a new crop of young bloggers proclaim their own slice of cyberspace and blog readership.
Even big business, the media and the publishing industries are starting to take the blogosphere more seriously as they dip their toes, testing the waters of engagement.
Two recent developments signify the growth of the South African blogosphere. The first is the expanded, controversial South African Blog Awards, held recently at Cool Runnings in northern Johannesburg.
The second is the launch of Amatomu.com, a portal for blog readers that aggregates local blog posts, organises and ranks them.
Amatomu.com is the blog aggregator of M&G Media, publisher of the Mail & Guardian.
With excessive broadband pricing, South Africa was initially slow to adopt blogging technology, the local blogosphere consisting of a few trailblazers around mid-2003.
Farrel Lifson, who started Politics.za (www.politics.za.net) in July 2003 to keep up to date with local politics, says that in the early days local blogs were few and far between. “I remember searching for South African blogs back in 2003, when I started mine, and having to sift through Google’s results trying to find one. I think at the time I managed to find two,” says Lifson.
Currently, there are in excess of 17 000 South African blogs hosted by popular blog portals such as Blogmark, iBlogs and Media24.
But blogging experts estimate that only 20% of these blogs are active, which translates to between 3 000 and 4 000 active South African bloggers. The most popular of these were recognised recently at the South African Blog Awards, organised by local blogger Jonathan Cherry of Cherryflava (www.cherryflava.com/).
The blog of the year went to a blog called So Close by Tertia Albertyn (www.tertia.org/). She began blogging about her struggle with infertility a few years back and her blog, which chronicles her battle to have children, has since been published as a book and nominated for the Lulu Blooker award for blogs turned into books.
So Close is ranked as one of the most popular blogs in South Africa, according to Amatomu.com, which is the brainchild of Vincent Maher, the M&G‘s online strategist. “Amatomu collects shortened versions of the stories published by bloggers and organises them into categories like news and politics, business and general life, so readers can get an overview of the best content for the day,” says Maher.
He says although the site is still currently in a testing phase, the response from the blogosphere has been “very enthusiastic”.
Cultural blogger Dave Chislet (www.thechiz.co.za) says he finds Amatomu useful for discovering blogs that he finds intriguing.
“I also like to see where I sit in the blogging pile,” says Chislet. “Blogging can be a demanding taskmaster and sometimes it helps to see where you sit in the rankings!”
Peas on Toast (//mushypeas-ontoast.blogspot.com/), a well established blog which recently won an award for the most humorous blog, says Amatomu is brilliant because it is user-friendly and allows readers to keep an eye on what’s happening in the SA blogosphere without having to click on a thousand different blogs.
Peas, who prefers to remain anonymous because of the personal nature of her blog, which details her day-to-day life, says the South African blogosphere has evolved nicely from a bunch of techie and boob blogs into a more diverse and progressive space.
Peas began her blog 30 months ago after reading about blogging in Cosmopolitan magazine.
Mike Stopforth (www.mikestopforth.com) says he started his blog because he was interested in blogging space, which has now become a powerful marketing tool.
Stopforth says the South African blogosphere is growing at a rate of knots and successfully diversifying, with business, shopping and marketing all being represented.
He thinks businesses need to start taking the SA blogosphere more seriously and engage with it. “They need to ask themselves which end of the tidal wave they want to be on,” says Stopforth. “Do you want to ride the wave or do you want to be on the arse-end getting dunked?”
An example of a company riding the wave is the Stormhoek Winery, which went from selling 50 000 cases of wine in 2004 to 200 000 in 2006 by setting up a blog. They also began sponsoring “geek dinners” at which techies get together to chat and eat. Soon enough, these techies were blogging about Stormhoek’s wine on their sites.
Rafiq Phillips (www.rafiq.za.net/blog/), a blogger who focuses on web application development and graphic design, says that businesses need to look at blogging as a way to communicate with customers. “Blogging should not be seen as a nice-to-have,” says Phillips. “It should be integrated into any communication platform.”