New media taking hold in SA

GLENDA DANIELS THE much talked about “media revolution” means there is an open, uncontrolled and uncontrollable flow of information , the International Media Forum SA conference heard in Johannesburg this week. But is this happening in SA?

Accessing news as it happens on internet news websites, blogs and social networking sites such as Facebook, MySpace and YouTube, as well as citizens taking photographs and shooting video footage on their cellphones for use by newspapers and television stations, encapsulates what is considered “new media” and “citizen journalism”.

Reuters Africa has launched a news website that uses traditional news-gathering techniques alongside new media journalism.

Editor John Chiahemen told the conference: “This is breaking new ground in Africa. About 1,3-billion people are seeing Reuters news in text, video and pictures. In Africa, in the first month we launched, we had 450000 users.”

A year later, that has grown to 2-million users.

Business news was the top interest, Chiahemen said, especially news about investment opportunities. There was also huge interest in sports news.

With widespread poverty and a lack of access to computers and the internet, can new media grow in Africa? Chiahemen said : “You’ll be surprised. It’s happening through cellphones and people using internet cafes when they don’t have computers at home.

“This is catching on here, and with the new blogging sites we introduced, we have had floods of comments . This trend will continue to grow and more opportunities will be opened up. Citizen journalism is part of this new media and it is about deepening democracy.”

Consumers are now creating more content than established news organisations worldwide, according to a presentation by David Wickenden, vice-president of Fleishman-Hillard, a leading PR agency .

He said 80-million people were writing blogs around the world, which were being read by 350-million people; in China, 60% of internet users write blogs, reaching 55-million people. Last year, the worldwide number of internet users watching videos online doubled from 31% to 62% in nine months.

There are 100-million video viewings a day on YouTube, and 65000 new videos are uploaded daily.

About 2,5-million people in SA have access to the internet.

This week, the Media Club SA was launched by the International Marketing Council of SA, in collaboration with Big Media.

According to editor Mary Alexander , this news website is intended to enable local and international journalists to access information about SA as the 2010 World Cup draws near.

“The idea was borrowed from Germany — Land of Ideas in 2006 for its Soccer World Cup; our branding is ‘SA, alive with possibilities’,” she said .

“The aim is to provide a free media service to take advantage of the opportunities in the run-up to 2010. ”

Branko Brkic, editor and publisher of Maverick and Empire magazines, said while there was potential for new media in SA, a stumbling block was Telkom’s monopoly.

“Telkom is hindering this country’s development…. They were given a monopoly and to make money they raise prices. How can people really gain access? People don’t have enough connectivity here .”

Economic and political risk analyst Anna Starcke is not as pessimistic about the acceleration of new media in SA. “But you are looking at this being really widespread in 10 years. ”

Source: The Weekender

MRN

Author: MRN Network

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