The blogging phenomenon kicked off in late 1990s- but in Tanzania was picked up by news reporter Ndesanjo Macha -a decade ago. As Ndesanjo (pictured below) campaigned tirelessly for Swahili blogging, running workshops and attending world wide conferences while maintaining hold on his Jikomboe blog very few understood the meaning of the word, let alone using the internet as feverishly as today. Those days, Ndesanjo confessed he was blogging for love arguing this was the future of global communication.
Other local bloggers started getting noticed after the vicious murder of a Tanzanian couple in the USA September 2006. Suddenly we were dependant on Michuzi and internet Radio Butiama to get information that was not readily available on mainstream media. I personally began blogging in 2007.
How things have changed since!
Ndesanjo’s Jikomboe site is no more; he is currently, leading contributor (with over 4,200 posts) of the interactive Global Voices. Last year he was named “Africa blogger of the year.”
Meanwhile, Tanzanian bloggers are flourishing with diverse themes, as well as social networking sites such as the influential Jamii Forums, created in 2006. Some are educational –e.g. Award winning Mwanamke Na Nyumba (openly discusses sexual problems) and Al Hidaaya analyse different aspects of the Quran.
Sites have mushroomed in hundreds. And within this ascent are big bucks. Whispers that certain bloggers are earning as much as ten thousand dollars a week might be exaggerated but companies are using blogs to reach their markets. This has made Tanzanian blogs (specifically) hard to scroll through as pages are crammed with massive advertisements.
Truth is the internet is a money making planet.
In the developed world high street shops are getting bankrupt and closing houses. End of last year online trading was reported to be making 25 percent of all businesses and a profit of approximately 1.7 billion dollars. Digital entertainment retailers are losing out to internet giants like Amazon (estimated to have made a profit of 63 billion dollars last year) selling cheaper and more efficiently online. No wonder our own businesses are trying matching with the times.
This phenomenon is making money for writers who never learned through traditional reporting or went to a media college such as those employed in leading newspapers.
Blogging was created originally to give anyone a tool to inform on areas missed by mainstream press. That is why it is called citizen’s journalism. Twitter is the second option (known as micro-blogging) - allowing 140 characters (30 words) at a time. These two (with You Tube) have been very effective during the ongoing Arab Spring, to cite a recent historical development.
Google allows adverts to be used in blogs, according to content.
In Tanzania however, companies are helping bloggers as a good will policy, regardless of content. One of these is the National Microfinance Bank- biggest commercial back in Tanzania. NMB aims at encouraging small businesses (“Wajisiriamali” in Swahili).
Israel Saria on air at BBC London...
If a multi-million industry like NMB is putting cash into these sites than we need positive results. Unfortunately, what is happening is most blogs have become “copy and paste” tabloids, using unsolicited photos and materials from other sites without any acknowledgement; a case for serious concern.
Israel Saria, London based editor of Tanzania Sports and part time pundit at BBC whose blog has been active since 2005, is sponsored by NMB. Saria who is also a certified volleyball instructor insists investors should look at the quality of blogs:
“Compare our blogs to those of our neighbours. Most Kenyans are inventive and write original stuff. We lack resourcefulness. If I write a story in my blog, within five minutes other bloggers just copy and spread it without even bothering to edit errors.”
Saria goes on saying that most of our bloggers don’t realise, Google monitors original material, and that “within minutes of creating your piece it gets registered on search engines. Anyone who comes later is not recognised as the authentic owner of the material.” Most of our bloggers are therefore, merely coagulating, seeking instant fame and have become monotonous, predictable notice boards.
Miriam Rose Kinunda (pictured) , creator of Taste of Tanzania specialises on cooking and helps fellow bloggers design their sites since 2004. She names numerous incidents whereby her materials were used without consent. “I used to blog bilingually, but because of this piracy I have removed the Swahili section and only write in English.”
Miriam whose cooking book is due soon in the USA, had to react strongly by phoning a huge Kenyan site (with 10,000 followers) that used her stuff recently. “Within five minutes of my complaining they sent an email apologising. At least that showed they have standards,” she explained.
What should be done?
Both Saria and Miss Kinunda advice investors (like the well intentioned National Micro-finance Bank) to sponsor hard working bloggers who genuinely stick to (and respect) principles of media reporting.
Published in Citizen Tanzania...on Friday 1st , 2013...