The Nation (Nairobi)

30 October 2011

Kenya: Blogging Is the Next Frontier of Revolution

The blogging culture is fast growing in East Africa with the new-age "rock stars" coming up as bloggers.

Bloggers are the new celebrities in East Africa, though from corporate and government eyes, the niceties are too far between. But blogging has never been about niceties.

These simple blogs are influencing those who have access to technology to perceive information in a whole new light.

Palatable information is no longer exclusively determined by mainstream media, or the authorities. That time is long gone.

Now, anyone with access to the Internet can consume whatever information individuals have put up in the form of blog posts, whether it is direct reporting of an experience, or a personal translation of the experience.

So, how are these people influencing the world we live in? And really, just what is a blog?

The word "blog" is a short form for "net log", which is a web site that is run by one or more writers who put up their opinions on certain issues.

Normally, they are not mainstream media writers but ordinary individuals who have an understanding of the topics they write about, or people who simply wish to be heard on a particular subject.

Bloggers generally aim to steer clear of mainstream media, usually writing stories that have opposing views.

Their posts, therefore, offer a different dimension and viewpoint, and require one to be open-minded and use critical thinking in reading whatever they put up.

While many bloggers ensure that their posts are well-written and factual, others do not, and so failing to take caution may leave you offended or dangerously misled.

Many spheres of what people do today are influenced by bloggers, creating new mindsets and opinions and going as far as empowering people.

Many people's mindsets and opinions are now influenced more by blogs rather than by mainstream media and advertisements.

This means that people are now seeking different opinions and using other people's experiences in arriving at their own decisions.

Politically, during the last General Election in Kenya, bloggers openly expressed their opinions, which were read across the world as people sought alternative news sources and opinions.

This wide readership of blogs was, to some extent, as a result of the feeling that the mainstream media was being compromised by politicians. To this end, the bloggers gained some form of credibility.

Blogs influence, as they did then, political decisions and opinions such as who to support and who not to, and who is lying and who is telling the truth.

Trends and decisions on the social scene are perhaps the most influenced by the blogging culture, from where people eat, to what they wear, who they interact with, who we do business with, and what sort of businesses to get involved in.

And companies are taking note of this fact as blogs continue to become more influential on consumer choices, as they offer first-hand experiences of using certain products and services.

East Africa has its fair share of bloggers, including CEOs of start-ups, bankers, doctors, and students who address all manner of issues, as well as anarchists who basically write negative posts about any topic under the sun.

Many people now refer to these blogs with great gusto and rely on them fairly a lot, and in some cases even more than they rely on mainstream media.

Interestingly, many of those accessing media for the first time now do so on social media rather than traditional mainstream media, and so the more companies turn to social media for attention, the more they stand a chance of growing their brands.

That notwithstanding, there are no major financial rewards for a lot of bloggers, with very few ever being able to monetise their work.

But of course, there are those who manage to do so and reap great returns. Most of the revenue from blogging comes from advertising as well as endorsements.

Monetary matters aside, many people normally blog to try and influence others with their opinions on certain issues. The most common issue, especially in Africa, is politics.

And usually there is a penance to be paid for provoking the ire of politicians. But big corporate organisations also get quite a hiding from these bloggers.

Unfortunately, these governments and corporates, rather than address the issues at hand, choose to use their influence and wealth to keep bloggers on a short leash.

Despite this, it is now realistic to believe that bloggers have the power to influence the future of nations.

As the old saying goes, "The revolution will not be televised." That reality is finally here.

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