Serengeti Advisers Media

Insight. Foresight.

Old Media Vs New Media, Part 2.

with 6 comments

One thing that you’ll notice while reading this blog is a diversity of views that co-exist under the rubric of Serengeti Advisers. Here you won’t find a homogeneous worldview. Ours is a sensibility defined by a Negative Capability, that is we are able to entertain a multiplicity of views and opinions, even when they are in contradictions with each other. And on the issue of Old Media versus New Media, there has been a lot of heated discussions out here about the role and limitations of both platforms in our Tanzanian context. You’ve read the arguments for Old Media. What follows is a case for New Media:

  • Blogging is more democratic- Journalists now have the alternative of working without having to endure the bureaucracy, whims and sometime incompetence of editors. Here is one example to demonstrate this point. Last year one of the biggest media stories in Dar es Salaam was the resignation of Sakina Datoo from her role as the Editorial Director of The Guardian Newspapers Ltd. However, the story went largely unreported by the mainstream press. But this news did not escape the attention of bloggers. And it is the freedom afforded by the internet that allowed that story to reach readers.
  • ‘Blogs are not held to the same standards of integrity as traditional print media’- Actually, the opposite may be true. In the blogosphere, readers and other bloggers act as fact-checkers and watchdogs. And their reactions to sloppy journalism can be immediate and eviscerating. While newspapers have to wait for letters to the editors to arrive or print a correction the next day (something that rarely happens in Tanzania, if at all), a blogger has to contend with the swift response of his commenters and if a post is half-baked, his/her readers will let him know. So too will other bloggers. Therefore, what determines quality in this situation is not a number of hits, but rather the authority that comes from being respected by your readers and other bloggers who link to your site. 
  • ‘Very few Tanzanians have internet access so it’s pointless to focus our journalism there’- Research suggests that as of June of last year, 520,000 people in this country were at some level connected to the internet. And this number is growing everyday. If a blogger can manage to attract just 10% of that number to regularly read his/her blog then that would mean a daily circulation figure of 52,000, a number that dwarfes any newspapers’ out there. So the potential is simply immense.
  • ‘Most Tanzanians are too poor to afford computers’- This argument is rather ridicilous. It’s like saying Tanzanians shouldn’t read books because they are expensive. No, people can go to libraries to get the books they can’t afford to buy. Similarly, those who are unable to own computers can visit internet cafés and enjoy the benefits of this wonderful new world of online journalism.
  • ‘Printed material has some longevity’- Really? What about all those trees that had to die so that a newspaper could be published? But anyway, today’s newspapers are tomorrow’s ‘makaratasi ya vitumbua.’ Meanwhile, a blog post once published into the ether is eternally available online for any Google search to discover. Furthermore, something written in Tanzania can be read everywhere, from the urban streets of New York to the rural villages of China, by a simple click of a button. How many Tanzanian newspapers can boast such a claim?

These are just some of the arguments in favor of online journalism and blogging in particular. For more on the subject do read this brilliant essay by the British-American blogger Andrew Sullivan where most of the above points are deputised from. Also this piece by the writer Matthew Klam profiling the pioneers of political blogging in the US is worth a read. This debate is always going to continue here. We would love to hear your thoughts on it too. What do you think?

Written by serengetiadvisersblog

March 3, 2010 at 13:27

6 Responses

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  1. Go, new media go! It beats old media hands down as a form of two-way communication. Early analysis shows how new (social) media was instrumental in organising a global response to the Haiti earthquake before old media channels could get their heads around what was happening and how to respond. So, if you were a major relief agency relying on BBC/CNN/AlJazeera/AFP, you were way behind the ones who used social media to respond in the crucial early hours post earthquake.

    New media is redefining the industry in fundamental ways and I am yet to be convinced, by a long shot, that it is dumbing down the collective conversation.


    March 4, 2010 at 08:45

    • When copious ARVs finally made their way to Tanzania a few years ago, they did, of course, change the face of the AIDS epidemic. In one fell swoop, HIV infection became manageable, much in the same way as diabetes, for example. AIDS was no longer a death sentence, but a life sentence. It was a sea change.

      But within a short space of time, it quickly became apparent that ARVs were polarising the AIDS epidemic more than ever before. Only a handful of hospitals and organisations in TZ had the capacity and resources to implement, monitor and support the rigourous medicine regimes that ARVs demand. These hospitals and organisations were almost always urban-based.

      The result was that the face of the epidemic changed for urban residents, but stayed much the same for anyone with HIV not living near a half-decent hospital. The educated and middle-classes got access to ARVs, the poor and excluded did not. The black market in ARVs bloomed for those with cash in their pockets.

      It has got better since, but there is a lesson in there for this new vs old media debate.

      If you have cash in your pocket, then new media is redefining the industry. If, like the overwhelming majority of Tanzanians who have never set foot in an internet cafe, then all that ‘old’ media is just as ‘new’ as it has ever been.

      New media rocks. I dig surfing blogs. I can’t even work effectively without a reliable internet connection. But I don’t buy the claim that it is redefining the industry. It is only doing it for you and I, and we are leaving the rest even further behind…


      March 4, 2010 at 21:21

      • In the medieval age, the translation of the bible from Latin into ‘vernacular’ languages probably didn’t redefine, at first, the way Christianity was imbibed by the vast majority of Western Europeans who could not read. In time, with increasing literacy and the invention of the printing press, all that changed…and may have facilitated the Reformation which rent the almost omnipotent Catholic Church asunder! Ok, it took many hundreds of years to happen.

        In the early 1990s, the mobile phone was a status symbol of ostentatious wealth too. Now, everyone and their cousin has one. This ‘democratisation’ of the technology and the complete redefinition of an industry ruled by the mega behemoths (TTCL) took all of a decade and a half to happen.

        Yes, we are few, but the ‘you’s and I’s’ are just early adopters, and harbingers of how media will be consumed in the next 5-10 years – in new ways. In that sense, we are at the cusp of an industry make-over. Mark my words, old media will be a shadow of its former self by 2020. And new media will be being consumed by the majority of Tanzanians…on their 3G++ enabled ultra-cheap mobile devices.


        March 5, 2010 at 23:20

  2. Hey, this is a great debate – we’ve covered a lot of ground between anti-retrovirals and the Reformation. (I liked your points about that by the way).

    Your last para, though, reads a bit like a Vodacom vision statement – although I suspect that even they would stop short of claiming that the majority of Tanzanians will be consuming new media on snazzy phones by 2020. They said things like that back in 2000, and it didn’t really get us anywhere.

    By the way, the good ole World Bank reckon that there were 20.6 mobile subscriptions per 100 people in 2007, compared to 1.7 in 2002. Now, a 12-fold increase in 5 years is pretty impressive in anyone’s book, but the figures don’t take in to account the many of us with multiple phone lines, or those who have lost and replaced a number. So, the real figure is much lower than the 20.6.

    So, how many of those much-less-than-20.6 do you think access new media via their handset? I’m not one to gamble, but I would bet a handsome sum that it is pretty darn small. And I would bet another dollar or two that it aint going to be all that much different in another 5 years. Potential to access is one thing, affording access is another thing entirely. Njia bado ndefu kaka…


    March 8, 2010 at 16:56

  3. OK, so I’m still on this new/old media debate thing. I know I should move more with the times, but I still have something to add.

    Jos. Northern Plateau, Nigeria. Anyone see any interesting ‘new media’ reporting of the killings? Anything decent on twitter? Which was your favourite facebook page?

    Nope, I didn’t catch any of that, either. Welcome to Africa; land of ‘old’ media, where even the worst catastrophes rely on stringers and hacks jumping in cars and planes to wire back their stories. This is simply how it is. Old media is new media in Africa.


    March 11, 2010 at 22:47

  4. Klinton, I continue to disagree. New media is new media in Africa. And yes, I did see some gruesome footage of the Jos, Plateau State, Nigeria killings on my friend’s facebook page. He was born and lives in Jos, but did not film the footage. Here it is, but viewer discretion is definitely advised (

    And what I REALLY appreciated was the advice from another Nigerian on how to use new media to report on events in Nigeria in an iReport kind of way. Nigeria has more mobile subscribers (63 million) than Tanzania has people.

    Here it is in full.

    Solution to take the fight back to the ugly fools. by Theo Odunlami March 12 at 12:05pm

    Great, you can start by encouraging people to use their phones more effectively. Use hidden cameras and hidden recorders to capture events of this nature without people knowing.

    On the other hand, you can provide a space for people to post the information. All must be anonymous so no one would be at risk including your very good self. I am sure some would have thought of recording the events of the past few days that are occurring within the country. I am talking of creating an iReporter on the internet just like you have it on CNN. Ask if anyone have video or pictures of any of these terrible guys in action, and create a space to post them. The internet has created a great avenue for all just like you are aware. It will take time but will work. Most people will find their conversations and video evidences on the internet without knowing how it got there. With time all those silly police officers on the streets will start been district about their activities and they will know that anyone could have them on the internet. Their activities used to be more district but they have become an obvious disgrace on the streets of Nigeria.

    Let us be focused about this by starting at the most obvious place, on the streets of Nigeria. Get secret iReporters to take Molues, Danfos and intercity busses. All they need do is record video footages of the Police in action. Then you get it posted. Use viral marketing techniques to promote the materials. Create sections on the topics of interest. Like office events, traffic events, Political events etc. I would be happy to help if you like. My regards. Theo


    March 12, 2010 at 20:07

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