Archive for 'South Africa'

Big Idea: How online publishers can rival Google

by on March 25, 2009 at 3:58 pm

Quite sometime ago I did a rather entrepreneurial proposal to the World Association of Newspapers (WAN) about a new, non-profit industry-focused search engine and advertising network to rival Google. I know what you’re thinking, apart from the general nuttiness of the idea itself: I must be crazy approaching a “newspaper” body? But the idea around […]

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Is SEO evil?

by on March 23, 2009 at 12:26 am

It’s an old debate, but always worth a good discussion: The Digital Edge podcast by Jarred Cinman and Saul Kropman is tackling the topic of Search Engine Optimisation (SEO). It’s a contentious topic, around which there is still discussion, and a bit of obfuscation.
The podcast sensationally interviews two “anonymous SEO practitioners” to see how they […]

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South African Blog Contest

by on March 22, 2009 at 11:46 am

South african contest The South African Blog Awards is live. Given that I’ve lived there a couple of times and just spent a chunk of time down there late last year into early 2009, I’m a fan of several of their blogs in countless categories and hey, South African bloggers voted for my blog in the PR Week blog contest last summer.

The SA Blog Awards is a showcase of the very best of South African blogs. The goal is to bring South African bloggers to the forefront of peoples attention, both locally and internationally, increasing exposure for South Africa’s great bloggers.

Voting is live and the winners will be announced on April 3rd, 2009. Check out Brand South Africa, SARocks and Matthew There’s also a great photo blog called Cape Town Daily Photo.

Categories are broad and include: The Best of the Best from South Africa, Best Entertainment Blog, Most Humorous, Best Post on a South African Blog (the one that stood out in 2008 was Moral Fibre), Blogs written by a South African in any foreign country (interesting one – South African Sea Monkey: what a great name), Best Original Writing on a South African Blog, Best Political Blog (there’s some provocative reading here), Best Photographic Blog, Best Food and Wine Blog, Music Months, Gay / Lesbian / Bisexual / Transgendered Blogs, Best Design Blog, Best South African Podcast, Best Group Blog, Best Business Blog, Best Technology Blog, Best Sports Blog, Best Blog covering Enviro-Friendly Content, Best African Language Blog (cool, eh?), Most Controversial Blog, Best Travel Blog, Best Personal Blog, and lastly, Best Parenting Blog for the trials and tribulations of dealing with “little people.”

Do some scanning, do some reading, so some digging, do some laughing, and by all means, do some voting.

June Arunga on Western Attitudes Towards Business in Africa

by on March 21, 2009 at 7:25 pm

June Arunga on Western Attitudes Towards Business in Africa from DRI on Vimeo

The mobile trap

by on March 16, 2009 at 5:31 am

Much has been written on how big the mobile audience is, and how it offers an opportunity to appeal to a mass audience. Even better, it’s an environment where consumers will more readily pay via micro-payments for “Freemium Services“. It’s a dream come true. Or is it?
But here’s the challenge: There are, so to speak, […]

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Economic Slump: Time to Tap into Nature’s Ancient Wisdom

by on March 14, 2009 at 8:01 pm

Ever notice that when you stop writing for awhile, writer’s block takes over and cripples you? I’ve known for awhile that I needed to take a couple months off from blogging and from the web in general, but not because I grew tired of writing or new stuff. Disconnect from the web and new media when its your bread-and-butter? You must be mad I can hear you say.

When I was in Africa late last year through early 2009, I had laptop in hand and blogged but not nearly as much as I expected. Nor was I connected as much as I expected I’d be.

I’ve lived in Africa three times, so its not as if I didn’t know what to expect and yet somehow I figured I’d be so inspired since it had been awhile since my last visit, I wouldn’t stop writing. Blog posts would be pouring out of me.

But no. Not even close. Notice the break in between my last South African blog post and the most recent ones. The closer I got to nature — on a regular basis — the more disconnected I felt from the blog. It was all about immersion.

Think about it: all of the best coaches in the world pitch immersion and language courses based on immersion or living in the country are the best way to go. That’s what off-site business retreats are based on and one of the reasons why the Aspen Institute and Renaissance weekends are so insightful and inspiring.

We’re human. We need immersion or as the Aussies put it: walkabout time. Frankly, most of us don’t get enough of it. I read a Brad Feld tweet recently that updated us on his run in the mountains behind his house and that because of it, he was “completely and totally broken.”

Of course he was. Bravo. Nature does that to people, particularly when you’re really present with it. It’s our roots – all of us regardless of what continent we were born on or connect to.

There was something about being so close to the African earth, particularly in the parts of the continent where humanity began, that begged me to listen to its silence. Over and over again. Listening to its silence calls for a dismissal of machines, at least it was the case for me. As much as I was inspired to write, I couldn’t do so on a “machine.” It would have disrupted the silence. And so, I took it all in, digested it and secretly hoped it was getting ‘baked’ into my DNA so I wouldn’t ever lose the feeling.

I felt the same way in the Israeli desert, the Arizona desert and when I drove across country a few years back. I thought I’d blog about the whole trip and instead, took notes along the way and blogged after the fact.

The downside of the latter is that the posts ended up reading like a travel log rather than the richness you get from live-blogging. I’m a fan of the latter but when I’m that close to dirt, flowers and trees, its as if the force of Mother Nature herself pulls me away from anything that has a power cord or battery.

Isn’t it a great time to reconnect with nature, in an era where you’ve either been laid off, your contracts are smaller than they’ve been in years or you have a full time job but most of your budgets have been slashed by ten?

When I was 21, I traveled around the world with my 32 year old British boyfriend, who was at the time a marketing rockstar in the London scene where we were living at the time. He took nearly two years off if I recall correctly, but not without thought. Would he be able to slot back in after being intimately plugged into every thread and conversation twenty four months later? After all, he was a 32, not 22. Unforgiveable? Perhaps, but certainly not traditional. We returned, he got a job and life carried on.

Years later, I did the same thing. I took off for a few years – Africa, Europe, you name it. I’ll never forget an experience I had a month or so after my return.

I used to do PR for Computerworld so there were a ton of old copies of the magazine in my grandparents basement where we stored everything at the time. The industry stories hadn’t changed all that much and while there were new versions, new companies and new solutions, I couldn’t believe how easy it was to slot back into the industry without being connected with anyone for a few years. It took me three long days of reading to get back up to speed.

Today, the story may be a little different. With countless examples of Kurzweil’s Singularity coming into play, everything is moving at a much faster pace and jumping out of the game and back in a couple of years later may be tougher. Perhaps true, perhaps not.

This much I know. Despite all the articles and blog posts I’ve read that traditional media and PR is dead, Jeff Jarvis’ WWGD book tells me that the middle men are dead and that the economic recession means marketers will starve for quite awhile, there are always opportunities.

Remember Helen Keller’s famous quote, something I remind myself of often: “When one door of happiness closes, another opens; but often we look so long at the closed door that we don’t see the one opening before us.” Newspapers have been doing this for years, Hollywood too.

Wherever there are threats, there are opportunities; it just may mean taking a step back (for awhile), taking less money (for awhile) and looking at the world a little differently (for awhile). Reinventing oneself or simply a role can be magical and rewarding.

If you’re good at what you do and you listen and think strategically, there will be a need for your skills even if they get used in a way you never imagined. And trust me, if you’re in marketing or communications, they will.

Ignite the universe, spend a little time with the trees and ask them for ancient wisdom. Ask them what your “real value” is. And then listen. In that silence, you may just learn something very powerful about yourself and about what is happening around us.

Remember that not just the industry is seeing a significant shift, but the world is undergoing a dramatic change as well and if you’re not tapping into that energy source too, you’re missing the mark (we just elected a black president baby and money is getting pumped into energy at home and countless other things…..)

While it may sound like a flighty “new age” solution to the changes we’re undergoing, I’m not suggesting that asking the ancient skies and trees for guidance is all you do. I’m simply suggesting that you do it.

Repaired Road north of Oudtshoorn in the western cape (8)

Does My Teenage Daughter Get the Rihanna/Chris Brown Thing?

by on March 12, 2009 at 6:19 pm

Johannesburg Violence

by on March 9, 2009 at 12:04 am

Below is a recent Jeremy Clarkson letter to the London Sunday Times regarding Johannesburg.

“I dare you to visit Johannesburg, the city for softies – It’s the least frightening place on earth, yet everyone speaks of how many times they’ve been killed that day Jeremy Clarkson

Every city needs a snappy one-word handle to pull in the tourists and the investors. So, when you think of Paris, you think of love; when you think of New York, you think of shopping; and when you think of London – despite the best efforts of new Labour to steer you in the direction of Darcus Howe – you think of beefeaters and Mrs Queen.

Rome has its architecture. Sydney has its bridge. Venice has its sewage and Johannesburg has its crime. Yup, Jo’burg – the subject of this morning’s missive – is where you go if you want to be carjacked, shot, stabbed, killed and eaten.

You could tell your mother you were going on a package holiday to Kabul, with a stopover in Haiti and Detroit, and she wouldn’t bat an eyelid. But tell her you’re going to Jo’burg and she’ll be absolutely convinced that you’ll come home with no wallet, no watch and no head.

Jo’burg has a fearsome global reputation for being utterly terrifying, a lawless Wild West frontier town paralysed by corruption and disease. But I’ve spent quite a bit of time there over the past three years and I can reveal that it’s all nonsense.

If crime is so bad then how come, the other day, the front-page lead in the city’s main newspaper concerned the theft of a computer from one of the local schools? I’m not joking.

The paper even ran a massive picture of the desk where the computer used to sit. It was the least interesting picture I’ve ever seen in a newspaper. But then it would be, because this was one of the least interesting crimes.

“Pah,” said the armed guard who’d been charged with escorting me each day from my hotel to the Coca-Cola dome where I was performing a stage version of Top Gear.

Quite why he was armed I have absolutely no idea, because all we passed was garden centres and shops selling tropical fish tanks. Now I’m sorry, but if it’s true that the streets are a war zone, and you run the risk of being shot every time you set foot outside your front door, then, yes, I can see you might risk a trip to the shops for some food. But a fish tank? An ornamental pot for your garden? It doesn’t ring true.

Look Jo’burg up on Wikipedia and it tells you it’s now one of the most violent cities in the world . . . but it adds in brackets “citation needed”. That’s like saying Gordon Brown is a two-eyed British genius (citation needed).

Honestly? Johannesburg is Milton Keynes with thunderstorms. You go out. You have a lovely ostrich. You drink some delicious wine and you walk back to your hotel, all warm and comfy. It’s the least frightening place on earth. So why does every single person there wrap themselves up in razor wire and fit their cars with flame-throwers and speak of how many times they’ve been killed that day? What are they trying to prove?

Next year South Africa will play host to the football World Cup. The opening and closing matches will be played in Jo’burg, and no one’s going to go if they think they will be stabbed.

The locals even seem to accept this, as at the new airport terminal only six passport booths have been set aside for non-South African residents.

At first it’s baffling. Why ruin the reputation of your city and risk the success of the footballing World Cup to fuel a story that plainly isn’t true? There is no litter and no graffiti. I’ve sauntered through Soweto on a number of occasions now, swinging a Nikon round my head, with no effect. You stand more chance of being mugged in Monte Carlo.

Time and again I was told I could buy an AK47 for 100 rand – about £7. But when I said, “Okay, let’s go and get one”, no one had the first idea where to start looking. And they were even more clueless when I asked about bullets.

As I bought yet another agreeable carved doll from yet another agreeable black person, I wanted to ring up those idiots who compile surveys of the best and worst places to live and say: “Why do you keep banging on about Vancouver, you idiots? Jo’burg’s way better.”

Instead, however, I sat down and tried to work out why the locals paint their city as the eighth circle of hell. And I think I have an answer. It’s because they want to save the lions in the Kruger National Park.

I promise I am not making this up. Every night, people in Mozambique pack up their possessions and set off on foot through the Kruger for a new life in the quiet, bougainvillea-lined streets of Jo’burg. And very often these poor unfortunate souls are eaten by the big cats.

That, you may imagine, is bad news for the families of those who’ve been devoured. But actually it’s even worse for Johnny Lion. You see, a great many people in Mozambique have Aids, and the fact is this: if you can catch HIV from someone’s blood or saliva during a bout of tender love-making, you can be assured you will catch it if you wolf the person down whole. Even if you are called Clarence and you have a mane.

At present, it’s estimated that there are 2,000 lions in the Kruger National Park and studies suggest 90% have feline Aids. Some vets suggest the epidemic was started by lions eating the lungs of diseased buffalos. But there are growing claims from experts in the field that, actually, refugees are the biggest problem.

That’s clearly the answer, then. Johannesburgians are telling the world they live in a shit-hole to save their lions. That’s the sort of people they are. And so, if you are thinking about going to the World Cup next year, don’t hesitate.

The exchange rate’s good, the food is superb, the weather’s lovely and, thanks to some serious economic self-sacrifice, Kruger is still full of animals. The word, then, I’d choose to describe Jo’burg is ‘tranquil.'”

TED Talk: How Twitter users shaped Twitter

by on March 6, 2009 at 7:24 am

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The internet in South Africa: A tale of woe and hope

by on March 5, 2009 at 1:38 am

The tale of doom and gloom about the uncompetitive South African telecoms market is all too familiar. It’s kept a stranglehold on internet growth in this country, meaning the country has performed way below its potential in this sphere in comparison to the rest of the world.
Arguably we are now moving in the right direction, […]

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