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November 18, 2018

Blogging Comes Of Age In Kenya

An office worker browses a twitter social media site. Photo/File
An office worker browses a twitter social media site. Photo/File

While most of the world was pre-gaming for the #MayPac fight, I was watching the news trickle in on Twitter of the Kenya Blog Awards 2015. If your life is one dimensional and you don’t know where else conversations are happening, here’s your newsflash — the winners of the Kenyan Blog Awards 2015 were announced on Saturday at the Intercontinental Hotel Nairobi.

Over 1800 plus entries were submitted into the competition. The judges — including Radio Africa’s Lynda Nyangweso — trimmed those submissions down into five per category. The voting phase closed on April 30 with the total tally for all the categories being 151,309 votes.

Why do I care and why should you care? Because that’s where our world is going — the rest of the world got there ages ago. We are finally coming of age. The cellphone, the laptop and the tablet are officially first screen and everything else from newspapers, magazines and TV is a nice accompaniment or even complement.

I have had several people in the last one month write to me and ask if they can use my YouTube items on their blogs/blogsites and I have taken time to look at the blog in question and said “go right ahead”. Why? Because that’s where the conversations that shape this generation are happening upende usipende.

I’m sure you’re reading this with one raised eyebrow thinking this chick has moshene mob. Hear me out. Initially blogs were used to provide a unique way for people to share their thoughts, feelings, experiences and opinions. People who couldn’t get into mainstream media, who felt they had a lot more to say than was provided for by twitter and Facebook and people who wanted to exercise their own editorial control over their writing.

The noun blog — from web log — first surfaced in 1999 to describe a personal website where an author regularly posted his or her views on anything that took their fancy.

It was in 2004 that debate about the role of the political blog and its impact on society really got under way and of course by 2008 Obama’s campaign team tied-up all aspects of social media, his campaign blogs were legion.

Why is legacy media worried and a little scornful of blogs (the proper ones)? Well, because blogs have gotten rid of the gate-keepers at legacy media houses. You won’t do my story? Fine, Mpasho will. Finally, everyone's voice (even those with bad spellings and grammar) can be heard. Blogs mean that opinion is no longer the preserve of the few who can afford to buy multimillion-million shilling printing presses, or have the political or money clout to sit on public airways — radio or TV.

But worry not legacy media. Very soon you will be replacing regular staff on your teams with bloggers. Believe me. Look up Salam Pax, who has hung up his blogging boots and went to write regularly for the UK's Guardian. To the award-winning bloggers, don’t draw a hard line in the sand — legacy media and yourselves are attached at the hip and at the keyboard. Bloggers rarely go in search of content. You tend to comment and as such get your information from mainstream news sources. You must also remember that most reporters, journalists and even news editors tend to use what is blogged about as a barometer to gauge how well their content is received. So mko pamoja kaa mapacha.

Today, however, everyone from Fortune 500 companies to moms and tech companies are utilising blogging to increase their digital presence. People who never had a presence are getting one purely by blogging.

When did I realise blogging matters? When Google took it seriously. I’m sure you know that Google has a separate search engine just for blogs. It’s that serious. https://www.google.com/blogsearch. I like my various news websites, I can’t live without my Flipboard, but I love reading structured opinion coated in humour, wit and insight. That’s why I read blogs.

I know it still seems like a ‘small time' gig this blogging thing, but I believe it has come of age in Kenya and the awards on Saturday night can only mean the beginning of bigger and better things yet to come. Actually, I’m thinking I should start a blog and do away with this column. Mmmm. Maybe not so fast, but a compliment to it might not be too bad. Here’s to the winners of the Bake Awards 2015. For the rest of us, some food for debate, moshene and thought from James Wales: “We've seen how grassroots journalism by blogs has had an impact at various points politically, as ordinary people have amplified stories that were being ignored by the traditional press."

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