Blogs and Social media; a perfect marriage

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Blogging in Kenya goes as far back as 2003 when Daudi Were started his blog, In 2004, Daudi also started the Kenyan Bloggers’ webring (KBW) – a website that aggregated all Kenyan bloggers’ site addresses on a single platform in an alphabetical order as a way of bringing individual bloggers together in a community. Kenya’s pioneer bloggers were mainly Kenyans in the diaspora writing on varying topics from politics to social commentary.

In 2011, the Bloggers Association of Kenya (BAKE) was formed and has since made significant gains in bringing together the community of Kenyan online content creators. The members envisioned a body that would serve as a mouthpiece through which the gains, challenges and concerns by the Kenyan online community are made known with an amplified voice. Whereas BAKE is a membership based organisation that represents the interests of its members, it has continued to grow the general blogging community by carrying out free training workshops, seminars and talks on the benefits and opportunities in the Blogging and Social media. BAKE has also continued to recognize and award exemplary online content creators through the Kenyan Blog Awards which are now in their fourth year.

In the course of the 4 years that BAKE has been in existence, the state of Internet freedoms and free speech in Kenya has experienced a slow but steady decline with bloggers and social media users becoming “persons of interest” to both government entities and to the Kenyan corporate sector.

The rapidly increasing penetration of mobile smartphones and social media platforms has contributed highly stirred a conversation on what is going on around us resulting to active discussions on social media.

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Role of blogs and social media

Social media platforms such as blogs, Twitter and Facebook have, since their uptake in Kenya, continued to offer diversity in the variety of content available online. Social media has also become an effective tool through which Kenyans can write on topics of interest to them as well as exercise their freedom to free speech as guaranteed in the Kenyan Constitution that was promulgated in 2010.

The diversity in the Kenyan blogging space has continued to be observed in the topics covered such as Technology, Fashion, Food, Health, Human Rights, Environment and County Governments as well as in the inclusion of Kenyans in other counties into the space through skills training programs carried out by BAKE around the country.

The growth of blogs in Kenya in depth on topics of choice and diversity have, in the last 4 years elicited interest from the Kenyan corporate sector with brands seeking to work with bloggers as an additional platform for advertising and marketing through banner advertisements, commissioned product reviews, promoted blog posts and social media campaigns. The rise of Kenyan Social Media influencers was comprehensively researched and published in the first social media trends report written in Kenya.

The Nendo report highlighted the rise and growing power of Social Media influencers. The Nendo Report 2014 builds on the learnings from East Africa’s most active Twitter community and the social media landscape to present predictions for 2014-2015. According to the Nendo Report 2014; the Year 2014 was predicted to be the year of the influencers. “This will also be the year of the influencers. The new range of content creators that have been put on a pedestal thanks to their wit, quips and commentary online. The backbone of Kenyans on Twitter, they’ve created fully-fledged careers, websites and contracts with brands as a result. The outcome however has been built on an atmosphere without full disclosure on the side of the brand, the influencer and the audience.”

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Blogging is slowly becoming a viable business for many young people who are seeking careers in the digital space due to the lack of conventional blue collar jobs with a majority of Kenyan youth failing to be absorbed to the existing Kenya work force. Blogging is slowly becoming a viable business for many young people who are seeking careers in the digital space due to the lack of conventional blue collar jobs with a majority of Kenyan youth failing to be absorbed to the existing Kenya work force.

The increase in fast, affordable and reliable internet in Kenya’s capital Nairobi as well as in other major towns has directly impacted the rise of blogs and social networks as an alternative to news & information. Citizens who only relied on mainstream news channels such as radio, newspapers and TV for their news and information now also have the Internet. Indeed the changing reading trends can be confirmed by the dip in sales of print newspaper by two of the leading Kenyan newspapers the Nation and the Standard. The traditional media houses are finding themselves having to adopt to these changing trends by introducing alternatives such as mobile applications (mobile apps) for their publications to compliment the print version.

In some instances, doing away with the print version all together as was the case recently with Nairobi news. The Nation Media Group publication was targeted at the Nairobi County. The publication had to shut down its print version and is now only available exclusively on web. Despite the numerous gains made by Kenyan bloggers in creating unique and rich content about Kenya on the internet as well as in providing alternative employment to young people, the perceived threat posed by bloggers in Kenya can largely be attributed to the bloggers who write on politics and recently, on devolution as well as social media users who are outspoken about their political views and opinions on the current political leadership and governance in Kenya. “More Kenyans are looking to blogs for news and information, like people do in the States,” said Were, who first began experimenting with blogs as a university student in Manchester, England, in the late 1990s.

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