South Africas Digital Landscape: The Desert Around The Oasis

I like seeing some of the work which is being done by our most popular South African individuals when it comes to how they handle their digital presence. In case you haven’t seen what the creator of one of the most loved and pioneering South African Youtube channels has done using digital content on his website, then I advise that you go check out some of the stuff he has on and spend some airtime buying one or more of the comic books he has for sale. I was thoroughly impressed by the ease by which a sale gets made, and also it goes without saying that the comic books are quite hilarious and raise the bar as to what quality South African content should be.

One of the most impressive sites by a celebrity I have seen has to be the one by DJ Zinhle. This woman is a full on brand! Apart from all the beautiful pictures of her you will find on the site, one can not only read up on what she has been up to in the press, but could also buy some cool watches and items from her online shop pushing the ERA brand. I just hope that the web developers for her online store fix the address they listed on the online store because it seems they are still using the same United Kingdom dummy phone number and address that probably came with the template they downloaded when “designing” the site. *COUGH COUGH


Some might say that having an independent website isn’t necessary since there are social media sites like Twitter and Facebook, but that person would be ignoring the freedom that one has when they handle they own websites. The coolest thing about mducomics is that you can buy comics using airtime! In less then a minute you would get the comic emailed to you and then you can start reading and laughing your ass off. You can’t do such on Facebook or Twitter because these sites don’t necessary understand the socioeconomic factors relevant to South African trade, but content producers who live here do understand them, or at least they should understand them as they experience them on a daily. The are other benefits to having you own independent site, such as how you can then know who is actually accessing your site, when they are accessing it, and where exactly they are accessing it from using some of the many analytical tools available to content creators. Not to mention that you can then build up your own dedicated database of followers, without the need for a social media sites. Artist like Talib Kweli take full advantage of this by hosting their own digital stores exclusively selling not only merch, but also their albums. Way to show itunes the middle finger! While I’m talking international artists, when I heard the announcement for Tidal I actually hoped it meant that more main stream artists were going the route of but I was disappointed to hear that it was just gonna be the same thing as itunes only with higher quality formats and owned by some artists who wanna repeat a working business model rather then really upset the set up.

I would hope to see more of these content creator owned digital platforms but they are just not there. Its even extremely hard for me to list two South African tech products that went big in the last 20 years. List them with me… 1) Mxit… 2) … can you help make list item number two??? It’s almost as if, apart from those few isolated cases of digital excellence we live in some harsh deserts of the Sahara.

The site on Dineo Ranaka's twitter profile

This desert state is more visible if one studies most of the South African celebrities who for some reason have a website link on their social media profiles. I don’t know why these sites are habitually under construction. What makes matters worse is when the sites don’t leave any means for you to subscribe for updates on the site IF and when they do finish construction. Do these people not understand the importance of having a direct platform to communicate when content becomes available? Nothing I hate more then the emails I get from Springer about their new books because of that one time I created an account on their sire while looking for an academic textbook. But I would imagine I should also get an email the next time mducomics releases a new edition to his comics since I did share my email with him when I bought the comic books from his site. Or at least maybe a newsletter as to what cool things him and his team decides to get up to in the near future. If this doesn’t happen then it would be kinda disappointing that his making a profit would depend on someone who once visited the website revisiting it again to see what updates they have. It’s kinda the same disappointment I feel when a site that is under construction doesn’t provide a means for me to subscribe to be notified when it’s finally opened up to the public. 🙁

This act of not keeping tabs on your audience is more evident in our Hip Hop scene. Most rappers seem to relish in the absurdity of posting songs to the website datafile host. I understand their reasons for using it. It’s a simple site, you upload a track then share the link with who ever you want to download it. The sad thing about this is you can’t really gain a following through this manner. If I download a song from the site and I end up liking it, there is no way for me to hear the artists other works from that specific platform. That time you find the artist has generic rap name such as Killer K. Good luck googling that. If you want to read further on the problem with datafile host check out the blog entry by African Hip Hop Blog titled Datafile Hoax: Why Datafilehost is a Bad Platform. They went deep in breaking it down.

motifBut oh well, what can I say, as long as we have an oasis of hope here and there. I shouldn’t be too over critical about some of the things that aren’t going as well as they should. Chances one of our sites will be down some years from now. Maybe then I’ll understand what other websites are going through.