Something happened on the way to the front page

Early in 2006 I was featured in the now defunct Nova newspaper and about a week later the paper shut down. Back in 2004 I was featured on the front page of ThisDay newspaper and shortly afterwards it was also shutdown. Now if I was superstitious I would think those were bad omens for me.

I’m not. So it must be a sign of the times – no pun intended. The exact demographic Nova was targeting has had 10 years of exposure to the Web and to mobile phones. According to the Pew Internet & America Life Project, online news is the primary source for people with broadband. And although broadband is still young in South Africa its growing double digit numbers. And again the demographics of the above publications has the best Internet and mobile access in the country.

My colleague, Arthur Goldstuck, predicts that by the end of 2007 we will have about 800,000 broadband users. The cellphone chat service, MXit, has just crossed 5 million subscribers in less than 2 years – with about 80% between 12-25 years old. So although there is only about 4 million Internet users and approximately 32 million cellphone users in South Africa, the biggest consumers of news also have the best Internet access, which allows them to read news online.

The future trends based on what has happened in countries like South Korea is that these two markets (Internet and Mobile users) will converge at some future point. And in South Africa heading for 2010 will accelerate growth so unlike Arthur Goldstuck I don’t believe things are slowing down. There is also significant growth in the Internet Cafe industry. The death of newspapers makes the front page headlines almost irrelevant.

And what of news? Services like Google NewsOhMyNews and NowPublic is radically changes the way in which news is consumed and produced. With the rise of Citizen’s Journalism, we find the consumers becoming the producers of their own news. Until the rise of Google News I was using My! Yahoo to read filtered and customised news. These days I am reading even more filtered news through my RSS Feeds.

In South Africa the Mail & Guardian and The Times has done a phenomenal job integrating social media from blogs, to podcasts to video, and therefore are in the best position to retain those readers who stopped buying their print editions. Now I ask you how can an traditional printed newspaper compete without embracing this kind of flexibility.

Teenagers inherently understand this and therefore they will never go backwards to read print publications. The digital future is the way forward and any newspaper who does not embrace this will die. The scariest version of the future of newspapers is brilliantly demonstrated in this fictional, futuristic clip, Epic 2014:


Interview with Tom London on 702

Tonight I did a quick interview with Tom London, the new host of the late night show on Talkradio 702, Cape Talk. To demonstrate how easy it is to do a video podcast with my new Sony Ericsson w880i I’m posting this video of the late night team for those of you who listened to the show.

If you are interested in my Blogging for Business seminar click here for details on the next dates because Friday, 22 June is already fully booked.


TEDGlobal 2007: Session 12: Noah Samara

Noah SamaraNoah Samara is a satellite radio pioneer. Growing up saw a lot of people battered by many problems but there has always been a hope. He is impassioned about empowering people with information. Because of HIV/AIDS 17 million people would die by the end of the decade in the 1990s would die and simply because of a lack of information. This prediction was being made in the late 1980s.

Since nobody was doing anything he decided to build his own satellite radio station. His wife said once you’re finished go and get yourself a real job. It was daunting task because it had not been done before to allow satellite to broadcast to terrestrial radio. A 131 countries allocated frequencies. By 1996 $1.1 billion was raised. And for the first time technology was launched in Africa before it was handed down to America.

Some of the programming include daily soap operas, weather information and other types of information that are locally relevant. About 90% of funds are raised inside Africa. Some young people, children of refugees, were interviewed it was an goosebumps moment when they heard themselves on radio from Cape to Cairo the next day. So the question is now how do we scale this impact from anecdotal stories like that of William who built a windmill to serve his family’s energy’s needs. How much of the positive force created by the TEDGlobal conference can be unleashed.

For more please read the Noah Samara page on Wikipedia and also visit Worldpace radio website.


TEDGlobal 2007: Session 11: Salim Amin

Salim AminThe final session of TED: Leadership and Truth, opened with a short film with photos from the famine in Ethiopia. He open with “My name is Salim Amin and I am an African.” The images from the film saved the lives of 3 million people. Images taken by his father, Mohammed Amin. A24 media project, a 24 hour news channel, covered by Africans for Africans. The short film was an extract from a documentary “Mo and Me” about rediscovering his father’s work. The photos of what his father took is still what people think 20 years on. Children with flies in their eyes and malnutrition.

We have 900 million people on this continent yet we don’t have our own news channel and rely on foreign companies. CNBC is business focused and foreign owned. SABC is largely South African focussed – compromised. Most news usually comes from other sources and focusses on the negative issues. Rely on 46 low cost, regional. Will be offered free to air to all terrestrial broadcasters, mainly because we never get paid.

Private Equity has been set-up in Mauritius for the new media company. And no shareholder will ever own more than 25% of the company to remain independent. We need to empower Africans around the world with knowledge. Great good governance, democracy and holding people in leadership positions accountable is the primary drivers of this bringing this A24 news channel together.

For more on Salim Amin please visit the Mohammed Amin foundation.


Bloggers represent South Africa at TEDGlobal Conference

Two of South Africa’s leading bloggers will be attending the first ever TEDGlobal conference in Arusha, Tanzania from 4-7 June 2007.

30 May 2007 (Johannesburg): South Africa will be represented by two of it’s most distinguished bloggers at the TEDGlobal Conference held in Africa for the first time.

TED (Technology Entertainment Design) is an annual conference held in Monterey, California and recently, semi-annually in other cities around the world as TEDGlobal. The presentations, normally limited to 20 minutes, cover a broad set of topics including science, arts, politics, global issues, architecture, music and more. The speakers themselves are from a wide variety of communities and disciplines.

Nine South Africans have been awarded Fellowships to attend. These Fellowships are sponsored by multinationals like AMD, GE and Google and covers the costs of attending the TEDGlobal conference for those who would not otherwise be able to attend.

“We are very excited to represent South Africa at such an important global conference,” says Ramon Thomas, Managing Director of NETucation, an online research and training organisation. “The conference will expose us to our counterparts in the rest of Africa, and we look forward to collaborating with them to build a new future for Africa.” Thomas will be bloggingu the conference at his, which was a finalist in the Best Business Blog catergory at the SA Blog Awards recently.

The website has won accolades and awards for it’s video podcasts of the lectures. There are currently a 109 videos available for download from the website and every month new ones are released to the public from the most recent in 2007 going back to 2002 at the moment. The speakers include lumanaries such as Jane Goodal, Richard Dawkins, Ashraf Ghani, former Iraq Finance minister, and many more. Several of the videos focus on solutions for Africa and the thirds world in the areas of poverty alleviation, architecture and town planning.

The conference co-producer is, Emeka Okafor, who spoke with Thomas, at the first Blogging Indaba held at Rhodes University’s New Media Lab in September 2006. Okafor, is a Nigerian living in New York, and blogs about business in Africa at TED invited him to act as program director because of his intimate knowledge of unusual entreprenerial business in Africa.

“I’m thrilled to be attending a TED conference after watching and learning from all the amazing video clips from past events available on their website.”, says Rafiq Phillips, one of the top 10 bloggers in South Africa and co-founder of – a driving school search egnine, has also been selected with Thomas to attend TEDGlobal as a Fellow. Phillips will be blogging his experiences at

There are over 25 South Africans who will attend TEDGlobal as Fellows, attendees, speakers, performers and technicians.

For more on TEDGlobal please visit:


Ramon Thomas
Managing Director, NETucation
Mobile 082 940-7137

Rafiq Phillips
Founder, Your Group of Web AddiCT(s)
Tel 021 591-3321
Cell 072 399-9888


Online public relations and top keywords

The Web will go down as one of the greatest equalisers in history. It allows small companies or even solo entrepreneurs like myself to compete with large and established companies. NETucation generates all it’s publicity through sending emails to over 500 journalists in South Africa. These journalists include everyone from newspapers, magazines, radio, television and online media.

No matter how big or small your company consider monitoring your public relations profile using Google News Alerts. I’ve been monitoring my own publicity and other important keywords that pop up in the news media using these alerts for the last few years. And it has proved to be one of the most effective ways of keeping track of what’s important to me.

Keywords are a mainstay of searching and search engines. And with the various specialised search engines now available the basic principles applies. So whether you are searching for websites, blogs, news articles or images certain keywords and tags are more effective. One of the best ways to determine those keywords is to use certain tools that ranks popular keywords.

The first one I used was the still free Overture Keyword Selector Tool. There is also the Google AdWord Keyword Tool which does not give the same kind of information but helps to determine trends. The best however is Wordtracker, a commercial service and by far the best.

Anyway Wordtracker offers a superb newsletter. And this month published a superb article on optimising press releases with top keywords for news aggregators like Google News and Yahoo! News.


Rich spend more time online

Being rich not only gets you the best cars, houses, luxuries, clothes, health care, insurance, entertainment, you also get more out of using the Internet. To put it bluntly when you are wealthier you tend to be more educated and therefore have a more specific reason for using the Internet. And some new research by Jupiter Research shows that rich Americans tend to search the Internet where the rest tend to surf. The simple definition here is that surfing is mindless reading of websites, random or not, to relieve boredom whereas search the Internet is to solve problems. So a good chuck of their time is focussed on business rather then pleasure.

Here’s a quote from the article, “ Speaking of social networking, it’s in with the upscale crowd. The Jupiter study found 43% of affluents use instant messaging, compared with 36% of people with lesser incomes. A full 26% of affluents read blogs and 11% are blog-authors. Among non-affluent people, those figures are 22% and 6%, respectively.”

This would certainly hold true in South Africa where the rich have been able to afford Internet access for much longer – and therefore has more experience online. When you have more experience on the Internet you get more out of it. In my online dating research I found that user experience improves dramatically after first 12 months.

Read the full article @ MediaPost here…


John Farquhar speaks out on future of Newspapers

John FarquharI received this response from John Farquhar after I emailed him about Duncan McLeod in Financial Mail’s column Newspapers R.I.P.
Thanks for the link to Mcleods column There are two kind of people in business. Those who live in the real world and those who fantasise about tomorrow’s where the old will be replaced by the new. As a Sci-Fi fan I was always fascinated by the gadgets the writers dreamt up, and looking back many of their imaginary gadgets have become reality. While there is nothing wrong about speculating about the future one must also balance it with realism. The problem with Mcleod thinking is that he is fascinated by the technological advances of more advanced societies and sees them taking over the world. But the technological train he spots in the distance may pass our society or take a long time getting here. While I keep myself informed of technological developments abroad I am also a realist when it comes to their application in this country. Much of the technological development that is happening in the U.S. and Europe will take an awful long time for it to be replicated in South Africa to the same depth. Sure there will be niche groups that have that hankering to be seen to be up to speed with their peers in the U.S. and will sport the latest gadgets but they are few. For the majority all this technology is fantasy. To make a statement that technology with replace print is stretching the envelope somewhat. Reading long screeds on the Web is physically tiring. It is far easier and more relaxing to read a book. If you are a news nut and wanting to keep your fingers on the pulse of what is happening out there, then technology is a must because it will give you the headlines. Your cellphone for example would be ideal. But if you want the in-depth story reading it on your cellphone or the web to put it bluntly is a pain in the arse. It is more conducive to read it in the print format. But there very few information nuts out there who get withdrawal systems if they don’t get the news the minute it happens.

Ordinary folk don’t think that way. They are not instant news nuts. If you are one never judge the populace by your behaviour.
Now what is the reality of South Africa. We have a small group of people who have a complex about being on a par with their peers abroad and make a point of being up there with the latest. The majority in our population don’t think beyond their neighbourhood. They have radios and TV and listen to the news, but if their interest is to get the full story they will get it from print.

You must not judge behaviour by the youth. New gadgets fascinate them. Cellphone chatter and sms for example. But this falls away when they move into the adult world where they have to work to make a living, and their free time is limited. For the Internet to have the same impact it has in the U.S. and Europe where household penetration has passed 50% it will have to get to the same level here. Once again judging the South African population and social structure I will venture to say that it is a long long way off. Mcleod was writing for the Financial Mail’s audience which incidentally is very small. The magazine only sells 35 000 copies an issue. Technology is important to these people because they are traders when ‘Now’ information is important to their business. But for him say that paper is doomed is nonsense. The average company consumes forests of paper in the business. Why because the working class uses paper. It is only the executives who have the gadgets. One must view technology in its proper perspective and in relation to the society you are talking About. South Africa is a long way off a paperless society. For your information that latest sales figures for magazines in the U.S. show increases.


Dating Coach responds to critics in Sunday Times

This is a response I wrote to the Editor of the Metro section of the Sunday Times, in response to readers feedback published here.

Being a dating coach is a part-time interest and my primary occupation is online research. My online dating research project has been widely covered since 2004 in various media ranging from Business Day to True Love, television shows like Carte Blanche, 3Talk as well as the controversial show “SEX, etc” on M-NET last year, with sexologist, Dr Elna McIntosh, where I was interviewed on how the Internet is changing the sexual behaviour of people today. Therefore there is no doubt about my level of professionalism and credibility in this regard.

In general most guys wear lots of bland colours and this results in them all looking very similar. By creating contrast with bright colours a man stands out from the pack and thus uses what is called “peacocking” in evolutionary biology terms. Charles Darwin’s theories on sexual selection explains this phenomenon in great detail and more recently in Matt Ridley’s book, The Red Queen (see chapter 5: The Peacock’s Tale).

Women can buy their own drinks and are not going to bars or clubs for men to do so. Instead they seek stimulation conversations and when a man buys her a drink BEFORE getting to know her it can be considered supplication.

Again giving a woman a compliment before she has an opportunity to demonstrate what is compelling about her, puts the man in the same boat as all the other men who have given her a similar compliment. A woman will value a compliment about something unique or different from the generic, overused, “you’re beautiful” type of compliments that most men give women.

Lastly most men know they should be using condoms. And those who don’t are ignorant of the risks of contracting a sexually transmitted disease. Based on my research the general difference between how men and women view sex is best described by this analogy: when a man sees an attractive woman he first thinks “what would sex be like with her”, while a women seeing an attractive man may think, “what would a relationship be like with him.” You only have to ask yourself why men, over the centuries continue to pay for sex with prostitutes. And you will realise they are in most cases not looking for a relationship with the prostitute, rather they want sexual gratification. So a man who wants to establish a sexual relationship with a woman can avoid falling into the “just friends” category by having a rule that says, if by the third date he has not had sex with her, he should move on because his chances of forming a sexual relationship with her diminishes drastically and she may in fact not be attracted to him for all good reason e.g. lack of confidence.

The aim is not to have sex with every woman you meet but to understand how to form a sexual relationship with a woman that you desire to have one with.

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