Online tsunami killing our media

Chief Bisong Etahoben,Cameroon

Having read through Mr. Sage Gayala’s piece, I get away with a nagging hunger for more information on his relationship with those who sponsored his Africa News online edition. He does not mention where the money that kept it going was coming from. Did they have online adverts?

If readership online was free, how did they make their money to pay the journalists inside the DRC? Did they allow the journalists to operate as their colleagues in the country did – take money for dictated reports which they paid in to get the reports published? He does not tell us how cases involving Africa News in the DRC affected the process of publishing the newspaper from abroad. Was there interference on web access to the site from within the DRC?

I am completely lost as to where his problems really come from. I have been publishing both print and online editions of my newspaper and my main problem with the online edition is that nobody advertises in it because prospective advertisers feel online newspapers don’t reach their target audiences since most of them don’t have ready access to the internet.

The unfortunate angle to this arrangement is that the few persons who can afford the money to buy the print version are still the same persons who have access to the internet and so they would rather read the online edition free of charge than buy the print version from the newsstands.

To curtail the suicidal effect this has been having on sales, we decided to publish the online edition several hours after the print edition hits the streets. But ever since, readers have decided they can afford to wait for the online edition even if it were to be published a day later.

We in Cameroon have a free press, i.e. if you want to be free and lose government publicity from the ministries and state corporations which account for over 70% of total advertising. We are free because there is no censorship but there is financial blackmail agaisnt those who write against government. Most newspaper print editions in the first world can afford to fold up in preference for online editions but their online editions have advertisements.

In my country, there are hardly any online advertisements so we have been asking ourselves how we can cushion the debilitating effects of online publishing on the print media. A much broader discussion of this topic would be of great value to most of us. How do we survive the online tsunami?


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