Arthur Goldstuck
Arthur Goldstuck

Blogging as a fad is over; serious blogging arrives

The South African blogging numbers for 2007 and the beginning of 2008 are in, and they tell a story almost as eloquent as do some of the blogs.

Just six months ago, blogging was the next big internet fad in South Africa. Seemingly from nowhere, in the middle of the year, the number of blogs and media attention around those blogs exploded into the mainstream consciousness. It was all so sudden; it naturally carried all the lightweight baggage of a new fad.

But underpinning it was an apparent tipping point for social media and social networking in South Africa, with most of the country’s key platforms and innovations for what is collectively known as Web 2.0 emerging in a four-month period from April to July 2007.

The key moments for blogging included the launches of Afrigator, the continent’s first blogging aggregator; Amatomu, the first comprehensive tracking service for blogs and bloggers in South Africa; My Digital Life by ITWeb, which put solid commercial resources and interests behind blogging; and the Times, the first mainstream newspaper to embrace blogs and the social networking environment.

At the same time 24.com upped the ante with an aggressive development agenda for its own blogging platform.

The result was that, after a slow build-up, an explosion of activity occurred in July and August 2007, representing a tipping point for the phenomenon. But what if that turned out to be hype and momentary excitement? Would the new trend be sustainable?

The new data, collected and collated by World Wide Worx from January to March 2008, provides a clear indication.

The sites that participated in the research include Afrigator, Amagama, Amatomu, iBlog, Blueworld and My Digital Life, as well as 24.com. Both Amatomu and Afrigator numbers were segmented to ensure they did not duplicate data reported by other blogging platforms where blogs are linked to the two.

These figures include those blogs hosted on international platforms only where they are linked back to Amatomu and Afrigator. It is not possible to account for all blogs hosted on international platforms, nor for those that are self-hosted but not linked to Amatomu or Afrigator.

As usual, no animals were harmed in the compilation of this data, once again with the exception of the rats that had it coming to them, as well as two corporate marketing executives who tried to prevent the information reaching their CEOs.

The most significant items of data are represented by the following table:

Total SA blogs
Dec 2006: 4941
Aug 2007: 25 136
Dec 2007: 26 179

Active SA blogs
Dec 2006: 600
Aug 2007: 2 953
Dec 2007: 3 789

Source: World Wide Worx

The numbers show that the total number of blogs barely grew in the four months from August to December 2007 — a mere 4% — but that the growth in active blogs leaped by 20%, from 2 953 to 3 789 active blogs. These are defined as blogs that have been updated in the month prior to the end of the counting period.

The update period was initially set as two weeks, but some of the blogging platforms had been generous in their interpretation of this definition last time round, due to the number of blogs that remained active even though they had not updated in a specific two-week period.

The total number of blogs can also be misrepresented: it excludes all blogs deleted or removed from blogging platforms. So, for example, 24.com went on a clean-up campaign to get rid of empty blogs and spam blogs, cutting a substantial percentage from its numbers. This suggests that the overall number of blogs created is, in fact, also growing substantially.

The total number of blogs represents the extent to which blogging captured the imagination of aspirant bloggers. Active blogs, on the other hand, are a barometer of the commitment of bloggers. This indicates that, despite many blogs being deleted and many bloggers going back to their day jobs, commitment to blogging is still growing at a rapid pace.

Further evidence is to be found in the number of posts to South African blogs. The numbers are as follows:

Posts to SA blogs
Number of posts to SA blogs in 2007: 510 907
Monthly posts for August 2007: 39 938
Average monthly posts for full year: 42 575
Monthly posts for January 2008: 48 120

The numbers show that the number of monthly posts to South African blogs increased by 20% in five months, matching up to the growth in active blogs over the first four of those five months.

The big question, then, is whether anyone outside of the self-proclaimed blogging elite (you know who you are) noticed. And the big answer is even bigger than expected. The number of monthly page views grew by no less than 100% in the five months from August 2007 to January 2008:

Page views on SA blogs
Page views on SA blogs 2007: 55,757-million
Monthly page views for August 2007: 5,198-million
Average monthly page views for full year: 5,226-million
Monthly page views for January 2008: 10,448-million

Aside from the number of page views doubling in five months, in January the South African blogs passed the remarkable milestone of 10-million page views in one month. Had the South African blogosphere been one site, it would have ranked in the top 10 of South Africa’s most-viewed sites based on the monthly average for the last quarter of 2007, at number eight. If only media sites — that is, aimed at readership rather than usage (such as mail and jobs sites) — were taken into account, it would have ranked third.