The three months from April to June 2007 are likely to be remembered as the beginning of the tipping point for social media and social networking in South Africa. Most of the country’s key platforms and innovations for what is collectively known as Web 2.0 emerged during that period.

While it was obvious that growth was exponential, at no time during those three months was it obvious just how big it was going to be.

There were five key moments for Web 2.0 during that period:

  • The launch of Afrigator, the continent’s first blogging aggregator, guiding readers to what was being read by others;
  • The launch of Amatomu, the first comprehensive tracking service for blogs and bloggers in South Africa, as well as a handy dashboard for what was new, and a referral service for South African blogs;
  • The launch of My Digital Life by ITWeb, which put solid commercial resources and interests behind the site;
  • The launch of the Times, the daily offshoot of the Sunday Times, and the first mainstream newspaper to embrace blogs and the social networking environment, giving both a print platform to bloggers and an unthreatening entrée to the blogosphere for its readers;
  • In the midst of all the activity and interest, along came Facebook, to underline the extent to which social networking was arriving (244 000 registered in the South African regional network on September 5, versus 80 000 at the end of June).
  • The result was that, after a slow build-up, an explosion of activity occurred in July and August 2007, representing a true tipping point for the phenomenon. A tipping point, according to Malcolm Gladwell‘s book on the topic, occurs when change happens quickly and unexpectedly after an apparently slow build-up.

    But while Facebook is instantly measurable, the same cannot be said of blogging. Educated guesses have been the order of the day. Some of these have proved to be fairly accurate, despite the methodology being a few steps removed from consulting animal entrails.

    That is all changing. The people behind all the major blogging platforms in South Africa have agreed to supply their numbers to World Wide Worx, to be reported in this blog and elsewhere from time to time.

    First, a disclaimer:

  • The blogging platforms and services that have cooperated include, M-Web, Amagama, Amatomu, iBlog, Blueworld and My Digital Life.
  • The Amatomu numbers were segmented to ensure they did not duplicate data reported by other blogging platforms where blogs are linked to Amatomu. These figures include blogs hosted on international platforms where they are linked back to Amatomu. By the nature of the beast, 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.
  • Page views exclude pages served to search spiders and bots.
  • Purveyors of any significant blogging environment that is not accounted for here are invited to contact me with their details.
  • Finally, no animals were harmed in the compilation of this data, aside from a few rats that had it coming to them. We take no responsibility for any incidental harm, damage or loss caused by attempts to feed this information to your boss.
  • And the first numbers are in. For the month of August 2007, the following activity was reported on South African blogs:

    Number of blogs at end of August: 25 037
    Number of active blogs (updated in last two weeks): 2 953
    Percent of active blogs: 11%
    Number of posts in August: 39 938
    Page views in August: 5 198 693
    Unique visitors in August: 621 204
    Source: World Wide Worx

    Incidentally, a quick nod to Vincent Maher for the best guesstimate around on the size of the South African blogosphere. He recently put it at about 20 000 blogs.

    Those figures are astonishing for a phenomenon that has only reached maturity in the past three months. However, they also need to be seen in the context of online media in general. There are at least four media sites that have more visitors than all the blogs combined, and nine sites that have more page views than all the blogs combined.

    But if August did indeed represent a tipping point, we can expect exponential growth in the coming year. By the end of August 2008, blogs will not only be a mainstream component of most online media in South Africa, they will also be a dominant component.



    Arthur Goldstuck

    Arthur Goldstuck is a South African journalist, media analyst and commentator on information and communications technology (ICT), internet and mobile communications and technologies. Goldstuck heads the...

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