BY: JACO PIENAAR
It seems for every two steps forward, the media landscape in South Africa has taken one step back in 2015. From an increase in the number of local paywalls and the elimination of many comment sections on news sites, to the #feesmustfall and freedom of information movements, this was quite an eventful year.
Underpinning all of this is the rise of connectedness in the country.
Thanks to more affordable mobile devices, faster internet speeds, and an ever increasing number of public WiFi hotspots, many South African consumers have made a relatively smooth transition to the digital world. This brings with it not only access to information but also an awareness of many societal issues that was once considered hidden from the media agenda.
The fact that several news sites have redoubled their efforts to get readers to pay a subscription fee to access content online, has not halted the spread of information. While some have reluctantly subscribed, many have found other sources of content. Social networks seem to be the winner in this tussle with Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram all benefitting from increased active members. Even instant messaging platforms like WhatsApp and WeChat have shown solid growth in South Africa this year as a result of this.
With News24 and IOL leading the charge of disabling reader comments, discussions around articles and other matters of interest have moved to social. Irrespective the merits of this media strategy, many commenters (as opposed to commentators) have found alternative platforms for their discourse.