Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Integrating Online & Offline Audiences

This year in re:publica, I attended a session by Janet Gunter (@JanetGunter) about integrating online & offline audiences. Janet started her session by giving example of a newspaper in Mozambique called Verdade (@verdademz), which literally means The Truth, a la the Russian Pravda, similar names but sure totally different approaches, and showing how they are able to integrating both their online and offline audiences.

According to Wikipedia, since 2001, Mozambique is one of the world's top ten for annual average GDP growth. However, Mozambique still has one of the lowest GDP per capita, one of the worst human development index and one of the highest inequality in the world. Janet highlighted how this results in a low internet penetration ratio there, she also added that Radio is more popular than television there, since it is cheaper. And like many other African countries they rely a lot on mobile phones and SMS's in their daily lives.





Back to Verdade. It started 3 years ago. They rely on tuk-tuks as a low budget distribution system that can reach rural areas easily. They sure have online presence whether via their website, twitter or Facebook page. But they also came out with new ways to engage with their readers outside the internet. Readers send them their comments via SMS, they also use text message for citizen reports. They also print their articles and publish them on walls, and readers comment and interact with them via writing on walls with chalk! The collect all those feedback channels and try to re-bring the voices of their readers to the masses

Another attendant to the session was Markos Lemma (@eweket). Markos is an Ethiopian blogger who also was having a session in re:publica this year about blogging in his country. In Ethiopia you can find bloggers like Abel Asrat who prints his blog posts to be able to reach larger audience there. He said, "When I get frustrated and discouraged with low reading statistics on my blog I start to print out my blogs and give to peoples to read it that in turn added more traffic to my blog"

Adam Thomas (@SourceAdam), who was also attending the session, and who works on creating open source tools for newsrooms, offered some other examples. West Africa Democracy Radio (W.A.D.R), which is based in Senegal, also have online presence in social networks and they use SoundCloud to both publish their programs online and to collect listeners feedback. But also they distribute their audio materials on CD's to reach the disconnected community. In Los Angeles, VozMob is a project aimed for immigrants and low wage workers there. It enables people to create stories about their lives and communities directly from cell phones, and to communicate them to a larger audience.

I highlighted two examples from Egypt, the first is Kazeboon (Militia are liars) and the second is called #TweetShare3 (Twitter in the Street). The former tries to set a sort of YouTube channels in the streets. They set data-shows, and screen videos of regime's brutality, where passengers gather to watch them and then have discussions (a la YouTube comments), the later tries to bring discussions taking place on twitter to people in the streets.

Débora Medeiros (@debmedeiros), who is a Brazilian studying in Germany also shared her ideas about the state of blogging in her country.

Finally, I think it worth mentioning that the case of integrating online and offline audiences is not only limited to poor countries or countries with low internet penetration. Even in countries where users are having the latest always-connected smart-phones there is a need to tie ones physical surrounding to the internet. During my stay in Berlin, I've noticed that QR Codes are so popular there, most of the advertisements in the streets and in the metro cars do have them, and for sure this is a way to reach offline audience and offer them short-cuts to your online presence. Raspouteam (@RaspouTeam) is a French project that uses QR codes, online maps and historical documents to connect important moments of French history online and in real life. In re:publica itself you've got what they called, an analogue twitter-wall.


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