Originally posted on May 21, 2010
Six months after the folding of one of the most popular private newspapers in Ethiopia, Addis Neger, has surfaced once again but this time online. The web edition had to add some words to the name, much to the confusion of the readers: addisnegeronline. As it turns out there was an online edition of this same publication for quite some time now, apparently with a different publisher. Whether the publishers of Addis Neger, who are said to be based in Maryland, USA, took the name after the print version became popular or if it was by coincidence can be a subject of another article.
Addis Neger, true to the name, has brought something new to the Ethiopian online media. As the editors call it a “collaborative news site”, where the editors are not necessarily physically together to decide what to carry in their publication. Judging by some of the indications on their webpage, they are thousands of kilometers apart, which in the ever changing online world doesn’t create a fuss as long as there is an internet.
Going by their profile on the site, the New Kids on the Blog are four alumni of Addis Ababa University probably of the late 90s. Sure enough they have a lot in common which makes the collaboration easier. It doesn’t, however, mean that they agree on every issue. Law, sociology, political science and international relations are some of the fields the editors studied. That is a whole lot of a benefit to see events from all possible corners. It would never get more ideal than that in getting different perspectives of the issues at hand.
Addis Neger’s online resurrection has been a low profile event. Just a press release posted on Ethiomedia! (So far as this writer could observe). To be honest, the news of their demise sometimes back has attracted a lot of media coverage than their comeback, albeit in different form.
The Ethiopian online media has a history of a little more than a decade and some like Ethiomedia, Ethiopian review, and Nazret getting millions of page views every year, its contribution in shaping up public opinion has been immense. It was so feared by the authorities in Addis that most have been blocked at a huge cost to the Ethiopian tax payer. In the mid 2000s, the Ethiopian bloggers were dubbed as “Africa’s fast growing- a small but growing set of citizen journalists” by the BBC’s Focus on Africa magazine.
To their credit, Addis Neger have raised an important issue to the table. One of the first blogs by Abiye Teklemariam is entitled Divided we blog: the depressing picture of Ethiopia’s online world. A timely reaction to what is going on to the Ethiopian online media scene. While we can contest some of the comparisons raised, it should be commended for bringing the issue to the table.
Addis Neger has a lot to do to replicate the success of its print self. For the start, it is an advantage to have a bilingual page that can cater to different audiences. Technically also using the most basic test, it is accessible in both popular browsers of Internet Explorer and Mozilla Firefox. Both languages show up clear and neat. Moreover, the pages have all the bells and whistles of the latest web trends: high level of interactivity, social networking links, search box, subscription to rss feeds, and the list goes on and on.
The launching of every publication whether in print or online should be welcomed in that it adds to the alternatives and the general development of the media. But attracting a wide reader base and sustaining that for a long time is a tremendous task.
Welcome to the club Addis Neger!