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The state of digital media

When writing about the state of digital media in South Africa, one needs to understand the climate of trust and how that which has traditionally been seen as news, has changed so dramatically.

South Africans want to be online. A recent PwC report into South Africa's entertainment and sector showed that it is expected to grow from R126bn (2015) to R173bn (2020). The internet is likely to be key in this growth with the local internet market set to rise from R39.4bn in 2015 to R68.5bn in 2020. One of the reasons is that broadband (fixed or mobile) is moving towards becoming an essential utility.

And while South Africa has been a little slower than other markets to shift its ad spend into digital, a 2015 study that PwC issued on behalf of IAB SA showed that in 2015 digital ad spend had surpassed the R3.4-billion mark which translates as a 36% year-on-year growth.

These two factors make the nature of trust and the validity of online content even more important. Yes, digital media is so much larger than what news publishers are publishing. But what content we engage with online and who pays for it has now become a critical issue in this country's leap into the digital landscape - it is all connected.

The delicate duo of digital advertising and paid-for content sit alongside editorial news. News teams are now called content generators. Brands are able to purchase space within editorial feeds. Ad placements are automated and so too will native content. Throw in the growth of fake news and it becomes a murky minefield.

This brings me back to my point about trust. Digital media has grown so rapidly (relatively) and the nature of what we see and read and where it is delivered to us has become very complex - which is why it is vulnerable to exploitation. It is vital for the industry to hold itself critically accountable. Ultimately we who create the spaces; sell the spaces and publish the content need to be its custodians.

We need to do this with integrity and purpose, because ultimately those who own the digital media hold the power.

15 Aug 2017 08:40


About Genevieve Cutts

Genevieve is a senior PR Consultant at MANGO-OMC and PR account director for Firestarter. She has been in PR for two-decades having started at the renowned Market Theatre in 1996...