Have you visited the Africa Review, the latest offering from the Nation Media Group? I came across it completely by accident while bitching and moaning about something entirely different on the main Nation website. It looks like they’re trying to to a daily newspaper not just for Kenya, but for the whole continent of Africa! Now, I know I have a history of being critical of the Nation Media Group (NMG), but I was genuinely interested in the project. So after clapping with glee at being able to sink my claws into a new outlet, I decided to have a proper rummage around the site’s entrails, to get an informed impression.
At first glance, the African Review front page looks like a busier, less coherent version of the main Nation page. Stuff is flashing hither and thither, there isn’t enough time between picture transitions, the site could be a little wider, and the font size used is almost painfully tiny, but overall it’s generally OK. If I were a web designer, I wouldn’t disown it outright, though I might claim that I had done it as a rush job as a favour for a drunken uncle.
Now to the content. I’m not sure what to make of it, to be honest. It appears to be a hodge-podge of summaries by NMG staffers, articles pulled in from the news wires, and random (user-contributed?) opinion pieces that don’t do anything to shake my sincere belief that the subeditors at Nation House were swapped for trained Colobus monkeys a while ago. There’s nothing egregiously wrong with the factual pieces, but the analysis and blog sections are remarkably reminiscent of this blog. If you consider this blog to be the amateur hour, half-informed burblings of an escaped Mathere Hospital patient, that is. Seriously, though: underwear? Really?
So what is the African Review actually for? It appears that there is some premium content that you can pay for to get extra-special-awesome insight into African events, but I didn’t pay for any of that. Maybe there’s some market research that firms could leverage to their advantage behind the paywall. But all the other material is stuff that is already being done elsewhere on the web, in the majority of cases, better and with more dedication and attention to detail. Maybe NMG thought that just putting it in one place would translate to more money?
Full disclosure: I syndicate this blog’s content through Afrigator, which already does an amazing job of colllating news and blog posts from around Africa for free. But I don’t earn any money from them, nor do I have a financial interest in anything that would challenge the African Review. Nevertheless, weighing up the two side by side, I can’t help but feel that Afrigator provides more immediacy, a wider range of views and — most importantly — the voices of non-mainstream outlets.
I suppose what NMG is trying to do is admirable, in its own way. Any Kenyan who has travelled abroad will know just how annoying it is to be asked about events on the other side of the continent just because we happen to be “from over there” (Euro-friends: asking me to name all the political parties in Ghana is like expecting you to know the top 10 companies on the Bolivian stock exchange). It would be nice to imagine that there is a one-stop-shop for all your Africa news needs, and any effort to provide that should be lauded. But the Africa Review falls way short of the standards that I expect from a national media house, especially one that I respected so much when I was growing up. Report card for now: could do much better.
[Image © BlackHug]