1 March 2002

Top Story

These have been tough days for anyone interested in producing quality content on the web in Africa. With the end of the boom, there has been a steady trickle of content web site owners pulling down the shutters and calling it a day. Content has not generated cash. With only a few high-profile exceptions, no one - neither users nor advertisers - seem to want to pay for it. Nonetheless there are those who have worked out a way of surviving and thriving by keeping their operations lean and virtual and/or making them an adjunct to some other activity.


A good example is South Africa’s media.toolbox which has focused on a group of people who are used to sophisticated media choices: the media industry itself in South Africa. It’s highly targeted and within a short period of time has carved itself a convincing niche. Herman Manson explains how it has been done.


A final thought. It used to be said what happened in the USA happened in the UK a year later. It may be that internet ideas that happen in South Africa may migrate northwards to the rest of Africa. How long before there is a Media.Toolbox equivalent for the rest of the continent’s fragmented media?


What does an out-of-work journalist do? Easy: launch a newsletter on the Internet. That is exactly what I did in 1998 when I left my position as assistant editor at an information technology magazine to jump into the then-brand-new world of Internet publishing. Aimed at Web developers, marketers and publishers, media.toolbox’s first issue went out to fewer than 50 people, mostly culled from my personal address book. That number doubled over the week following the first issue and grew to reach more than 1300 email subscribers and around 3000 monthly users who make use of our website, which was launched in 1999 and is now updated daily.


Today the magazine covers all aspects of business and media issues in the knowledge economy. The Digital Internet Media Association (DIMA), a non-profit forum servicing the interactive media services industry, has endorsed media.toolbox as an official media partner, as have First Tuesday South Africa.


The magazine has no central office. Instead, the editorial, sales and production teams work remotely from their homes in Cape Town, Johannesburg and Grahamstown to put every issue together. media.toolbox recently appointed its first Johannesburg-based editor, Mandy de Waal, to manage our writers based in that city. media.toolbox has managed to attract some of South Africa’s top technology and media analysts to contribute to its pages, including Michael Herman, Greg Gordon, David Shapshak, Andrew Miller and Di Paice. All contributors to the magazine volunteer their services, while advertising revenue subsidises infrastructure and administrative costs.


In September 2000, the media.toolbox team launched Mobile.Works, one of the first African news sites dedicated to covering mobile and wireless commerce. That magazine launched into print in September 2001 as a quarterly in a joint venture with Connexity Publishing. Mobile.Works aims to help readers assess the real value of interactive commerce, content, and advertising on wireless platforms, from WAP-enabled phones to PDAs.


One of our first initiatives this year will be the launch of a comprehensive database-driven directory of South African Web developers. It s currently being built by Cape Town-based Stonewall Productions, and should go live before the end of February. The Web Developer Showcase hopes to initiate more collaboration within this industry.


The team behind media.toolbox has worked hard to make the magazine a well- respected, well-read asset to the community it reports on. The experience has been more than gratifying.


media.toolbox: or

Mobile.Works : or




The African Extension and Exp.Momentum, recently launched the African Media Portal, a placement system for all forms of media in all of the countries on the African continent.