The online media explosion has not escaped Afrikaans first-language speakers. Massive audiences flock to sometimes bizarre blogs, as Riaan Grobler reports.
What are the 18 worst fashion faux pas committed by South African men? In which different ways do men climax during sex? What should Shrien Dewani have packed for his trip to South Africa? Need some tips on how to take a leak in the bush? These and many other topics are available online for your entertainment, amusement and education – in Afrikaans.
A few years ago, doomsdayers predicted that blogging would succumb to social networking. In truth, the opposite has happened. Social media is being used to promote blogs and build online audiences. Afrikaans bloggers have not been lagging behind. The ever-diversifying Afrikaans market has created several niches and, while traditional media is trying to follow a please-them-all approach, bloggers are tapping into the online audience’s varying tastes and interests. And the audience is responding.
One of the leading blogs catering for the younger Afrikaans market (20s-30s) is
gevaaalik.com, an entertainment and lifestyle blog that, according to founder Ruan ‘Stix’ Fourie, is a counter-culture publication.
“Let’s be honest, it’s not like a standard Afrikaans publication like Beeld or Rapport is going to publish my work. The sad fact of the matter is that the Afrikaners they are catering for is the older generation and most people that visit Gevaaalik are fed up with articles written by out-of-touch journalists who don’t speak their minds,” says Fourie.
According to Fourie, Gevaaalik’s audience is generally Afrikaans-speaking males between the ages of 18-35. “I once described our audience as dagga-smoking youths who found their voice in Fokofpolisiekar lyrics. The United States went through a massive cultural revolution in the 1960s and 1970s, and that revolution is only starting to happen in South Africa now. It’s like what Johannes Kerkorrel and the Voëlvry movement [tried to achieve in the ‘80s], but now we have the internet and are way more critical of authority and politics.”
Currently, Gevaaalik draws a monthly readership of 25 000. “We sneaked in under the radar and we’ve tapped into a market that has been sorely overlooked by Media24 and Naspers,” says Fourie.
“Simply put, we are unlike anything Afrikaans has ever seen. To do what we do is normally frowned upon by the conservative Afrikaner, but the conservative Afrikaner is a dying breed. We are scraping up everything that the Afrikaans media has been ignoring, because they don’t understand it. We are not a bunch of old farts. We are in the trenches with our readers, smartphone in hand, part of the internet.”
And yet the so-called ‘old farts’ have found their own online voice. Meneer.tv serves up daily self-deprecating irreverence to a growing target audience of middle-aged men. According to Meneer’s Jaco Kirsten, “defining middle age is a bit vague as we might have an audience from guys in their 20s to in their 60s. Women too. So I guess that although our content is pretty well-defined, we can’t really predict who will follow us – apart from our obvious target market.”
After a mere three months online, Meneer has racked up an astonishing 60 000 unique users. “I’d like to think that we’re tapping into a fertile market. We’re not hipsters, skateboarders, surfers, vegans, trapeze artists, angry unionists or angst-ridden teenage girls. So no one really thinks about us. We’re just the guys who get blamed for all society’s f***ups, so I guess we offer light-hearted escapism.”
Sex is another topic that is no longer taboo among Afrikaans readers. Annelise Erasmus’ blog kombiekiehier.co.za is “about sex in Afrikaans. That is the short answer. We want to serve a juicy bouquet of human sexuality to our readers and we want to do it in Afrikaans.”
According to Erasmus, Kombiekiehier dishes up erotic stories (some by well-known authors, like herself), light-hearted articles, visual delights, erotic photos, sex tips, new ideas and philosophical articles about sex, relationships, erotica and society.
“There are thousands of sites with the same theme on the Internet, but there are not many sites where it is possible to read and write about sex in Afrikaans. Kombiekiehier does not see sex as a problem. It is something to enjoy freely.”
And readers have been coming back for more – 35 000 of them in the first three months. Erasmus reckons this is because of the “sexually free” character of the site.
“We do not spoil a sweet dessert by sprinkling it with morality. When it comes to sex in Afrikaans, this approach is unique. We encourage our readers to submit their own stories, memoirs, ideas and sexy photos. This means that this site is partly by sexy people for sexy people.”
Other up-and-coming blogs include Afrikaans travel blog reismier.com and presto.co.za, an online music magazine that aims to promote local music, and provide honest, in-your-face criticism.
The affluent Afrikaans market no longer depends on mainstream media to cater for its diverse, unique needs. Audience-specific bloggers are reaching vast numbers of readers, while traditional print media struggles to push copies off the shelves.
This story was first published in the June 2014 issue of The Media magazine.
Want to continue this conversation on The Media Online platforms? Comment on Twitter @MediaTMO or on our Facebook page. Send us your suggestions, comments, contributions or tip-offs via e-mail to email@example.com.