Online Publishing Set to Flourish in Botswana

GABORONE, BOTSWANA (04/06/2000) - Not long ago, Botswanans had to drive kilometers to buy newspapers, driving from residential estate or offices to distant news kiosks. But today most readers no longer have to leave their homes or offices because they can access news through any number of local newspapers now publishing online.

Key local newspapers have gone online within the last year, including the Botswana Gazette (http://www.gazette.bw), a pioneer in the move toward Internet news publishing. The Mmegi Reporter (http://www.mmegi.bw) followed suit, as did the The Advertiser (http://www.advertiser.bw) and various others. The online newspapers are hosted by ISP (Internet service provider) Interswana (http://www.it.bw).

Other newspapers are scrambling to catch up with the online competition, according to freelance editor Christ Fondo.

Whether or not the publications are prepared to enter cyberspace, print publications are coming to grips with the worldwide trend of publishing online.

Initially, many tried to ignore the trend, perhaps in part because they lacked the foresight to plan for changes in publishing style, Fondo suggested. As a consequence, most are barely able to support the cost of publishing online, relying on "crisis budgets" to do so.

Beyond budget problems, some decided to publish online as a status symbol or because competition dictated that they do so, Fondo said. As a result, content and improving news coverage remain issues for them. Overall, most local newspapers in Botswana were taken unawares by the effect of the IT revolution on the media, he said. Botswanan newspapers lag behind neighboring South African publications, which Fondo said are far more advanced in online publishing.

Another issue is that most newspapers have no internal IT departments and instead hire outside companies to handle Web page design and content hosting.

Most do not have their own servers, he said.

Despite the problems faced by local newspaper seeking to become online publications, Fondo expressed hope that online news will soon flourish in Botswana given the precedence set in the last 12 months.

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