Blogging has changed. When we started we all wanted to talk about the various interesting things happening in our culture, in the entertainment industry, and the society at large. For many of the bloggers back then it was either a hobby or a side hustle. In the world, at the time, the understanding was that bloggers talked about the things they loved; those who were really good garnered a huge following and then made money off ads on their websites, Google Adsense, or sponsored articles.
In our culture and entertainment sectors, blogs like JeWanda and Culturebene got so popular that they were considered to be Magazines. It became a dream for artists to get on those platforms and when you did, the exposure was massive. JeWanda took it to the next level by organizing events – it was the perfect upsell.
Back then, Google was still the main source of information. There was no such thing as a blog without a website. That served as a barrier to entry. You had to have a little bit of technical skills to run one. Then came Facebook pages. The feature had been around since 2009 but it was around 2013 that it began to pick up steam. Even then, Facebook pages served, mainly, as a portal for bloggers to generate traffic to their websites.
Soon, many realized that Facebook was frowning on links. The algorithmic changes also made Facebook pages very popular on the platform. The ability to sponsor posts meant even more traffic. There were more and more people joining Facebook and bloggers had to bring the content where the audience was rather than trying to attract them to their websites.
As Facebook impressions increased and website clicks dwindled, the promises of making money off Google Adsense and website ad banners started fading; replaced by sponsored articles or posts. At the same time, many more people could get into blogging without spending anything more than internet data. It sufficed to create a Facebook page, invite your Facebook friends to like it, and start talking about showbiz. PoiseSocial is one of those pages that came before its website.
The success of Celine Fotso played a part in making entertainment blogging an attractive field. She had risen to the ranks of gatekeeper in the entertainment industry. Her kind of influence was something that many began to covet. Blogs started popping up everywhere. Bloggers who initially played a background role in the entertainment industry and the culture started craving celebrity. The dynamics changed in a way that fundamentally affected the creator-blogger relationship negatively.
The effects of that broken relationship can be seen today. Some have benefitted from the situation, but the industry, in general, has suffered. Bloggers stopped seeing themselves as curators and started considering themselves as creators. The rise of the influencer culture also meant that many bloggers wanted to make themselves popular more than they wanted to talk about the work others were doing. Bloggers turned from Kingmakers to wanting to be kings themselves.
Then entered the fake artists. Those who wanted to buy fame with money. When Stanley bagged that MTV award in 2014, everybody started to dream. With public opinion holding that he had more showmanship than actual musical talent, it meant just about anyone could become an artist. He became the poster child for anyone can do it – and if luck could not cut it, a check could go a long way. 10 years later, no one has come even close to his level of international success to tell you he was the exception and not the rule.
Not knowing exactly how Celine Fotso financed her lifestyle and how Stanley made it to South Africa with one track, bloggers suddenly needed more money and there were many more people willing to pay their way to the next MTV award respectively. Bloggers that used to find and talk only about the music and artists they loved or found interesting started talking about anyone who was ready to pay. There was less talk about the art. Bloggers would find anything to talk about as many knew little about critiquing art and could not come up with proper analysis.
Artists that used to work on their EP left that to chase the hit single. Attention moved from the music producers to the bloggers and the video directors. The sacred relationship that had existed between entertainers and bloggers was damaged. They moved from collaborators to competitors. Even video directors could be as famous as artists. Make-up artists needed as much of the spotlight.
What we ended up with is an industry that never grew out of infancy. Celine Fotso had the formula but did not see it through for reasons I can only speculate. How do we explain that we have 237Showbiz but all the music awards are being organized by people who do not write or talk about music all year long? There is a reason why most awards are inconsistent in Cameroon and it is because the people organizing them have no mastery of the fields they want to give awards in. That is why nobody takes these things seriously and we wonder why we keep saying we do not have an industry.
Artists were never supposed to become the main clients of bloggers. It was an easy money grab for the bloggers but it basically destroyed the money tree. MTV awards came after the MTV music channel. MTV shares artists’ content and sells ads to fashion brands and other companies. Of course, there are artists that pay for special placement but those artists make up a small percentage of the ad revenue. We have Essence Magazine with the Essence Music Festival. Events are a natural cross-sell for bloggers that can bring in more money and leave a lasting legacy. It also takes more work which I think is what most of us are avoiding, so we choose to stay at the amateur level of things. MTN and Orange should not be organizing concerts, in Cameroon, in 2023. They should be sponsoring concerts.
We can think of many more ways bloggers can get revenue but if other content creators are your main market, it’s a system failure. When you start taxing your supplier, your business stops making sense. In most countries, radios pay for playing the work of artists, but in Cameroon, artists pay for their songs to be played on the radio. That is a system malfunction.
I do understand with are in a dysfunctional country but if we want to build an industry, sacrifices have to be made. An industry in its simplest terms is – different people playing different roles to create a system that generates income. The influencer has become the only role that everyone wants to play. The real clients (the public and corporations) are having a free ride or pay way under market value. The purpose of an industry is so that a price can be set for the consumer in a way that all industry players get a cut. When there is no industry, the consumer names their price, and boy are they paying cheap.