When Uganda Communications Commission placed a temporary ban on live television broadcasts of parliamentary proceedings last month, a little-known online publication called Nile Post saved the day for many viewers.
Nile Post, at the time only three weeks old, broadcast the debate via Facebook Live, garnering much needed clicks and likes to establish its presence in Uganda’s fast-growing online news market.
“We deliberately used Facebook because it’s harder to disrupt as opposed to websites, says Mr Edris Kiggundu, the site’s chief editor. “Even people in offices at Parliament were watching our live broadcast. Security personnel kept speculating as to where our camera was, but they couldn’t find it.”
Kiggundu says the broadcast was a sneak peek into the kind of bold journalism to which Nile Post aspires.
“The overriding need for the public to know what was happening at Parliament led us to push the frontiers of journalism in Uganda,” he says.
Nile Post is a sister company of NBS Television based in Kampala. The publication, which has been in existence for a little more than a month, boasts of 20,000 unique visitors per day and more than 13,000 followers on Facebook.
Kiggundu says his team plans to distinguish itself from the 40-plus online news startups in Uganda through credible, in-depth reporting on politics and public affairs.
“Most online publications have shallow reportage, are riddled by inaccurate or fake news, and are extortionist and sensational,” he states. “Even the websites belonging to traditional media houses simply upload stories from their print version. We hope to provide a difference through in-depth, investigative, analytical and accurate reporting.”
Ms Carol Beyanga, the managing editor in charge of digital platforms at Daily Monitor agrees that traditional media houses could do better with their online platforms.
“For a long time, traditional media houses considered online platforms as an addition or something on the side. Now, we are dedicating more resources to our digital platforms,” she says.
Like Nile Post, Beyanga and her team at Daily Monitor have experimented with live online broadcasts of important events with mixed results.
“We streamed the chaotic parliamentary proceedings the day before the Uganda Communications Commission ban and we had any viewers,” she says, “but when we streamed the Independence Day proceedings, there was not so much public interest. So I think there is need to select which events to stream.”
Beyanga welcomes new entrants to the online news industry. She says that while it will increase competition, it may lead to broader reporting if each new startup identifies and develops its own niche.
Mr Richard Wanambwa the founding partner and senior reporter at Eagle Online, another new startup, is of the opinion that it is too early to rate the performance of Nile Post. He notes that the publication may have a leg up because of its association with NBS TV.
Wanambwa, who is also the deputy chair of the Online Media Publishers Association Uganda, says it is good to have new players in the market, but cautions that the key to success in running an online publication is more than views or Facebook likes.
“It’s not simply about having a new platform, but it’s about content. Newspapers like Daily Monitor might not sell as many copies as New Vision, but they are still influential because of their content,” he says.
Wanambwa says that unlike Nile Post, Eagle Online has found a niche not in breaking stories or live feeds, but investigating the “story behind the story”.
Nile Post will be officially launched on 17 October.