Can Mr Namah rely on social media to reach the people?
22 November 2013
YOU WOULD HAVE TO BET that the decision by Papua New Guinea opposition leader Belden Namah not to deal with mainstream media and instead rely on social media to get out his message won’t last long. Quite simply, the numbers won't be there.
So what do we know about the audience reach of social media in PNG? While reliable statistics are hard to come by, a quick internet scan reveals that, compared with the tried and true mainstream media of press, radio and television, Facebook, Twitter and blogs are going to struggle to accumulate comparable audiences.
For example, the three most popular blogs about PNG (PNG Blogs, PNG Attitude and PNG Mine Watch in that order), top out at around around 40,000 unique visitors a month with PNG Exposed and Masalai a few steps behind them. In terms of typical daily usage, if PNG Attitude is a guide, this represents probably 2-3 thousand people (which can double if an issue is running hot).
At last count there were about 150,000 Facebook users in PNG’s seven million population. It’s a popular medium among better educated Papua New Guineans but has not developed as a reliable means of communication: indiscriminately carrying fact, comment, rumour, gossip and misinformation, often sourced anonymously. There’s also no telling just how many of those 150,000 may be really tuned in to what you have to say.
Turning to micro-blogging, the most popular PNG Twitter accounts have around 1,500-1,800 followers. Twitter tends to very limited in its capacity to provide complex information although it can work well in collaboration with other social media.
What we learn from this brief review is that social media still doesn’t pack enough punch as a stand-alone form and is probably best used alongside traditional or mainstream media if it is to maximise its effect.
In Port Moresby this week Belden Namah told reporters he no longer trusted traditional media outlets to give him a fair hearing – and then went on to hold a briefing limited to social media.
"As of (Wednesday) onwards, if I have any issues I am going to hold my press conferences with social media," Mr Namah said.
"Because the newspapers won't run my stories, I'm going to print my own newspapers and distribute them on the street.
"And I want Peter O'Neill to come and stop me."
While this delighted social media aficionados and presumably local printing companies, it doesn’t look like much of a strategy for a man who still wants to be prime minister of PNG.
The only problem with Belden Namah's ideas to circumvent the Post-Courier and The National is that he is Belden Namah, the fellow who got rich far too quickly for it to have been honest, and whose hatred towards O'Neill always makes it questionable whether he is telling the truth or trying to score political points.
The fight against corruption must be led by apolitical types who will go after O'namah and anyone else who is proving themselves an unethical or immoral leader.
Posted by: Winston Parks | 01 December 2013 at 12:16 PM
Voltaire and Rousseau didn't have modern newspapers, radio and Television. Amazing what small groups of people can achieve, as Margaret Mead recognized.
Posted by: Martyn Namorong | 22 November 2013 at 10:14 AM
I don't know Keith you are way behind. With the arrival of digicel mobile phone-based 3g and android phones Namah will easily get a quarter of PNG population on social media.
Posted by: Chris Baria | 22 November 2013 at 09:41 AM
I'm banging on about this, but you should understand the different viewing methods and profiles of different media in PNG and how different this is to western models of analysis.
In PNG, it's a community event.
In Kundiawa, the family had a TV. They would put it outside at 6 so anyone who wanted could come and watch the news of an evening. Often 20 or 30 people would do so. Then they would go to the Lutheran bookshop and hire a bootleg movie on CD (favourites Chuck Norris and Nigerian soapies), put up notices, and charge people a few kina for the privilege of watching it. The family made extra money by selling food and drink to the audience. A good evening's entertainment was had by all.
These impromptu village TV shows were an important source of income, reached many dozens of people, and are an interesting example of how private enterprise is alive and kicking in PNG.
I doubt if even Paul Budde is aware of how this style of watching reaches many thousands of rural people across PNG.
PS. Don't tell the copyright agencies.
Posted by: Peter Kranz | 22 November 2013 at 09:24 AM
For prospective researchers into media in PNG, you must start with Paul Budde. His is a commercial operation, so you have to pay for the detailed reports, but he seems to be the best researcher into Pacific media I have come across.
And he is good.
Posted by: Peter Kranz | 22 November 2013 at 09:02 AM
Bernard - to update those figures on media penetration in PNG and give a more detailed socio-economic analysis of viewer/listener/readership profiles would be a very interesting research assignment for your students.
Posted by: Peter Kranz | 22 November 2013 at 08:44 AM
Re the above figures.
They could be interpreted in very misleading ways. For example TV sets does not equal viewers, as a whole family or two can watch one TV but usually internet is used by one person at a time.
And it does not detail the difference between the urban 'elite' (who can afford internet access) and the majority of rural people (who cannot). Also it doesn't include cable or satellite TV access, or institutional access.
So there are lies, damn lies and statistics.
Posted by: Peter Kranz | 22 November 2013 at 08:30 AM
I came across this. I think it's a few years out of date, so you could probably add at least 10% to the figures, but it's an interesting read.
Papua New Guinea Press Reference
Number of Television Sets: 42,000
Television Sets per 1,000: 8.3
Number of Radio Stations: 55
Number of Radio Receivers: 410,000
Radio Receivers per 1,000: 81.2
Number of Individuals with Internet Access: 135,000
Internet Access per 1,000: 26.7
Posted by: Peter Kranz | 22 November 2013 at 08:23 AM
Since being invited to be a member of the Sepik Region Development Discussion Forum group on Facebook I have enjoyed being part of the "social media" and taking part in some discussions.
These discussions allow their members to feel that they are playing some part in democrary. Their voice, though one of many, can be easily heard. It makes them start to feel partly responsible for all the wrong things that are taking place and also to want to change them for the better.
The contributors include a lot of the bright younger generation with a few oldies like myself. It is a good training ground for would-be politicians and probably a support mechanism for whoever is in Opposition.
Posted by: Mrs Barbara Short | 22 November 2013 at 07:39 AM
It'd be quite interesting to know what sort of circulation the two major dailies have, plus the reach of the TV and radio. I assume it dwarfs the social media numbers.
As you point out, it's always hard to tell how many people are really tuned in. And you might argue that those who are active on social media are more active in disseminating the information and stories they get.
By the way Keith, what is that script behind Namah in the image?
Extract from a statement provided at the time of the infamous Sydney casino incident - KJ
Posted by: Johnny Blades | 22 November 2013 at 06:54 AM