The Bloggers Association of Kenya, better known as BAKE, started in 2011 as a community organisation to empower the Kenyan narrative. With the introduction of the BAKE Kenyan Bloggers Awards in 2012, the association has gathered even more exposure and credibility through the awards aimed at honouring exceptional Kenyan blogging. Their acquaintance with a variety of blogs, through their trainings, membership programs and the thousands of blogs nominated for the competitions, they’ve gathered a wealth of knowledge of the blogosphere. TDS had the opportunity to sit and chat with BAKE founder, Kennedy Kachwanya, to learn more about the blogging industry and the upcoming awards, set to go down on May 7th 2016.
Why did you chose to start BAKE
At the time, most of the content about Kenya was being done by foreigners. So you would find that when international organisations such as the BBC or New York Times wrote the story, they’d want it to look a certain way that was not a true reflection on what’s on the ground. It’s based on their perception or biased view of what Africa is. But apart from that we were also looking at the challenges that the bloggers at the time were facing. How do you get people to take you seriously so that you can compete with the likes of Nation Media? So we thought to [concentrate on] strength in numbers and how to develop local content.
Is that why you offer the courses?
Once we achieved quantity, we started to realise that we needed to focus on quality. That’s where the training came in. And we also realised that the same issue we had with people from abroad doing stories about Africa is the same issue we have of people from urban centres covering issues in rural areas. For somebody who lives in Nairobi to do a story on western Kenya or Turkana, you can’t really do an objective story unless you are from there or have been there and understand how the area works. That’s why we started training outside Nairobi, targeting those who have the skill [in order] to build the quality.
How many fashion blogs do you see popping up annually?
It’s so high – this is one of the categories where each year we see new blogs that weren’t in existence the previous year and already doing very well. It’s one of the fastest growing categories of blogging. Whether it’s easy to do? I don’t know. But I feel that it taps into something that is so important to so many people.
Do they survive and grow to successful platforms?
The truth is only five percent of these blogs actually survive. That’s the nature of business, it’s survival for the fittest. What some of them get wrong is that they start out thinking content is easy. It’s not. It really needs dedication and passion.
Some people will start for the wrong reasons. Maybe you see somebody making money out of it and you’re not really suited to it. Or you see someone who is weirdly popular or has struck celebrity status and somebody wants the same but they fail to realise it’s a lot of hard work. Surviving even 6 months constantly is not easy to do.
What would you like fashion bloggers to embark on moving forward?
There are so many things that they aren’t talking about. I would like to see more opinion pieces. Currently it’s mostly pictures and showcasing how they look. Even if you say something is good, I’d like to see them explain why it’s good. Because yes something is nice on you, but there has to be a thought process behind that.
I’d also like to see them driving our own fashion trends. What I see is that all the trends we are focusing on are driven by the international market, yet it’s so easy for them to start a trend. If one of them wrote something and the rest came in to praise or critique it to get the conversation started, it would become a trend. This would be a good platform to talk about brand Kenya and be the opinion shapers on what the Kenyan dressing should be. Look at Nigeria, they have their unique style that they actually like.
There’s so much they can do as opinion shapers. Do you know before Nancie Mwai started going to kikomba and using mitumba [thrift pieces] in her blog, people would refuse to admit that that is where they shopped? But once she talked about it openly, it became fashionable.
Another area that’s highly neglected is fashion for men. Kenyan fashion is mostly about women’s dressing. When you look around and you want to go for a dinner, cocktails or even when you’re going to watch football and you’re a guy you can’t get any fashion advice on what to wear.
How can you make money from your blog?
They have the numbers, so they have a few options. One could be to work with BAKE. We go out there and look for the brands who are looking to work with bloggers and we connect them with the right bloggers.
As individual brands if you build a good name you will be able to get people to advertise on your site, you could create content for them, or you could become the face of their brands. I’ve seen This is Ess for example worked with Uber immediately they came in. she was the introductory face. She’s also worked with Samsung.
You have to have a marketing-oriented mind and build a business behind your blog. I think that’s where people go wrong. Bloggers are so focused on doing the content – which is good since you need to maintain your audience – but you have to be realistic. And I tell guys that even if you start today you have to sort out of your bills with the boundaries in mind. Ethical and being true to yourself.
So if something isn’t great don’t go saying it is because then it will hurt your brand. For example, there are bloggers that praised banks that that are failing and now their credibility is being questioned. Be really keen on doing your homework before endorsing something.
What’s the selection process of choosing the nominees?
First, people submit their blogs or the fans of the blog submit it. We have 5 judges who have a lot to do in terms of looking at the blogs, reading them and settling on the best five per category. From there, the audience decided who will win.
The judges will have to look at the consistency of blogging throughout the previous year, how they market the blog, how many followers they have and if it’s well known. The kind of content they are featuring has to be relevant to the category they’re submitted to. Obviously, it also has to be conform to the laws of the land and journalistic ethics.
How are the judges selected?
They have to be individuals who have blogged before and have substantial experience in the content industry. We also consider how long they’ve been blogging and how involved with blogs they are.Issues the BAKE Awards face
We receive criticism on the categories every year after the awards, especially concerning why we haven’t included a specific category or why we are lumping them together. The problem is that organising an event in Kenya is so expensive. So even though we started with 12 categories every year we review the feedback and add on new categories. We’ve introduced education in 2015, the year before that was health, and this year we’ve introduce spirituality. We are now at 19 categories.
What are the benefits to the award?
Your Credibility is raised and the media coverage is higher. And obviously more people want to work with you. Previous winners can attest to this.
Final thoughts on Fashion Blogs
Fashion is the most competitive compared to the other categories. It’s dynamic and it’s push and pull. Apart from Nancie Mwai who’s won twice, there hasn’t been a repeat winner since. You can question their quality but you can’t question their commitment.