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#BreakTheNet produces new YouTube star

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A series of seven videos by Graham “Dingo” Dinkelman has netted 65 000 views, making him the winner in the Cell C and Blink Pictures #BreakTheNet (#BTN) competition.

Along with the title of “South Africa’s next YouTube Sensation”, 36-year-old Graham, has won a trip to Hollywood and R250 000 in cash.

The Life and Investment broker and father of three from Hillcrest in Durban said he was delighted to have won. As a crusader for wildlife, it would help him get his conservation message out to a large audience.

The competition received 837 entries and saw #BTN register 63 000 users. 36 900 GB of data was redeemed by Cell C users during the competition, with the total YouTube views of all content appearing in the app reaching 477 000.

“South Africa has its own crop of social media celebs with a loyal local and international following,” said Doug Mattheus, executive head of marketing at Cell C. “From wildlife spectacles to rappers, South Africans have contributed a lot to the online sensation of YouTube. #BTN aims to change the face of reality shows, and ultimately bring South Africa to the forefront of social media enhancement.”

All Graham’s videos used wild animals and reptiles. He invited celebrities to star with the animals in his videos. In one of them, he persuaded Greg Minnaar, South African World Champion Mountain bike racer, to help him restrain a crocodile for a health check-up.

While he has been inspired by the late Australian wildlife personality Steve Irwin, his love of wildlife began early.

His father worked for nature conservation in Pietermaritzburg and, he says, from as young as 4, he used to catch water snakes and help relocate them with his dad. His passion for reptiles continues.

Having no YouTube channel has made no difference to Grahams video views. Viewers young and old have loved them.

Each week of the competition, Task Master Darren “Wackhead” Simpson gave the contestants a new task that had to be filmed.

Graham said his favourite week was filming the “cat” theme, in which he had to rescue a curious cat that happened upon a deadly black mamba in a horse stable.

“It was a difficult shoot because of the danger and the risks involved. But very worthwhile once it had been captured.”

He said it was a pleasure to work with his chosen celebrities, comedian Aaron McIlroy and Cell C Sharks rugby player Beast Mtawarira, who “were absolute troopers and got stuck into the task and the shoot”.

“The entire shoot with Aaron was a complete laugh from start to finish. He is, in my opinion, the funniest man in South Africa. For the rest, all the shoots – spitting Cobra, Black Mamba, Crocodiles – had moments that were pretty scary.”

Graham’s team is comprised of his wife Kirsty as the safety officer, Dusty Van Niekerk as first cameraman and editor, his wife Taniele as second cameraman, and Kevin Bender as still-shot photographer – all using iPhones to record.

His team extended to his network of friends and family who viewed and shared his videos.

On his award-winning trip to Hollywood in Los Angeles, Graham said he would like to meet directors whose specialty is the wildlife film industry. His R250 000 prize money will be spent, he says, “buying food for my snakes”.

Graham said he intended to expand on the exposure he has received from winning #BTN by launching a YouTube channel.

“I will continue to promote the message of conservation through my passion and love for animals,” he said. “We will continue to include celebrities in our videos as it has been incredible to watch them change their mindset about so-called dangerous animals. Because they have such a large audience, I hope that the celebrities will be able to help me get the message out to as wide an audience as possible.”

Other local celebrities used in videos across the competition included funny men Donovan Goliath and Joey Rasdien, local sports heroes Tera Mtembu from The Cell C Sharks and Wayne Parnell of the Proteas, as well as TV personalities Maps Maponyane and Pharoahfi.

One of the highlights of the Cell C #BTN weekly online show was the guest appearance of two inspiring young South African women who have made it in Hollywood.

Swimsuit model Genevieve Morton who, like the Oscar winning actress Charlize Theron, grew up in Benoni, has a massive social media profile with over 3-million Facebook “likes”.

Miss South Africa semi-finalist Cara Frew, from Johannesburg and now living in Los Angeles, is a singer who is making a name for herself in Hollywood, having signed to Sony Music Entertainment.

Both women attribute their success to the fact that they believed that anything was possible and that they could achieve their dreams if they put their minds to it.

* #BTN videos can be viewed via the Cell C Reality app and YouTube.

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Online retail gets real

After decades of experience in selling online, retailers still seek out the secret of reaching the digital consumer, writes ARTHUR GOLDSTUCK.

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It’s been 23 years since the first pizza and the first bunch of flowers was sold online. One would think, after all this time, that retailers would know exactly what works, and exactly how the digital consumer thinks.

Yet, in shopping-mad South Africa, only 4% of adults regularly shop online. One could blame high data costs, low levels of tech-savviness, or lack of trust. However, that doesn’t explain why a population where more than a quarter of people have a debit or credit card and almost 40% of people use the Internet is staying away.

The new Online Retail in South Africa 2019 study, conducted by World Wide Worx with the support of Visa and Platinum Seed, reveals that growth is in fact healthy, but is still coming off a low base. This year, the total sale of retail products online is expected to pass the R14-billion mark, making up 1.4% of total retail.

This figure represents 25% growth over 2017, and comes after the same rate of growth was seen in 2017. At this rate, it is clear that online retail is going mainstream, driven by aggressive marketing, and new shopping channels like mobile shopping. 

But it is equally clear that not all retailers are getting it right. According to the study, the unwillingness of business to reinvest revenue in developing their online presence is one of the main barriers to long-term success. Only one in five companies surveyed invested more than 20% of their online turnover back into their online store. Over half invested less than 10% back.

On the surface, the industry looks healthy, as a surprisingly high 71% of online retailers surveyed say they are profitable. But this brings to mind the early days of Amazon.com, in 1996, when founder Jeff Bezos was asked when it would become profitable.

He declared that it would not be profitable for at least another five years. And if it did, he said, it would be in big trouble. He meant that it was so important for long-term sustainability that Amazon reinvest all its revenues in customer systems, that it could not afford to look for short-term profits.

According to the South African study, the single most critical factor in the success of online retail activities is customer service. A vast majority, 98% of respondents, regarded it as important. This positions customer service as the very heart of online retail. For Amazon, investment back into systems that would streamline customer service became the key to the world’s digital wallets.

In South Africa online still make up a small proportion of overall retail, but for the first time we see the promise of a broader range of businesses in terms of category, size, turnover and employee numbers. This is a sign that our local market is beginning to mature. 

Clothing and apparel is the fastest growing sector, but is also the sector with the highest turnover of businesses. It illustrates the dangers of a low barrier to entry: the survival rate of online stores in this sector is probably directly opposite to the ease of setting up an online apparel store.

A fast-growing category that was fairly low on the agenda in the past, alcohol, tobacco and vaping, has benefited from the increased online supply of vapes, juices and accessories. It also suggests that smoking bans, and the change in the legal status of marijuana during the survey, may have boosted demand. 

In the coming weeks, we can expect online retail to fall under the spotlight as never before. Black Friday, a shopping tradition imported “wholesale” from the United States, is expected to become the biggest online shopping day of the year in South Africa, as it is in the USA.

Initially, it was just a gimmick in South Africa, attempting to cash in on what was a purely American tradition of insane sales on the Friday after Thanksgiving Day, which occurs on the third Thursday of November every year. It is followed by Cyber Monday, making the entire weekend one of major promotions and great bargains.

It has grown every year in South Africa since its first introduction about six years ago, and last year it broke into the mainstream, with numerous high profile retailers embracing it, and many consumers experiencing it for the first time. 

It is now positioned as the prime bargain day of the year for consumers, and many wait in anticipation for it, as they do in the USA. Along with Cyber Monday, it provides an excuse for retailers to go all out in their marketing, and for consumers to storm the display shelves or web pages. South African shoppers, clearly, are easily enticed by bargains.

Word of mouth around Black Friday has also grown massively in the past two years, driven by both media and shoppers who have found ridiculous bargains. As news spreads that the most ridiculous of the bargains are to be had online, even those who were reticent of digital shopping will be tempted to convert.

The Online Retail in SA 2019 report has shown over the years that, as people become more experienced in using the Internet, their propensity to shop online increases. This is part of the World Wide Worx model known as the Digital Participation Curve. The key missing factor in the Curve is that most retailers do not know how to convert that propensity into actual online shopping behaviour. Black Friday will be one of the keys to conversion.

Carry on reading to find out about the online retailers of the year.

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Reliable satellite Internet?

MzansiSat, a satellite-Internet business, aims to beam Internet connections to places in South Africa which don’t have access to cabled and mobile network infrastructure, writes BRYAN TURNER.

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Stellenbosch-based MzansiSat promises to provide cheap wholesale Internet to Internet Service Providers for as little as R25 per Gigabyte. Providers who offer more expensive Internet services could benefit greatly from partnering with MzansiSat, says the company. 

“Using MzansiSat, we hope that we can carry over cost-savings benefits to the consumer,” says Victor Stephanopoli, MzansiSat chief operating officer.

The company, which has been spun off from StellSat, has been looking to increase its investor portfolio while it waits for spectrum approval. The additional investment will allow MzansiSat’s satellite to operate in more regions across Africa.

The MzansiSat satellite is being built by Thales Alenia Space, a French company which is also acting as technical partner to MzansiSat. In addition to building the satellite, Thales Alenia Space will also be assisting MzansiSat in coordinating the launch. The company intends to launch the satellite into the 56°E orbital slot in a geostationary orbit, which enables communication almost anywhere in Africa. The launch is expected to happen in 2022. 

The satellite will have 76 transponders, 48 of which will be Ku-band and 28 C-band. Ku-band is all about high-speed performance, while C-band deals with weather-resistance. The design intention is for customers of MzansiSat to choose between very cheap, reliable data and very fast, power-efficient data. 

C-band is an older technology, which makes bandwidth cheaper and almost never affected by rain but requires bigger dishes and slower bandwidth compared to Ku-band connections. On the other hand, Ku-band is faster, experiences less microwave interference, and requires less power to run – but is less reliable with bad weather conditions.

MzansiSat’s potential military applications are significant, due to the nature of the military being mobile and possibly in remote areas without connectivity.  Connectivity everywhere would be potentially be life-saving.

Consumers in remote areas will benefit, even though satellite is higher in latency than fibre and LTE connections. While this level of latency is high (a fifth of a second in theory), satellite connections are still adequate for browsing the Internet and watching online content. 

The Internet of Things (IoT) may see the benefits of satellite Internet before consumers do. The applications of IoT in agriculture are vast, from hydration sensors to soil nutrient testers, and can be realised with an Internet connection which is available in a remote area.

Stephanopoli says that e-learning in remote areas can also benefit from MzansiSat’s presence, as many school resources are becoming readily available online. 

“Through our network, the learning experience can be beamed into classrooms across the country to substitute or complement local resources within the South African schooling system.”

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