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When It Pays To Be Online

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The Instagram influencer marketing industry is expected to exceed $1 billion by the end of 2017, and more than double by 2019. A Santa Monica-based influencer marketing industry Mediakix forecast these figures by studying the #spon #sp and #ad hashtags on the platform, which saw over 9.7 million posts tagged in 2016, with 14.5 million expected for 2017.

While South Africa may be late to the party for most things digital, there are a fair amount of influencers making waves locally. No matter the niche, there are bloggers and influencers who, through their combined digital platforms, are regarded just as important as journalists when it comes to making an invite list; or taking part in a campaign best aligned with their brand. It is predominant with fashion, beauty and lifestyle bloggers in South Africa where some have quit their full-time jobs to focus on being an ‘influencer’.

Aqeelah Harron Ally

Aqeelah Harron Ally (Photo supplied)

Aqeelah Harron Ally, a 27-year-old fashion, beauty, and travel blogger at FashionBreed, from Cape Town, worked full-time for five years before quitting her job, and tells us she could have afforded to leave sooner, but didn’t have the courage.

Ally, who has been blogging for seven years, initially started her blog so she could work for a magazine to ultimately become a fashion editor. She holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in Film, Media & Writing, and Drama from the University of Cape Town; and a Diploma in Make Up Artistry.

The decision to quit her job has worked out well for Ally, who says she is much happier now, even though being her own boss can be stressful at times.

“I’ve been lucky because for the last two years, I’ve landed many contracts which span over four, six, or even eight months; this helps a lot with stability, however I’m also fine without those kinds of jobs.”

She has other once-off campaigns that are booked a month or two in advance, and out of the events she attends, about 60% are paid attendance, which is generally tied to a campaign she is already creating content for.

“I seldom get paid just to attend an event and cover it, but I have done it in the past.”

Another digital content creator who quit her full-time job after five years is 26-year-old Anna-Belle Durrant from Parktown North in Johannesburg. She holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in English Literature and Philosophy from the University of the Witwatersrand. She started her blog SheSaid back in 2013 initially to share her love for Johannesburg, but it has blossomed into stories about travel, fashion, healthy living and design.

“So far it’s worked out incredibly well; I love that I am the master of my own time and creations, and I’m still very fortunate to work closely with agencies like Cerebra [previous employer],” says Durrant.

To her, blogging is like freelancing; work comes in when it comes in and you just have to go with the flow. “However, I do work with brands on a retainer basis to create content around their offerings; and my campaigns run across all my social channels and blog. When you become a blogger, your mind-set changes completely, what you earn is in line with how much you work… so work hard and you should be ok,” she says.

READ MORE: The Sharing Economy: 400,000 Guests At Home

However, the industry has been marred by a fake follower problem where users deceive brands into paying them for being an influencer. Mediakix ran an experiment on two accounts proving how easy it is by purchasing fake followers from as little as $3 for 1,000 followers and $4 for 1,000 likes. Once these accounts reached a threshold of 10,000 followers, they signed up for campaigns – and got accepted for two paying jobs each.

The onus of this falls on PR companies or marketing agencies who need to ensure they’ve done thorough research before approaching an influencer. A quick search on Memeburn.com for an article titled Fake followers are a massive problem, as SA duo proves shows the extent of it in South Africa.

Ally says what they’re doing is illegal.

“It is straight-up fraud because you’re telling a brand to pay you for something you can only pretend to offer. Buying followers is selfish and entitled, but more than anything it’s a charade they won’t be able to keep up with because there are so many tell-tale signs that reveal the cracks in the lie.”

Anna-Belle Durrant (Photo supplied)

Durrant on the other hand feels that while you can cheat anything in life, rather focus on your own content and what you need to do to build your brand as the truth always comes out in the end.

Both Ally and Durrant work extremely hard at being full-time bloggers and share similar sentiments that it’s not all freebies, fame, travel and parties. “You’re a stylist, photographer, writer, curator, art director, model, negotiator/businesswoman, social media manager, video maker; the ultimate definition of a jack-of-all-trades,” says Ally.

Durrant compares it to running a magazine that needs to be published constantly except she’s the CEO, photographer, stylist and janitor, all while fighting for invoices to be paid. “It’s a lifestyle of work hard, play hard.”

Ultimately, both find it very rewarding. For Ally, it’s all about the relationships with her readers, and stresses on how much she values it. “YouTube really extended my reach in this sense which has been so great. It’s also been rewarding growing as a content creator and actually getting paid for it. I’m really thankful for this because creatives don’t often get to say that. It’s really special being able to work for brands I grew up loving and respecting, even more so when their international teams fly to South Africa and get closely involved in what we do.”

READ MORE: The Workplace Of The Future – Or Now?

Durrant loves that she gets to do things and go to places she could only have dreamed of.

“A highlight was exploring a music festival on the coast of Wales last year. Traveling makes me happy, I get to do that for my job; I honestly couldn’t ask for anything more. I also get to meet really incredible people and work with truly inspiring charities and brands, I have inspiration around me 24/7.” – Written by Nafisa Akabor 

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Apple Is Donating 9 Million Masks To Combat The Coronavirus

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Topline: Apple will donate 9 million N95 protective masks to combat the coronavirus, Vice President Mike Pence said on Tuesday, making Apple one of several California tech companies pitching in as hospitals across the country report a shortage of protective gear.

  • Pence thanked Apple for agreeing to donate 9 million N95 respirator masks to healthcare facilities across the country during a press briefing on Tuesday.
  • Pence’s remarks come after Apple CEO Tim Cook tweeted over the weekend the company was “working to help source supplies for healthcare providers fighting COVID-19” and “donating millions of masks for health professionals in the US and Europe,” but did not offer more specifics.
  • N95 respirators are masks that form a protective seal around a wearer’s mouth, filtering  out at least 95% of particles in the air, according to the Centers for Disease Control, which makes them necessary to protect healthcare workers from being exposed to the disease from patients.
  • Facebook has also said it is donating its stockpile of 720,000 masks purchased during the California wildfires last year, which degraded the air quality in the San Francisco Bay Area.
  • Apple did not immediately respond to a request for comment from Forbes asking if all of the donated masks were stockpiled because of the wildfires or if the company got them from somewhere else.

Chief critic: Teddy Schleifer, a reporter at Recode, wrote that health systems shouldn’t rely on the generosity of big tech companies to make up for the failures of the federal government. 

“But there is a risk in relying on corporate philanthropy—rather than the government—in solving this problem. For starters, it depends on the voluntary generosity of these companies to deal with an unprecedented emergency, an altruism that could vanish at any time,” he wrote.

Crucial quote: “And I spoke today, and the president spoke last week, with Tim Cook of Apple. And at this moment in time Apple went to their store houses and is donating 9 million N95 masks to healthcare facilities all across the country and to the national stockpile,” Pence said.

Key background: Apple is one of several California tech companies to give away N95 masks. In addition to Facebook, Salesforce, Tesla and IBM have also announced mask donations.

News peg: Doctors and nurses are sounding the alarm that they don’t have enough masks to protect healthcare workers. Not only does inadequate protective gear put important frontline health workers at risk, public health experts say, any situation endangering medical personnel may only further depletes the U.S. health system which already doesn’t have enough capacity to handle a surge in cases. State officials in New York and Illinois have criticized President Donald Trump for not stepping in to force companies to manufacture masks or allocate masks from private companies to ensure that states don’t outbid each other for the same supplies.

Rachel Sandler, Forbes Staff, Breaking News

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Video Games Are Being Played At Record Levels As The Coronavirus Keeps People Indoors

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Topline: With school closures, mandatory work-from-home policies and lockdowns taking place in the U.S. as a result of the Covid-19 coronavirus pandemic, gaming has seen higher engagement, especially over this past weekend.

  • Steam, the most popular digital PC gaming marketplace, reached new heights Sunday, drawing a record 20,313,451 concurrent users to the 16-year-old service, according to third-party database SteamDB.
  • Counter-Strike: Global Offensive, released by Steam-owner Valve in 2012, seems to be the top beneficiary of the increased engagement, breaking it’s all-time peak on Sunday with 1,023,2290 concurrent players, topping its previous peak last month by a million, which itself beat the record set in April 2016.
  • Like other esports, CS:GO has had to cancel events due to the virus, particularly the Intel Extreme Masters in Katowice earlier this month, though its peak viewership reached over a million, making it one of the most watched tournaments in the esports’ history.
  • Activision Blizzard’s new free-to-play battle royale spinoff Call of Duty: Warzone, launched March 10 on PC, Xbox One and PlayStation 4, is also likely benefiting, drawing in a staggering 15 million in three days, besting the record 10 million in three days by last year’s battle royale sensation Apex Legends.
  • These new heights follows similar effects of the virus on China and Italy: Telecom Italia’s CEO told Bloomberg it saw a 70% increase in traffic over its landline network, with Fortnite playing a significant part, while Chinese live-streaming service Douyu experienced increased viewership of the country’s most popular games, according to market analyst Niko Partners.
  • While gaming was considered “recession proof” during the 2008 market crash, stocks aren’t immune to the current historic drops: software developers like Activision Blizzard are facing a 9% decrease in price year-to-date, while hardware companies that rely on Chinese manufacturing like Nintendo are seeing bigger drops of 24%.

What To Watch For: If these records keep rising as the closings and lockdowns continue. Arriving this week is Nintendo’s long-awaited Animal Crossing: New Horizons for the Switch console, a relaxing “life-simulator” that’s set to have a big day with many fans not-so-jokingly asking Nintendo to launch early.

Surprising Fact: Plague Inc., a game that tasks players in creating a virus that wipes out humanity, surged in popularity late January, becoming the top-paid game on the Chinese app store at one point, but the game has now been removed in China at the direction of the government.

Further Reading: So You’re Suddenly Working From Home And Want To Try Gaming? Here’s How To Get Started.

Matt Perez, Forbes Staff, Innovation


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Amazon Hoping To Hire 100,000 New Employees To Deal With Coronavirus Demand

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Topline: Amazon announced Monday that it would be opening 100,000 new full-time and part-time positions to deal with increased buying demand as people practice social distancing during the Covid-19 coronavirus pandemic.

  • The company will also increase pay by $2 in the U.S. from its current $15 an hour, £2 in the UK and €2 in Europe for those working in fulfillment centers, transportation services, stores or people making deliveries, amounting to a total of $350 million.
  • Amazon last Friday shared that the increase in online commerce has unsurprisingly resulted in shortages for household essentials and delays in shipment times.
  • Monday’s statement also noted that “We continue to consult with medical and health experts, and take all recommended precautions in our buildings and stores to keep people healthy. We’ve taken measures to promote social distancing in the workplace and taken on enhanced and frequent cleaning, to name just a few.”
  • Last week, Amazon told all of its employees to consider working from home if they could, according to CNBC; for its fulfillment centers and delivery services, it also launched a $25 million relief fund that lets workers diagnosed with the coronavirus apply for  grants equal to two weeks pay, as well as unlimited unpaid time off for all hourly employees until the end of March.
  • Amazon currently employs 250,000 people at 110 fulfillment centers.

News Peg: According to Johns Hopkins, 181,200 people have been infected with the coronavirus, with 7,115 deaths reported. School closures, lockdowns and curfews have been put in place to promote social distancing, with the White House today recommending to avoid groups of more than 10 people.

Matt Perez, Forbes Staff, Games

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