Everyone in the media industry that pays attention to online conversation has been talking about Toyin Subair’s significant opus on why he failed with HiTV – an ambitious media experiment if there ever was.
There was one even more ambitious, and just as consequential – and it was NEXT newspapers, founded by Pulitzer-prize winner and otherwise brilliant journalist, Dele Olojede.
NEXT failed, just as spectacularly. Coming down in a hail of hubris, confusion and shattered dreams for the many brilliant journalists it curated from across Europe, North America and many parts of Nigeria.
That last part is crucial. At least as part you see many NEXTers (as they head-scratchingly called themselves) passive-aggressively attacking Olojede for ruining a magnificent dream with a terrible business model, a lack of the integrity he demanded from Nigeria’s government and corporates, obscene spending, and a newsroom whose morale trended close to zero in its closing years.
Olojede has instead been telling another story in bits and pieces across conferences and sometimes on Twitter – that it was Nigeria’s corrupt establishment that destroyed his paper. As if Punch has not been attacking that same government for years while still growing as a business. Or Channels TV. Or, gosh, for that matter Sahara Reporters.
So, fittingly, each time he starts, Nigerians, especially his former comrades at NEXT are usually the first to cut through the BS (Exhibit A: Ikhide R. Ikheloa). So maybe that’s why he hasn’t told a comprehensive story about that time, anywhere.
People like Olojede and Subair have been the reasons investors have found it supremely difficult to properly, and strategically, fund media businesses in Nigeria (despite the fact that many like Punch, Channels, ONTV etc continue to thrive and expand) – even in the time when the future is certainly about content. Because they were loud, their founders were both extravagant and colourful, and when they failed, at least in Olojede’s case, they blamed it on everyone else but themselves.
Someone needs to tell the story.
If it’s Olojede, it probably won’t come with humility, but it’s a good start – and he owes it to the Nigerians, and team, he made big promises to.