You will forgive today’s Conversations with Chude podcast – it’s probably a self-indulgent conversation between two friends who have been thinking and talking about the media and its future in Nigeria for the past six years – sometimes collaborating, sometimes competing, but always thinking through – how do you build beautiful products that scale?
“The opportunity for storytelling in this geography is immense,” Seyi Taylor tells me, after I stop him mid-sentence and complain we need to stop wasting the podcast content on pre-podcast gist. “But it feels underinvested or underexploited.”
Taylor has been many things in the past decade, including first and foremost a designer (with the company Noah69), which explains why every digital property he co-owns (alongside the once-in-a-generation talent, Bankole Oluwafemi) – TechCabal.com, Zikoko.com, Radar and EbolaFacts.com – is first and foremost, sleek. Before that, he was (probably still is) a medical doctor.
He has also experimented through the media – with ad platform Blouvee, consulting for pioneer digital companies in another life, including YNaija.com and the Linda Ikeji blog, and daily thinking through the intersection of technology and media through his Twitter timeline.
“Linda has one of the most fascinating businesses to look at,” he says, always the analyst. “She has a very strong brand and extremely low overhead which gives her the leverage to try and experiment in other verticals.”
The demographic explosion with young audiences also plays massively to her advantage, he explains.
“If you ask any young person below the age of 30 about the media brands that they trust,” he says. “They always call brands that are younger than 10 years. The borders which protected Nigerian businesses are falling and do not exist anymore.”
After which he points out a very important fact – many of the young people consuming Nigerian media now come from a completely different mind space: “We’ve had the longest uninterrupted democracy in our lifetimes. They are many people consuming media now who didn’t live under any military dictator.”
Like many of the readers of Zikoko.com, his new entertainment site launched about a year ago, that takes the Buzzfeed model and relentlessly localizes it so much so, its perhaps its own version of a pioneer – engaging, compelling and, yes, viral.
“The idea that a brand will deliver everything is hard to imagine,” he explains about the media in a post-Arianna Huffington age. “We built Zikoko to reach a particular type of audience. Zikoko is not a vertical in traditional ways but more of a vertical in terms of the audience its trying to reach.”
And the key to creating such a compelling brand? Execution discipline. The fact that you can come online any day, at anytime and receive a particular product quality, whatever happens.
“There are a lot of things that people have asked Zikoko to do that we don’t do,” he says. “And we still won’t do. We’re focused on building a very specific brand.”
And what does the media owner, media watcher see about the future of his industry? One major insight: “If you don’t create original content,” he predicts. “At some point in time you are going to get burnt.”