We, Nigerians, now hold this truth to be self-evident: that all blogs are not created equal. In conception, some of them are designed as domains of personal expression, others are created to be leveraged into activities offline, and some are started with hopes of being turned into media empires. In reward, some are celebrated after gaining a record number of viewers, some after selling merchandise, and others when they become ubiquitous names for brand advertising. Then a certain blogger bought a house on banana island and all the dreams of conception and reward collapsed into one image. Now, no matter who we are or where we’re starting from, blogging is all about the money.
The problem of that mansion dream is that its simplicity masks the many routes the successful Nigerian bloggers of today have taken to where they are now. Bankole Oluwafemi of TechCabal made this evident when he spoke about the six years it took Linda Ikeji to become one of the top blogs in the country. “It looks like a hockey stick” he said of the graph on Google that shows the growth of her blog. Bankole, himself, has been blogging for three years, yet his name and blog have become synonymous with excellent coverage of the Nigerian tech culture.
Show us the way
The question for many of the participants of the second day of Social Media Week Lagos was how to replicate the success of those who have come before them. The range and class of talent in this city is incredible, and, being natural hustlers, many of the creatives are already involved in activities that are supposed to bring results: blogging, photography, video production etc. But the rewards that are now evident around aren't instant, and it often seems those who rushed to the gate are the only ones who get all the good tidings.
Unlike years past when the blogging was more of a wild west, people poaching one another’s content with impunity, there’s now more dedication to getting everyone their due. Bloggers now understand the concept of permission and attribution in the use of images, even if they’re still reluctant to pay the proper renumeration. There’s also an understanding of what premium content is, of how to better serve an audience and using images and text the right way to become attractive to brands that are ready to pay for advertising.
Truth don die?
The audience has long been the primary factor in deciding the type and quality of content produced. And many who blog in Nigeria know that majority of the audience is interested in gossip, click-baity articles and sensationalized details. The phenomenon now known as fake news has been with us for a long time, and as content creators try to get the numbers that will attract the kind of advertisement they need, the default is to reach for out basest reactions and, in the process, drag down the quality of social engagement.
Bankole, again, addressing about this phenomenon, spoke about how this might represent an opportunity for credible news sources to rise above the fray. Bloggers who cater to a niche market understand the value of being reliable. A tech blogger cannot afford to lose her readership just because she wants to create more numbers by turning out more gossip posts. And as Twitter drama often illustrates, a beauty blogger who sells merchandise knows how quick it is to lose the goodwill of the public once they call to question the results of the products advertised.
The people with institutionalized power, like politicians, will always be wary of the democratization of media and information that has accompanied the rise of blogs and social media platforms. The spike in alternative facts and fake news will look like a vindication of their paranoia. But abuse of ability isn’t exclusive to young people with Twitter fingers. Governments have shown a lack of understanding of how to moderate the information that filters into the public without resorting to outright censorship.
The Audu Story
Audu Maikori’s precence at the conference was both a testament to the power and perils of social media. The virality of the #FreeAudu campaign that followed his arrest on 17 February suggests the role of the fourth estate, erstwhile reserved for traditional media outlets, can now be performed by blogs and personal social media accounts. But it was their inherent vice that got him into trouble in the first place.
Speaking with remarkable self-awareness and lacking a visible victim complex, Audu explained how tweeting about a story told to him by his driver, whom he trusts, without verifying it beforehand, gave the government the permission to arrest him. But since the facts of the case couldn’t be used to support incitement charges, he was later released. Audu is a lawyer and entrepreneur with adequate legal support and an excess of public goodwill. There have been many others, and there will be more in the future, who won’t enjoy this privileges, but will yet clash with governments for the things they say online.
This shouldn’t deter anyone from maximizing the benefits available to those who take the craft of creating content online seriously. As established on the first day of the conference by speakers like Mo Abudu and Obi Asika, advertising and marketing have moved their home address from traditional media outlets to online platforms. And there’s a frenzied increase in productive activity around this industry—from media platforms, to creativity tools, to payment avenues. The level of success to be gotten from these opportunities are dependent on the doggedness of the individual, the vision to find unique niche markets that are underserved, the perseverance to work through barren years, and luck. We now understand this: that it is the order to which you work on your blog that you will cash on it.