BY FUNSHO AROGUNDADE

A growing community of young Nigerian bloggers is leading the way in Nigeria’s new media revolution

Ikeji (Linda Ikeji's blog), Aloba (Maestromedia) and Bello (Onobello).

Ikeji (Linda Ikeji’s blog), Aloba (Maestromedia) and Bello (Onobello).

Tosin Ajibade’s fingers were busy on the keypad of her Apple iPad. She frantically strung words underneath the memorable pictures she had just taken at an award ceremony held at the Tafawa Balewa Square auditorium, Lagos. She immediately posted the words via her blog, olorisupergal.blogspot.com real time and synchronised them on her Twitter acccount. The reactions were instant and numerous.

For Ajibade, blogging has become a way of life. The young lady, now widely known by her name, OloriSupergal, spends most of her waking hours writing stories, updating her postings and searching for interesting content. And she is fast becoming a hit among numerous visitors to her 100 per cent entertainment website – visitors scouring for information on the Nigerian showbiz scene.

A leading light in the new media revolution in Nigeria is Uche Eze-Pedro. Her creation, Bella Naija, started out in 2005 as a blog, but has been upgraded to a full website with vast audience that spans from Ghana to Canada. There is a chance that four out of 10 web surfers have stumbled upon her blog, which basically is a lifestyle site. Bella Naija takes a look at the diary of the Nigerian social and fashion scene. The site has been doing so well it recently attracted mention in a CNN documentary.

In 2010, celebrity blogger, Abiola Aloba got bitten by the blog bug while still editing Encomium Lifestyle, a special publication of the Encomium magazine. Many ideas, he said, were then running on his mind, ideas he could not execute as an employee. Aloba felt he was being stifled. He needed a platform that would give him independence and relevance, and blogging readily came to mind, thus the birth of maestromedia.blogspot.com. Within two years, the fashion writer cum photographer is not regretting dumping his salaried job for the world of the geek. Now, his blog is a hit among visitors yearning for news and information on fashion, socialites and celebrity parties.

Linda Ikeji has earned herself the sobriquet of ‘Queen of Blogging’. Prior to joining the frenzied world of e-stories, the University of Lagos English Language graduate was a fashion columnist for a struggling celebrity magazine. After two years of toiling in the news room, she quit. As Linda couldn’t stop writing, which has become a passion, blogging provided a relief route. She, therefore, created linda Ikeji’s blog in 2005. For five years, she worked her fingers on the keypad to the bone, posting  various topics and subjects that included music, movies, fashion, gossip and even sex issues, with no financial returns. But she persisted until 2010, when some of the stories posted on her blog began to ruffle feathers. At a point, Linda averaged about 1 million unique visitors each month to her blog. And with that came the much-needed recognition and substantial earnings. In August 2012, Forbes Africa described her as a success and a case study for the business of blogging.

With over 400 blogs and full websites focusing on various subjects that span politics, music, movies, fashion, sports, gossips and lifestyle, Nigeria now has one of the most dynamic blogging communities in Africa. Analysts said the numbers could triple by 2015 with the uncontrolled slide of the influence of mainstream media and the opening of a new vista of market opportunities for bloggers who are reaching a wider number of target audience. Meeting these challenges has made many to upgrade to a full website by registering their own domain names. “Blogspot.com limits you in many ways as it does not allow for various segments. More people and corporate brands seriously want to associate with websites that are very credible and reliable. They prefer sites that have excellent service delivery in terms of the quality and reliability of the information disseminated via their websites,” Ajibade said.

Terrence Sambo, a stylist and blogger, believes fashion sites have made fashion to be more democratic. “There is a lot of social media influence. Technology has made the business of fashion journalism a lot more democratic. Video presentations are becoming a lot more commonplace these days on many blogs, along with live streaming of shows. A lot more people are able to connect with the industry real time, rather than wait to buy monthly magazines,” said Sambo, founder of onenigerianboy.com and editor of Men’s Style Blog.

The rise in the number of bloggers in Nigeria is already yielding positive implications with a number of big-time information technology companies such as Microsoft and Google setting offices in Nigeria. This also means improved technical output and more revenue for bloggers.

TheNEWS investigations revealed that apart from building social capital, blogging has made many millionaires. Many more Nigerians are making regular income from blogging; many, indeed, quit their jobs to become full time bloggers. This revenue is coming through Google Adsense and individual advertisers. The entire e-community in Nigeria is said to be worth over N100 million, and still growing strongly as the advertisers’ base spikes.

Bella Naija is believed to be the most financially healthy. Their revenue comes from advertising, including series of lucrative partnerships with many blue chip companies and event organisers. With a full-functional office in Maryland, Lagos, Uche and her blog net worth has been conservatively put at over N20mn.

Linda is reputed by e-business pundits to be one of Nigeria’s youngest millionaires. This is on account of the constant advertising patronage from small and multinational companies that patronise the lindaikeji blog. Though it is quite difficult to track down Linda’s total networth, she is, however, said to be worth over N10mn. Some expensive cars in her garage tell the story. “I am definitely doing very well as a blogger. I don’t have any other job; this is what sustains me 100 per cent now. Blogging has definitely opened doors for me. I have been invited to speak at forums and I have gone to places I would ordinarily only have dreamt about,” Linda said of her status as an accomplished blogger.

Founded in 2006 by Ademola Ogundele, notjustok.com is Nigeria’s premier music blog and most visited online platform. It delivers spanking new hip-hop/contemporary music, video and music content daily to Nigerians and the rest of the world. It has steadily grown into one of the most visited sites within the Nigerian online community. On the average, the site recorded over 1.6mn page views from over 520,000 visitors from 183 countries. Apart from generating millions as revenue from advertisers, the site also makes extra money selling digital albums that are usually released the same time they are released physically. Same goes for 360nobs.com founded by Noble Igwe, which also offers news and information on all things that are entertainment related. The networth of these two is not of public knowledge, but it is believed that individually, they rake in annual revenue in excess of over N10mn.

There are scores of other bloggers commanding high visits and breaking even within the blogsphere with  adverts lining their sidebars. They include thenetng.com, owned by Adekunle Ayeni; nairaland, owned by Oluwaseun Osewa; jaguda.com, premiumtimes.com, onobello.com, nigerianvillagesquare, youthng.com and passionhubsta.

Despite the rosy business painted of the blog initiative, some critics still consider as insignificant what many bloggers generate in terms of revenue. “Most Nigerian bloggers don’t make any real money online and it is a shame because the online market is quite large and I don’t see why we Nigerians shouldn’t get more out of the piece of the pie. The worth of the whole e-community in Nigeria is not up to what the likes of Huffington and lifehacker make in a quarter,” said Gbenga Adamolekun, an IT consultant.

Adamolekun added: “Few of them are making money because only few of them have anything compelling to say. Owning a blog is not the thing. Having something to say is the thing. Content is king. The reason why Nigerian bloggers are not making enough money online is because they don’t do much. But an average Nigerian blogger can earn more if they can up their contents and shun grotesquely distorting truth for fact on their portals.”

The bloggers are not unaware of the challenges. “I realised early enough that online was the next big thing as people now get information at the speed of light…I have been exposed to many international entertainment blogs and websites’ contents which tally with my own ideas and I thought I could replicate them in Nigeria. And it’s working. I have found the experience fantastic and interesting but time-consuming. Since there are many bloggers out there now, you’ll need to create a kind of niche for yourself to stay relevant and those who came for the fun of it would fade away with time,” Aloba told this magazine.

But to Linda, despite the shortcomings, bloggers in Nigeria have really tried. “No matter what, I think the key innovation blogs have been able to add to news reporting is that they shorten news and reports. People are bored stiff with the way most newspapers report and write about things. Besides, blogs allow readers to give instant feedback. People are going online with handheld devices, so they don’t have time for long reports that go on for pages…They want the main gist of the story. Just give them the five Ws. Make it brief and precise and straight to the point and you are in business,” Linda explained.

.This article originally appeared in TheNEWS magazine of 04 February 2013