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Linda Ikeji: The Entrepreneurial Adventures of the Nigerian Internet Queen

There are few names that make Nigerians “shake” like Linda Ikeji, the blogging queen that feeds the always information hungry millennials.

She is the frugal innovator, who pushed change forward until she could no longer avoid it, just like her contemporary, Seun Osewa, who started Nairaland about the same time. For years, she refused suggestions to change the design on her website. She kept using Blogger to churn out  content for her loyal readers. Not until August 2016, after Blogger blocked her account, accusing her of stealing content from other producers and facing the imminent threat of losing her brand, did she announce the migration of her site. This seemed to be the turning point. Since then she and her team have been pushing aggressively on many fronts. A barrage of products, targeting the consumer internet market; including online tv, radio, music, and micro-blogging platforms were launched.

The company was hoping to cash-in on its years of experience and success, dealing with this market segment. She is the Nigerian internet queen, swimming against the tide of the internet consumer, try to bend the waves to her rhythm. Did she succeed in her adventure?

LIS, The Social Media That Never Was

The idea of Linda Ikeji Social, (LIS), was to extend the interaction happening among readers of her already popular blog. A way for her to have user-generated content, much like Reddit.

In 2015, technology niche editorial site, TechCabal, tried this same approach with Radar, in which it removed the commenting section and asked its audience to “continue the conversation” on a dedicated site. When LIS was, therefore, announced in late 2016, to a more general audience, the public did not cringe.

The task at hand, which eventually crumbled the social site, was to convert its readers on Linda Ikeji Blog to content producers on Linda Ikeji Social, while retaining the former. The team understood this very well and made it clear to the public.

The design of the platform was a fusion of Facebook and Twitter, aimed at retaining  its users through a combination of news, (gossip), section, events section and deals section.

To drive growth and engagement, incentives were offered to active content creators. It is similar to Youtube’s model of rewarding its content creators: get a certain number of views and engagement from your audience and we will pay you for it. For example, LIS promised that users with 50,000 followers or more will get 20% of the adverts generated from their content and those who sent in exclusive stories will get paid 1000 NGN for their effort. Many people raced to create account. One prominent example, is the CEO of Hotels.ng, Mark Essien, shown on the screenshot above. In less than 24 hours of launching, Alexa recorded ten thousand hits for the new site.

The model that tried to drive growth to the platform was what killed it. A social platform should thrive on its spontaneity: people should be able to post directly to the app, but because they were driven by money, they needed to send the story to the LIS editorial team who would verify exclusivity before posting the content and paying out the reward. The paying out is the easy part. The editorial, not so easy. It would be good if it is one man reporting stories, but what happens when 10,000 people send in their stories? Imagine everyone on Facebook sending their pictures to its editorial team; they will have to vet, edit and verify the story before the content is found to suit the needs of the platform. The difficulty laid in scaling the model; it bugged LIS down until it dragged it to its slowly death.

Linda Ikeji TV, An Attempt to Set Forth at Twilight

After trying and failing at launching online music and radio streaming services, Linda settled for television. In a recent interview, she reportedly said the team had spent 0.5 Billion NGN, (about $1.5 Million in 2018), to set-up the product and produce content for the platform before launching. “The cost of production is capital intensive,” she said, after discussing how the team had self-funded the production of several reality TV-shows, movies, and TV-series.

By launching this product, she is competing with Iroko TV, the company that launched in 2011, raising over $40 Million in the process and has physical presence in, at least 4 major cities across Africa.  The Co-Founder of Iroko TV, Jason Njokwu, has commented severally on his personal blog, on how after 7 years in operations, the outfit is yet to attain profitability. In comparison with the global market, Netflix reported $12 Billion total debt in October 2016.

If she will be going by the business models used by the players in the industry mentioned above, then, we could see this product going the way of others.

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