Google Country Manager, Juliet Ehimuan, spoke with Emma Okonji on the need for the Nigerian media to create the right digital content that will drive online traffic and boost GDP growth. Excerpts:

What is your perception about media online presence and digital growth in Nigeria?

Today, we live in a digital world, where we do not just go online, but we actually live online. Today we have over 60 million Nigerians online, which represents over 80 per cent growth since 2005. The truth is that a lot of Nigerians are online via their mobile devices. With this development, no media organisation can afford not to be online, if it must remain relevant in today’s digital era.
Media houses must have online presence, and they have to create digital assets to remain relevant and connected to the people. The invitation is that all publishing organisation should look at moving their contents online because being online, presents specific attributes that are very beneficial. First it gives such publishing house, a fantastic analytics around digital assets and be able to know those that are actually consuming their contents, those that visit their online sites regularly and also know the type of information that people are interested in. There are opportunities to dialogue and interface with users and feel their impulse, through their feedback messages and comments.
Another opportunity is that it allows media houses that have strong online presence, to tailor their contents to specific user needs.

What is your view about ethical practices and the integrity information uploaded online?

Online presence will help publishing organisations to distinguish themselves by uploading contents that are credible and interesting to readers. They have to create more time for investigative journalism and bring out the professionalism of online publishing, by providing good and credible contents that connect the publishing house with the consumer. When audience is built around certain contents, then there will be opportunity to expand the business model. It is all about distinguishing self from others and remain focus and credible in the type of news contents that are uploaded online.

How can Google partner publishing houses, to make them more efficient and credible in the type online contents that they generate and release to their readers?

Google is very committed to supporting efforts that will build and sustain the online ecosystem in Nigeria. That has been our mandate in Nigeria and that is exactly what we have been doing. We are very happy to partner media houses in the areas of training and building conversations around digital assets and optimising digital assets, as well as monitiring digital assets and obtaining best practices in the process. So we are fully committed to providing that level of support to ensure that publishing houses can be successful online.

Nigeria has attained the status of the biggest economy in Africa, and part of the indices for attaining such status is centred around online presence and internet penetration. Do you see Nigeria sustain this status over a long period of time?

Absolutely yes. I see various opportunities for Nigeria to sustain that status as the biggest economy in Africa. Do not forget that technology can play a strong role in growing the GDP of a nation, and what we are talking about in terms of online presence and internet penetration, is all about the right and consistent use of technology tools. There is a direct correlation between broadband growth and GDP growth and this has been proved correct based on several researches carried out by the World Bank. This is very important, especially when Nigeria is looking at diversifying the economy outside the shores of oil and gas. There are lots of creative talents among Nigerians to sustain economic growth, and one thing we must realise is that digital contents provide better opportunity for that. Taking a close look at Nollywood as an example, one will find out that it is a very creative industry, that is using digital creativity to make a whole lot of sense, that have translated into GDP growth for Nigeria. So by mere putting Nollywood contents online, the content creators and producers are already tapping into the export market, thus generating money for themselves and for the economy as well, which of course translate into huge GDP growth for Nigeria. We have businesses in Nigeria that are generating a lot of revenue for themselves and for the economy. So going digital is a great way for us to boost the Nigerian economy.

What is the impact of small and medium enterprise businesses towards digital and economic growth?

The businesses about Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) are actually small but they form a significant part of economic growth because majority of businesses fall within this SME group. So by the time all SMEs go online and begin to have access to digital content, they will create more opportunity for GDP growth. SMEs are engine room of growth for any economy and their presence must not be neglected. For example, over 90 per cent of surviving businesses in Nigeria are SME businesses. So if empowered, they can do more exploits to boost GDP growth of Nigeria in sustaining our status as the biggest economy in Africa. So digital growth in Nigeria is a sure way to boost and sustain the Nigerian economy.

In promoting digital growth, what kind of digital content should Nigeria focus on?

Digital contents come in variety of ways, and I have earlier given example with Nollywood digital content. Of course there are several kinds of digital contents that Nigeria should focus on, to further drive the Nigerian economy. We have news contents, entertainment contents, business contents like e-Commerce, sports contents, and educational contents, among several others. People are going online to consume contents around news, sports, entertainment, education, e-Commerce, among others, so there is the need to build digital contents around these areas of interest so that when people go online, they will find what they need at that particular time, because their needs change from time to time.

How can Nigerian content providers monetise digital contents and create value out of them?

In monetising digital contents, the content provider must first create value out of what he or she is doing in order to get continuous patronage. If they have something of value, then it will be easy to monetise it and get sustainability by it. People can actually attract more audience to their sites, if they are able to create contents that have value and meet the needs of people. When traffic to a particular site grows, then there is assurance of making good money for business growth and sustainability. For example, Google has a publishing partner programme where publishing houses can actually sign up, if they have digital assets that drive traffic. When this is done, they can actually monitor traffic on their sites through AddSense. So there are different ways of monitoring digital contents but it starts with having something of value that will attract audience and increase traffic.

In all of these, what are the benefits of having online presence among publishing houses in Nigeria?

Today we live in a digital world, where online presence is the key for business growth and survivability. More Nigerians are going online, so publishing houses must also go online to provide the much needed digital content and at the same time, attract traffic to their sites, and make more money. So there are lots of benefits going online. In fact, the implication of not going online means loss of revenue and relevance in today’s digital age, and what that means is that any publishing house that refuses to go online, risk the chance of going out of business fast. Again those that are online must be innovative in order to sustain their online presence.
Nigerians and the world over are going online and media houses must find their readers online and provide them with the right digital content. The issue for discussion today is not about going online, but about sustaining the online presence and this comes with innovation that will build traffic.

Do you see the traditional print media as integral part of online business or a business that will phaseout in no distant time?

There is room for convergence in today’s digital era, and I strongly think the traditional print media can upscale their business to get online presence as well. For me, I think the traditional print media and the digital online media are complementary and both can still survive in today’s digital age. In today’s technology advancement, there is a place for traditional print media and there is a place for the digital media and they can actually complement each other. For example people can flip through a traditional newspaper and go online to get more details. Again people can find useful information on a billboard and them go online to get more information. So the traditional print media and the digital media, will continue to complement each other, and both the online and the offline business will continue to thrive in today’s digital era.
The traditional print media, which is a critical channel for news dissemination to a mass of people, will continue to remain relevant in toady’s digital age, in the face of online publishing, contrary to the views of many, who are of the opinion that the print media would soon be outlived by the presence of online publishing.
I want to agree totally with the publisher of THISDAY Newspapers, Mr. Nduka Obaigbena, who said: “when radio was introduced as a channel for news dissemination, a lot of people concluded it would bring an end to print media. When television was introduced for news broadcasting to a large audience, people also thought it would bring about the death of newspaper publication, but today, newspapers are still waxing strong and complementing the radio and television. In today’s digital age, where online publication via the internet is fast penetrating into the entire ecosystem of news gathering and dissemination, the newspaper, which is the print media, will not collapse, but will complement online publishing, just like it had always been since the advent of radio and television.” I will want to also add my voice to say that this is a true statement, because they complement each other.

What is Google doing to drive digital media in Nigeria?

Google has been doing a lot in this direction for some years back. Since our presence in Nigeria in the past six years, we have been building the online ecosystem in Nigeria. We have invested in getting SMEs come online and we have invested in getting tertiary institutions online and today, we have connected over 15 Nigerian Universities to the internet. We have also provided educational software for over 50 tertiary institutions in Nigeria and we have invested in training of technology entrepreneurs and technology startups. We have deployed local solutions for business growth and above all, Google has helped in giving Nigeria stronger online presence by putting Nigeria’s map online and we update the information regularly. We are also working with government to put government services online.