A Case Study on Nairaland, Nigeria’s Information Ecosystem

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BUSINESS Outsider

“Complexity is one of the great evils, good men seek to slay it whenever they can”- Seun Osewa, Founder, Nairaland

Tunji Adegbite

Since it was founded in 2005, Nairaland, arguably Africa’s Number 1 online forum has grown to over 2.5million members and 26 million unique visitors. This community created by Seun Osewa and targeted at Nigerians looking to read and chat about contemporary issues in Nigeria has enjoyed consistency more than relevance, even as it has barely changed its mode of engagement. In November 2020, Alexa.com ranked Nairaland as 806th most visited website globally, and 6th in Nigeria ahead of Twitter, Instagram, and WhatsApp. Nairaland has an average visit duration of 9mins 46secs, 60% of its reach is from Direct traffic while 34% is from Search engines.

Besides the statistics, the standout impact of Nairaland is its influence in nurturing Nigeria’s online information ecosystem and its continued relevance is driven by the ever-growing need to share and receive information, increasing internet penetration, and sadly, the unemployment rate in the country.

A Voice of the People for the People

In 2005, Seun converted one of the three online discussion forums he founded, Mobile Nigeria, into Nairaland. He noticed it was the only Nigerian forum that gave a voice to Nigerians at home as others were focused on Nigerians in the diaspora. This prompted him to pivot it to a general-purpose discussion forum with a strong bias towards issues of interest to Nigerians in Nigeria.

Nairaland’s primary audience is the average Nigerian middle-class adult, aged 30-45years. This demography is more familiar with it because it was created around the time they were adopting the internet – just as Gen Zs prefer Snapchat and Tik-Tok. Its structure allows users to follow sections they are interested in making it easier to find topics that interest them. Users can teach, learn, and engage in conversations revolving around contemporary issues without a limit on the number of characters in a post, as seen with Twitter. This allows many helpful conversations to thrive on the platform, giving it the title of Nigeria’s top information plug. A goldmine on information, Nairaland’s continued prominence is inextricably linked to Nigeria’s culture where unsolicited advice thrives; people flock there to get and give advice on a myriad of topics, and interestingly, to confirm certain information’s authenticity.

Nairaland is arguably the most optimised Nigerian website, accessible to any mobile phone’s browser irrespective of how poor internet connectivity is, even as basic as EDGE or GPRS. The simplicity of the site’s interface makes the website lightweight, ensuring load time is as fast as possible for its millions of users despite varying internet connection speeds. However, some see the bland User Interface and Experience (UI/UX) as a weakness, desiring a change because new users and younger Nigerians may find it challenging to engage with and trust the information from the platform.

Its Naira and Nairalanders

Nairaland has the potential to become bigger than it currently is. However, over the years, the founder has maintained the platform with little changes that could generate higher revenues. Seun prefers to keep it as an information plug such that the forum hosts virtually all kind of topics from different sectors with a remarkably interesting Search Engine Optimisation (SEO).

A repository of information, it is a company Social network giants and Search engines would want to acquire because of the information and reviews its users share, and the exceptionally high customer retention rates. There are rumours that the founder had refused offers from Google and Nairabet’s Akin Alabi in the past.

Although it is mostly compared to Quora in terms of the operating model, Nairaland is more like Reddit. “It is to Nigeria what Reddit is to the USA. However, while Reddit has been able to leverage its diverse audience for growth and currently valued at over $4billion, Nairaland is still struggling with the right revenue model and playing too small”- Research Analyst, Samed Olukoya.

Data from worthofweb.com estimates Nairaland’s value at $295million and Reddit’s at $4.56billion. It also estimates the daily revenue for both platforms at $55,408 and $1,381,318 respectively. Currently, Nairaland’s primary source of revenue is advertisements. It runs a Targeted Ad Platform where members can place adverts on sections where their target market can be most likely found.

As an information ecosystem, some members have become household names on the forum based on value-added. This helped them make money and become famous. One of such people is Suraj Oyewale a.k.a Jarus Hub. The need for career-related information led to Jarus Hub becoming a big business venture that sprung from Nairaland. Other individuals who made fortunes from Nairaland include Bimbo Akin-Emmanuel (Inspired Autos) and Akin Alabi, founder of Nairabet. This is a strength its competitors have found difficult to replicate.

What does the future hold?

There have been complaints about the need for the founder to improve Nairaland’s UI/UX urgently. Although an excellent platform for Nigerians to hear from and speak about the streets, Twitter now helps with that albeit not as in-depth. The force that is Nairaland is not the content or the UX; it is the audience. If they are not given a reason to stay, and a new demography of users are not acquired, its growth may be hampered. Nairaland needs to adapt to the changing times.

In conclusion, Nairaland’s web statistics makes it an excellent platform for Corporates and Government to partner. It could serve as a hub with regards to sharing information or discussing policies or research. Nairaland has had a huge impact on employment in Nigeria; it has also been particularly useful in building awareness for many micro-businesses. The applications of the trove of information Nairaland possesses is invaluable. While the opportunities are huge, it is up to the founder to decide to look at the bigger picture, make improvements or still stick with the mantra – if it is not broken, don’t fix it.

About the Author

Tunji Adegbite (MBA, FCCA, MCIPS) is a thought leader in Strategy and Supply Chain and has worked with leading organisations like PwC and an IOC. He is also the founder of Naspire, a research and business strategy platform using contextual knowledge to help entrepreneurs and professionals in Africa succeed. He can be reached via tunji@naspire.com. Views expressed in this article are personal and do not represent the views of any institution he is affiliated with.