Million Dollar Question – If Nairaland Is Nigeria’s Tumblr, Why Hasn’t It Been Acquired Yet?

The internet has seen some big acquistions. YouTube. Instagram. Tumblr is hot shit right now because Yahoo! just dropped 1.1 Billion cool ones for it.

What do all these platforms have in common. They are crazy UGC (user generated content) machines — websites that people habitually submit content to. In Yahoo!’s official release, Tumblr was said to have see 900 posts per second, and 24 billion minutes spent onsite each month. By the time you’re done reading this post, there’ll be more than 162,000 new posts on Tumblr. Evidently, if you can crack UGC, you’re likely to get a payday eventually.

While nowhere close to those amazing numbers, the only UGC platform that seems to be doing anything similar in Nigeria…Africa even…is Seun Osewa’s Nairaland. Last we heard, the site was doing 12 million pageviews a month, and if Alexa is your thing, we know that Nairaland is the most visited African website.

So why hasn’t anyone tried to acquire Nairaland yet? From what I’ve heard, it isn’t for lack of trying. And not with meagre sums either. A million dollars from MIH to get their mits on Nairalist data. Google overtures, spurned. There’s lots of speculation, lore and legend around failed Nairaland/Nairalist sale talks, and the reason why Seun doesn’t sell.

If you know any stories, pray tell.

It’s not like selling is the only logical destination for Nairaland, so that’s not the issue. It’s just that there doesn’t seem to be a long term agenda for the platform. None that is obvious at least.

The other day someone was lamenting to me about how Seun is basically being a weist where Nairaland is concerned, and not even scratching the surface of its potential — which to him means selling the platform, or the data at least. He was so angry, I thought I was Seun for a minute. The irony wasn’t lost on me. Users elsewhere will thank you for giving them a free service, not mining their data and most importantly, not selling out. But here was someone who was actually angry that his data was being “locked up” on Nairaland, and not being exploited like it rightfully should. Wonders.

Everyone knows that Nairaland could be more than it is right now. People just can’t say how. They just say stuff like “it could look better”, “there could be an API”, “he could spin a hundred different services off it”…

Yada, yada. Seun doesn’t care. Not about selling, and certainly not about extending the site in any way. Did you say API? That’s taboo where Nairaland is concerned. Pystar tried to make an unofficial one and got banned for his trouble.

So what does Seun plan to do with Nairaland eventually…asides from herding disgruntled webmasters and pawning advertising pixels, that is?

Maybe someday, he’ll share. Maybe today, if he reads this.

Update: In response to a message I sent to him via Twitter, Seun sent this terse response –

Tumblr had to be sold because they were about to run out of money. They had high costs and no revenue. Our situation is quite different.

Cryptic. While it roughly translates to not having to sell, it doesn’t say anything about not wanting to.

33 Comments

  • kelvin bawa says:

    cuz the Ui sucks

  • Seun reminds me of Craig Newmark of Craigslist.com. Not everything is about money. The issue might just be that Seun does not want to sell. I remember my Dealfish days when he was approached for Nairalist. He just shut it down rather than sell it. I think Seun just loves what he is doing with Nairaland and who can begrudge him. It is his baby. Will you want to sell your baby? Seun is good, I must confess and he is still an enigma to me.

  • El_Komo says:

    Seun doesn’t share – don’t you know that? That’s his philosophy.

  • Who is Seun Osewa’s greatest hero? Warren Buffet. Does Buffet really play the short game?

  • I have abandoned Nairaland twice. Once out of boredom. The second time for lack of interest in a car I tried to sell on it. But yet every few years I find myself rediscovering it and marvelling and how the place just keeps booming – grungy, plain, boring UI and all.

    I really respect Seun Osewa for what he has achieved and while I am sure he could do a lot better with it, I agree with Victor Asemota above… I don’t think he’s playing the short game. It yet remains to be seen whether he will be hailed as a genius or a stubborn man who missed out on a once in a lifetime opportunity.

  • Ada says:

    Me i do not know Seun’s plan for Nairaland, i have even been patient to see where he was heading to.

    Forgive me but I might be wrong, maybe Seun is either anti-collaboration or doesn’t just want to move out of his comfort zone with Nairaland (which could have been from previous unpleasant experience) .

    Imagine what like-minded developer or business development people can do with Nairaland, if not sell and use the money to build another platform 😀

    He’s maybe not a ‘Jump first and look later person’. Honestly, I’d like to see Nairaland more than where it presently is.

  • Ella Miste says:

    Me río en un lenguaje oscuro. Who in his right mind sells a “land full of Naira”? Or gives you an “API” to the Naira? Hehehe 🙂 https://twitter.com/markessien/status/336778317837524992

  • Onyeka A. says:

    Nairaland baffles me for a ton of reasons (especially the appeal, considering the inanity of a lot of the content). But mostly I think Seun is resistant to criticism and change, two things that would happen a lot if someone else was at the helm. And also there’s that air of ‘lack of ambition’ that the site (or Seun) suffers from. Even the ads could be better done and placed. For something with so many hits and so many users, little is done to improve the user experience beyond making it look like a mobile site (regardless of the platform you’re on). It lacks a ton of functionality, the layout is unimpressive, and other issues. I tried to communicate something about this to Seun a long time ago and was replied with rudeness and condescension.

    I don’t think however, that he needs to sell. I’m not sure why that’s what many startups aim for so much these days. But if he doesn’t have any plans to make the site greater or better, perhaps it would be good to give the site to someone who would do so.

    • seunosewa says:

      Dear Onyeka: you must have misinterpreted my lack of a way with words as rudeness and condescension. I’m sorry for unintentionally making you feel as if you were being replied with rudeness and condescension.

      Yes, it is true that Nairaland is not perfect. You are right about that. You are also right about the existence of a perception of lack of ambition, though it’s hard to imagine how a site without ambition could be so successful.

      • I think this topic resonates because;

        1. people really care about Nairaland.

        2. People really want a homegrown tech success story that is er…globally exportable. And they want Nairaland to be it.

        Selling for a million dollars might be enough for some. For others it might be kicking ass in the coolness department while pursuing a longer game. Either way, I think you hit it on the head about the perception of ambition. You aren’t obliged to anyone, no, but maybe you owe Nairalanders that much?

      • Onyeka A. says:

        Sigh, my comment disappeared.

        Well, regarding your first comment, good to know.

        Regarding your site, no-one’s discounting your success. It’s the success that makes people concerned enough to comment on where it’s going. Such is life. I think it’s working with two things.

        1. Early adoption.

        2. Large user base.

        One could compare it to say, Microsoft, really. The trouble with MS is that it got too comfortable, and is now dealing with companies like Google (who also, could have chosen to stay with just their search, but you know, expanded) and Apple. And losing. Sure, MS will always be the biggest in sales for the two reasons above, but go on any tech blog and see how people roll their eyes at them now. In places like the US, many people now use MS because they have to, but they’d RATHER be using something else. Perceptions matter.

        I’m of the belief that we should always be striving to improve ourselves, especially in the tech industry, where new methods and products are being churned out daily. Sites of 2 years ago look dated now, how much so sites that have looked and acted the same for 6 or 7. Perhaps I’m just projecting my own quirks on you; I’m always tweaking my own personal projects.

        I stand by my ambition angle because it doesn’t quite reflect on the site. No-one needs it to be perfect. Some of my most favourite sites have things that bug me. I LOVE The Verge, but it also drives me crazy that the comments mess up on my phone. However, I don’t give them so much grief because I know and see that they have a team that is constantly working on new features and improvements.

        You changed the software a while ago and if possible it became a more stripped down version of what it previously was. Off the top of my head, throwing in a fuller featured homepage, richer profiles, gamification, better quality ads (they already bypass my Adblock so kudos I guess), a layout that works better on multiple platforms, a layout that’s … current/interesting would take nothing from the original formula but I’m sure would better the experience.

        I haven’t posted anything there in years, but like Bankole suggests, we are saying these things because we do care about seeing local success that can stand among its peers elsewhere.

        Forget selling. I don’t think it’s necessary like I stated earlier. The word a while ago was that you worked alone, not sure if that’s the case now. But perhaps you could try getting an extra mind or two that can see the whole with fresh eyes and offer improvements?

        Or don’t, you know? *shrug*

        • Craig Ude says:

          @Onyeka I really like your comments here. I have tried so many times to contact the arrogant man called Seun, but he ignored all the emails sent to him. I have even mentioned to him to change NL to be current in today’s competitive market – he ignored me. I found out that i was not the only one crying about the change/features of NL when i arrived here. I bet you that when Seun started the site, the script used was free for him and definitely he can’t change it without paying programmers. He is probably lost and do not know what else to do with NL than to chase the ads for daily bread. He is feeling comfortable about NL, but remember what happened to myspace vs facebook. MS vs Google and many more. Check this newly created forum website out (http://nigeriamessageboard.com/forums/). You will see that the new website is different from other Nigeria forum websites more closely match users request, interests and the official colors of Nigeria, a social media features that is significantly enhanced for real time online interaction with others that care about your interests.

      • Tosin Otitoju says:

        Dude, do your thing. Roger Federer used to be said not to have passion, I mean just because he didn’t wear it on his sleeve. No passion and he kept training and traveling and playing? Meet up sometime? Meetup, actually.

      • Pixie says:

        Seun you do come across like someone who is rude and never wants advice, i do understand you meet tons of people daily in the cyber world and physically but i must say, Nairaland deserves better, you need to take it to the very top! I wouldn’t sell Nairaland to anybody, instead i will make it much better! I think setting up a team of programmers is the way to go, you are on the right direction but only running at snail speed.

  • These things are more complex than they look. Selling something you’ve been building for like 10 years is not a “just like that” thing. I’v heard people say there is a lot Seun can do with NL but (I stand to be corrected) the best I can see is to make the UI/UX better. Sell and build another platform? Nah, the NL success is not something he can easily replicate again. (Not saying not possible though). Remodel NL to something else? Nah, that is likely the death there (what still keeps lots of people there is because it is simply a ‘forum’. No more, no less). I think he should just make the site better. #dazall.

  • Chimdinma Onwuama says:

    I do not understand the fascination with Seun selling Nairaland. Sell to who? Is being acquired the only yardstick to show your company is successful? Seun does one thing, and he utterly dominates that thing. Which is: run the Nairaland forum.

    Folks say the Nairaland UI/UX is bad. I disagree, sure it’s not the most beautiful website in the world, but it works. The ads are unobtrusive. The site loads fast which is important especially for those who browse the net with Nigerian ISPs. If you feel the UI/UX can be improved, design a mockup, host it somewhere, and let us see it. Otherwise you are just giving the guy wahala!

    The only problem the site has is tribalists who spew hate & 419 spammers. That’s a reflection of some bad seeds in our society.

    Seun ride on!

  • Century Favour Ebere says:

    Nairaland with It’s success, have continually proved that “content is king” and that “the anonymous web is not dying any time Soon”. But truth be told more can be done, And should be done… she needs to innovate if not, she should be prepared to be disrupted..SOON. Because the dynamics that’s makes Nairaland Successful can easily be duplicated by Someone with a superior vision and strategy… Digg’s Fall is a nice case study. But no matter what, Seun don’t sell your baby.

  • change is important if it would improve on the existing model, the simplicity of NL has worked for its users for so long, why change it. Sell? why? it has worked for so long (you can argue it wouldn’t be around longer, lets see) and improved in bits (moderators, ditched SMF, Ads, dedicated ad section, list of designers to help with your Ad), how many ‘shinny new’ internet businesses have existed this long even with their great UI/UX, the fundamental is working well for NL, it’s a community for a lot of people and that sense of belonging would keep the place growing. IMO worse that could happen would be to make it a public company, let the users have a stake in its revenue, else let it remain a simple community with one captain

  • Muyiwa Iyowu says:

    Nairaland is a forum, plain and simple. Not much you can do yo change that. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.

  • Abiola Omoniyi says:

    Seun does not have a choice, Nairaland must innovate or die, it really is just a matter of time..

  • Dayo says:

    Great piece but I must confess that I had a terrible experience doing business with Nairaland. As we speak Nairaland owes my company N352,000 which was the balance on our dashboard before the site crashed. All effort to speak via email and social media has proved abortive.

    I know we don’t contribute a large percent to the revenue stream but getting premium value for every spend matters a lot. Just wondering and hoping that someday I meet Seun and tell him how bitter I am and how he made me lose a client that we have worked with for 5years.

    Integrity is key to the success of any business. customer support is the secret to a sustainable revenue model.

  • Oni victor says:

    Nairaland is Ok by me , I just have issues with the User Interface its too “90’s” for my liking !

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