As more African media publications set up data arms
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Welcome to TC Daily! In today’s digest, there’s some talk about the docudrama, The Social Dilemma (No spoilers!), an interesting new trend in African media and a mention of African ecommerce giant, Jumia.
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Two weeks ago, the Netflix docudrama, The Social Dilemma made its debut.
With catchy quotes like, “there are only two industries that call their customers ‘users’: illegal drugs and software,”
it wasn’t a surprise it became popular. It trended in Nigeria and on Twitter, it was what everyone talked about for days.
At the center of The Social Dilemma is the idea that big Tech companies like Facebook- which gets most of the flak- and Google are using algorithms to build products that are addictive.
It presents these companies as master manipulators against whom you don’t stand much of a chance.
But in the end, the docudrama recommends options for internet users: cut down screen time, turn off your notifications and delete your social media accounts.
I stewed on the docudrama for a bit, and in that time, Alex wrote this article on an interesting flaw he found. Thankfully, I find that I have been able to gather some of my thoughts about The Social
Interestingly, I only got thinking about it after a long conversation with a friend. We talked about how, like many other millennials, we had formed many of our convictions outside of social media. But did we?
What our gloating failed to realise is that the world has always been filled with misinformation and fake news. Even before the internet, charismatic people had used the media to build a following or push dangerous ideologies. What the internet has done is to make this process faster and importantly, to
ensure that every ideology can find and create community online.
But is this a problem turning off your notifications? Can it be solved by deleting my social media accounts?
I guess what I’m trying to say is, while The Social Dilemma raises interesting and complex questions, one gets the sense that the show’s creators ended up providing simplistic answers.
As Judith Donath, the founder of the Sociable Media Group at the MIT Media Lab says, “hundreds of millions of people are exposed to inflammatory stories online. The vast majority of them are not stoning their neighbors to death”
Abubakar and I often talk about what the future holds for Africa’s media businesses. We wrote about it here and in another article, I talked about how a few Nigerian media outlets are now putting up paywalls.
There’s also another trend that’s happening in the African media space- there’s a new focus on providing data.
This year, Nairametrics launched Nairalytics, WeeTracker has launched The Base and Stears started its premium subscription this year, with a focus on data and analysis. These publications are trying to solve an important problem.
One Financial Times headline reads; “African countries are missing the data needed to drive development.”
So I spoke to Lanre, who runs TechCabal’s data arm, TC Insights, for his thoughts on this new trend. He told me, “I think broadly it’s the fact that there’s a huge data gap. But monetizing the opportunity is tricky business.”
Lanre also points out an obvious problem; quality research takes time and resources.
For news publications developing data arms, the goal is that it will complement their core journalism business. One strategy some publications use is to make the data arm an add-on that is free and accessible. This does two things.
First, it will benefit from the expertise already present in the
newsroom without having to worry about the cost of setting up a new data division.
It is also an experiment of sorts which will answer basic questions around audience and the monetisation (B2C or B2B) of data for the publication.
But in the long run, the goal is for their data arm to become independent and to produce reports which will no longer be free.
Whatever the thinking of these publications, one thing is clear; the rigor of developing a data arm will improve the quality and focus of the newsroom. It will also accelerate the possibilities that a publication would set up a paywall over content that is
Yet there’s no guarantee that any of these will work. Strategies and tactics fail all the time.
However, publications like Stears and older ones like Bloomberg suggest that success is possible. It might take longer and be more expensive; but it may not be impossible for a continent in dire need of quality data.
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In the last few years, Jumia has received very little love from the media. In July, when the company’s share price rose to $13.36 to push it back to unicorn status, the media remained skeptical.
They might have retained unicorn status briefly, but what people really
wanted to see was the company’s performance in Q2 2020. The general thinking was that the COVID-19 pandemic was driving ecommerce and investors expected Jumia to cash in on this.
Instead, Jumia’s revenue dropped to €34.9 million, a 10% decline over the previous year. The market reacted negatively, wiping nearly $800 million from Jumia’s market cap within three weeks.
It’s a tough place to be so Abubakar asks in this article; is Jumia still failing to surprise investors?
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