Towards the first decade of the millennium, Nigerians could access the internet in dingy cyber cafes (there was nothing cafe about them) for N100 per hour.
Access to the cyber space would welcome the blogging era in Nigeria. Blogs such as Linda Ikeji and Bella Naija will start off as small and personal blogs hosted on blogspot and would later morph into multi million Naira companies in less than a decade.
During this period, thousands of young Nigerians would open up blogs to express their ideas, minds and thoughts from politics, sex, fashion, relationship and love to pop culture.
Right now we are witnessing a renaissance of sorts as young Nigerians are freely expressing themselves on the Internet. Unlike a decade ago, they are expressing themselves by recording their perspective about life and encoding it in mp3 or mp4 files, instead of typing on a keyboard.
Welcome to the podcast era. The word ‘podcast’ is synonymous with Apple, as the tech company integrated the feature and name into their iTunes service way before it became mainstream.
However, the name podcast predates Apple’s early bet on the medium with traces to the name existing as far back as 2004.
Even though it has been around for a while, podcasts became really mainstream and influential to global pop culture circa 2015. Now, everybody and their mother has a podcast - Nigerians haven’t been caught lacking either.
While we might have had certain bubbling under podcasts before, the major Nigerian podcast that garnered a cult following across the continent and beyond is Loose Talk Podcast hosted by journalists, Osagie Alonge, Ayomide Tayo and Steve Dede.
Their first episode was posted in February 2016, and since then, they have produced over 150 episodes of the podcast that has not only changed the pop culture scape, but has inspired a whole raft of individuals to equally create something and add their voice to contemporary conversations.
Since then, Nigeria now boasts of other podcasts like Submarine and a Roach circa 2017, I Said What I Said which started in 2017, The RantCasts, which started in 2017, Nigerian-American by Nigerian Hip-Hop legend eLDee the Don which started in 2017, The Powder Room which started in 20017, and a few others that have gained any semblance of a following.
Most recently Stephanie Coker and Dr Sid have launched new podcasts.
A few of those ideas have worked, but on the stead Loose Talk Podcast stands on, it’s near peerless for influence and impact.
What gave birth to the rise of podcasts
The limiting nature of Nigerian radio and the need to expand discussions and incorporate alternative and sub-culture views from millennials contributed to the rise of podcasts.
Also, the Nigerian media hasn’t been the best curator of Nigerian pop culture. Young Nigerians had to find a safe space to talk about things without the hindrances of PR and censor rules.
Feyi Akin-Bankole, co-host of F&S Uncensored (Which started in November, 2018) alongside Simi Badiru tells Pulse that, “I felt like I had a lot to say about the music and pop culture in Nigeria and a podcast seemed to be the most ideal platform.”
Ayomide Tayo, co-host of Loose Talk Podcast says, “We started the podcast because we used to have mad bants in the office about the latest happenings in Nigeria and our colleagues loved it.
“More importantly, we realized that there was no one was curating or documenting Nigerian pop culture for our generation. In the next 5-10 years, this era would be gone. It would have been a tragedy that this era was not properly documented.”
In a lot of ways, episodes like “El Jefe Gustavo” - where a drug dealer was interviewed - and “The Millennial Guide To Living Your Best Life while living in Your Parent’s” Home from I Said What I Said, starting conversations on the parental attitude to their grown children, mental issues and the other side of marijuana as an ongoing conversation.
Every other day, the unique podcast The Rantcasts episodes passionately discuss LGBT issues, giving those who can relate a sense of belonging. But the podcast watershed moment in Nigeria was “The Greatest Podcast You Ever Did In Your Life” featuring M.I. Abaga and Loose Kaynon that came off an article written by Ayomide Tayo.
Nigerian pop culture stood still for three days straight.
Who are the listeners?
Simi Badiru, co-host of F&S Uncensored alongside Feyi Akin-Bankole states that, “As far as interaction goes, most of our listeners are late teens - 27 (so quite a young audience).”
On the other hand, I Said What I Said Podcast, hosted by Jola Ayeye and Feyikemi Abudu is one of Nigeria’s biggest podcasts. From the available stats on its Soundcloud page, it has an average of about 3,000 listeners per episode from 19 episodes so far.
Ayeye says, “Our average listener is a young African (real young not political young, so 18-34) up for a laugh. They’re likely struggling with the perils of being a millennial in a country with leaders more invested in maintaining the status quo than looking ahead. They’re also butting heads against family expectations and societal pressure. So yeah…”
The Loose Talk Podcast episode featuring Nigerian Legend, Blackface has garnered about 30,000 views on YouTube.
The limits of Nigerian podcasts
A lot of the podcasters are from the elite sub-culture of Twitter conversations and their discussions are largely geared towards that space, and what stirs that space and it has worked well e.g Loose Talk and I Said What I Said.
For a podcast to truly thrive in Nigeria - just like Hip-Hop required Nigeria-friendly sounds and lingo to thrive - it needs to speak the language that appeals to most Nigerians - not necessarily how they want to hear those things discussed either.
While we might want podcasts to be endearing to Nigerians, the entire idea of podcasting in Nigeria is to represent a paradigm shift from the very backward nigh conservative style of radio in Nigeria.
We might not need a regurgitation of radio, but the subjects discussed must be alluring enough to appeal to 70% of the ecosystem that podcast is geared towards. Thus, the style of Nigerian podcasts must change.
Yes, discussions on music, entertainment, sexual liberalism, gender equality and LGBTQ or even ‘adulting’ resonates with most Nigerians, the way most Nigerian podcasts discuss them is simply not geared towards the 25-year-old Kasali in Akure, Ondo State who is also a University Graduate and spends his social media time of Facebook.
Talking IJGB lingo to him, about your journey from Wimbledon to Liverpool simply won’t cut it for him.
Nigerian Lawyer an avid listener of Nigerian podcasts Kwame-Okpu Aghogho agrees, “In Nigeria especially the focus is on pop culture and there’s obviously an over saturation. We need pods on Sex Education, Parenting, Leadership, Life Hacks and Mental Models, Entrepreneurship, Globalization, maybe even a serialized podcast of a play.”
Ayomide Tayo agrees, “I’m listening to a podcast currently, it’s a breakdown of the Monica Lewinsky case, but in Nigeria, we all make podcasts about pop culture or middle-class millennial stories. Why can’t someone make a podcast about Madam Koi Koi or infamous Nigerian criminals?”
Facts be facts - there’s a problem. But just as it was about to close up, Tayo further stated that, “In the same vein, the major market of people aware about podcasts might just be streamlined to that Twitter sub-culture at this time. We won’t, however, know the true potential of Nigerian podcasts till someone makes a L’abe orun or N’kan be version - podcast version.”
Akin-Bankole thinks, “People should (with podcasts) cover politics, mentoring (e.g. a podcast that encourages and motivates young people), life as an adult (we aren’t taught what the world is like after education) and other social and environmental issues (e.g. feminism and global warming).”
That said, while nobody should ever hold anybody’s voice back, we won’t all be on-air personalities and it’s crazy how practically every millennial Nigerian has a podcast dream at this point. It’s so bad that a lot of them try to recreate the successful podcasts in small doses and to less than structured outcomes.
Like that isn't crazy, Nigerian celebrities are also moving into the podcast space, feeding us content.
Others simply take a more scatterbrained approach to things, rambling on microphones without scripted directions for the better part of 30 minutes. At the end of the day, they end up having little to no listeners, not necessarily because their podcast is bad – though some are, but because there is simply a very niche podcast listenership culture in Nigeria – and even across the world.
The idea is that the market is saturated with more product than an available market of willing followership. To go with that, some of the products aren’t review-worthy.
Nigerian podcasters struggle to monetize their podcasts. As co-host of Loose Talk Podcast, Ayomide Tayo puts it, “Podcasts in Nigeria are still a subculture, and not mainstream culture - which is still largely controlled by radio. Like it or not, asides the fact that advertisers do not fully understand podcasts yet, it’s a numbers game and obviously, radio still has the numbers.”
In truth though, we will get there. Not so long ago, advertising with social media influencers were anathema, until some brands decided to take advantage of social media and reaped handsome rewards from vertical engagements that social media influencers helped them garner. So, it might take time, but some podcasts will end up securing the bag.
Aghogho says, “Difficult to quantify, the possibilities are endless really, there’s as much room for improvement and good podcasts as there is for regression and terrible podcasts.”
Just like a lot of Nigerians don’t trust e-commerce and products they sell; there are not enough jobs to go round in Nigeria, thus most job sites will fail. In the same vein, listening to podcasts requires time, solid internet service and large amounts of data.
Data might have proven that Nigeria is one of the most mobilized countries in the world with the average phone owner burning at least 25 MB worth of data per day, as stated by Jason Njoku of IrokoTV in 2016, there’s still a preference on what Nigerians want to burn data on.
They would rather burn on Facebook videos or even YouTube skits than blow data on podcasts when they could listen to radio. Asides that, Nigerian internet services in places asides Lagos and Abuja is about as reliable as sensational Tweets from Chief Femi Fani-Kayode.
Eventually podcasts will be successful in Nigeria, but that looks a long time off. Thus, it will require some people – not just the few mainstream successes – to actually keep the fire burning. Inevitably too, a lot of these people will get tired and quit, but some will keep at it just like blogging a few years ago.
On the other part, most people are only encouraged to keep doing things when there’s a decent response and a burgeoning following. That said, a lot of people are purely driven by passion and will naturally evolve at these creative endeavours till they master the art and science of them.
So, have podcasts lost their value?
The short answer is optimistically, no! We are only going through a pre-developmental phase and like anything in that phase, there is a rush that will soon die out. In equal vein, some kings will be made in that phase and in the phases to follow.
While speaking to Pulse on the future of Nigerian podcasting, host of U&I podcast, Mifa Adejumo says, “It’s future is bright for podcast in Nigeria but unless the socio-economic climate changes soon enough, it might become darkened from a potential over-crowdedness of podcaster.
“Like I had also mentioned in one of the previous questions, podcasting now seems like a fashionable job title. If things in the country continue to go awry, it would likely move from fashionable to just "the next best thing" for anyone who is unemployed and has too much time on their hands.”
As Ayomide Tayo puts it, “I will be lying if I said I knew. It's pretty much new in Nigeria and it is one day at a time. Maybe that is what makes it exciting, the possibility that it can be here today and gone tomorrow.”
Nigerian pop culture writer Chiagoziem Onyekwena says, “This is a tough one. The audience is there, the audience is waiting. But they’ve grown accustomed to listening to foreign podcasts, so they’re sophisticated and know what to expect.”
Ayeye of I Said What I Said disagrees that, “No, not necessarily. The space is still pretty new so other interests will come up. It’s just a matter of time. And the podcast space is completely democratized so no one needs permission to start one. Of course they will but it’s a matter it time. And it’s not guaranteed - It’s patience, time and consistency.”
But then, what about the market that requires no sophistication? The market that just wants good content to consumer?
No one knows, but the initial results and the economic state of Nigeria is instructive.
That said, podcasts have not lost their value in Nigeria or anywhere else, for that matter. The only way podcasting grows to a level big enough to challenge radio is by producing sufficient enough derivatives to build that niche.
Onyekwena, however, has a unique perspective, “In order for Nigerian podcasts to match the quality and consistency that this type of audience is used to, that podcast will need resources. Unfortunately, at this stage of the game, it's only podcasts backed by media houses that have those resources. These are the kinds of podcasts, that, in my opinion, have a long-term future.”
On the one part, we can say the podcast space in Nigeria is saturated, but that’s because it is new and people need to talk. But on the other hand - as note earlier, this is needed for the evolution of podcasting in Nigeria.
Nobody knows what the future of podcasting in Nigeria holds, but for the most part, one can be optimistic as those who fall off will be doing that at will.