Hello Tosan, can you give us a background as to how you got into the media industry?
“As a journalist I started my career in 1992. I left university as a graduate in accounting……When I left my university I had a passion for autos…So I ended up writing articles for different people. I was really creative about writing…So I came across people running a magazine and they said: ‘Oh Tosan, could you write a piece for us on any general interest topic?’ And then I wrote a piece on electronics at that time. And it was published in Crown Prince. That was the beginning of my journalistic career. That was in 1992. But in 1994, I was actually employed to write as the contributing editor and columnist for a weekly called ‘Fame Weekly’ in Lagos. At that time I was the first motoring columnist for ‘Fame’ and that was in June 1994. That was the beginning.”
What made you to leave Nigeria to establish in America?
I relocated in 2003 but before then, I was a motoring correspondent at Fame weekly in 1994 then I left to join a new weekly; ‘Encomium’ in 1996. I joined an international magazine called ‘Ovation’ in 1999. I was actually a motoring editor but ended up being one of the international feature writers. My publisher then, would send me on assignments internationally, you know, out of the country. That was a period of travelling and at that time, I was travelling to so many countries to do features and reports. But along the line the opportunity to travel to the USA came and I jumped on it. I however had other things going for me but here came an opportunity to gain some experience. That’s what it was mostly about. It was an opportunity to increase my knowledge, based on what I was doing. So that was what eventually happened. So I left as an ‘Ovation’ correspondent and when I got there I became the bureau chief of ‘Ovation International’. After a couple of years I had my own vision for different things and creative ideas…I conceptualized a photo blog and website in 2004 but I didn't want a clash of interest. So I left that on the side. Eventually when I now informed my publisher that I was leaving (2008), I commenced publishing ‘Trendy Africa Magazine’. We just published our 20th edition in January 2014. So we actually have a physical magazine as well as a web presence.”
You’ve been a journalist from the 1990’s. What do you think are the problems journalists face in Nigeria?
“Well at the moment, I would think, it is mostly logistic issues. But I must add, real quickly, the challenges journalists face, in terms of content, way back, have been nearly negated with the advent of the internet. Nowadays the information comes to you at the tip of your finger, via your smartphone or any other hand-held device that you have. Back then the issue was how quickly did news or content get to you as a journalist? How quickly could you move from a point to another point to actually experience the breaking news? Those were the issues then. But today you don’t really have to get up from your table, because media is not about being a journalist now. Everybody is news hungry and the world has so transformed that news is now so dynamic. Everything happens every day, every minute, and every second. So information flows on the web, which [leads] on to social media with Twitter, Facebook and all the others that are out there. So right now, in Nigeria, I would probably say that the issue is infrastructure, for instance we still have the power issue whereby we need to run our computers, we need to run, you know, our browsers. And when there is no power, or we don’t have other back-up amenities, then we lose that precious time to gather information and that seems to be a problem. Transportation issues too. But apart from that I guess the profession is really evolving and I’m really impressed with what is going on in Nigeria today. In terms of print, there still needs to be improvement in some quarters, but apart from that, Nigerians have really perfected the social media terrain. And the bloggers are doing very well – Nigerian bloggers are being featured on CNN because they have recorded an impressive number of views.”
Those Nigerian bloggers, are they really journalists? Do they know the media ethics? Do they know what to publish and what not to publish? Do you think social bloggers have an idea of what journalism is? Are these people just doing this for the internet’s sake?
“Well unfortunately or fortunately, I don’t think there is any guideline for people who becomes bloggers. It is the way the world has been designed, anyone can be a blogger. Google for instance has established a blog spot that allows any individual, who has a flare for writing, or who has a flare for entertainment to establish a site – free of charge! You know, so there is no ethics controlling that right now, unfortunately. The real professional journalists, you know, are not tapping into that resource. So you now find people who have taken advantage of this. For instance the chief bloggers in Nigeria, probably, may not have had corresponding experience with any media house, I don’t think most of them do have that. But at the end of the day they are doing very well. They’ve actually opened up an avenue for other people to tap into that industry and generate an income for themselves; residual income. And through that too, they’ve also been able to created employment for people. Some have writers, reporters and other staff who go out and source for content. Photographers too. They’ve actually created an industry, which is really good. I also have a pool of people – both here and in the US – who contribute to source for content. While they’re doing that, they also have means to get some residual for themselves. So at the end of the day it is a huge industry. The media world has really evolved to that point. In Nigeria, people tend to recycle a lot of things, but the consumers know the real people. Consumers can tell who they want to view.”
How do you see journalism in Nigeria in years to come?
“Oh, there is a lot going on. Even in the middle of all the issues that we face today, you know: terrorism, structure, governance, I can assure you that because there’s so much news content out there, there is simply so much attraction for investment in the industry. And with the investment in the media industry there will be immense growth which will attract other professionals to latch on to it and that also pushes for expanded growth. So I can see growth down the line. Ok let me even give you an example. I observe lots of media houses promoting their web content. Guess what, the captains of the industry in the web world; the Microsoft’s, the Apple’s, the Google’s – all have a presence in Africa. They are all coming to Nigeria to actually look and see emerging opportunities because the market is so huge that they’ve had to come here to come and see for themselves what’s going on here. So that tells you something that there’s something in here that’s actually growing that has attracted the interest of the founders of the world’s largest, wealthiest companies. So that gives us hope. That’s what I see there.”
Now we’re back to the physical magazine, which is the print magazine. Tell us about it…
“We’ve been publishing the physical magazine since 2008. We just published our 20th edition in January. If you go on our website there is a link called ‘Subscription’. If you click on ‘Subscription’ you will see all the covers of our magazine from inception.”
How easy was it to come with your own magazine after your previous beat?
“It was challenging…Issy, I’ve always said something, and you know…What I feel…Doing anything in this business, you must have passion. For you to keep your brand or your tabloid alive you must have that passion to drive it. So when I had my vision to start ‘Trendy’, I went in with a passion for it. So anybody who knows the publishing industry will tell you it is an expensive industry. I went in with a set quality mind; the quality that I had been used to for several years. So I went all out to go for the highest quality possible on a budget. To search for funds wasn’t easy so I had to dive into my savings and, of course, I worked it out, you know, and there is no guaranteed return when you start publishing an actual tabloid. So it wasn’t easy at all for a couple of years. As a matter of fact I can tell you right away, Issy, that we’ve not actually broken even. But, we are still driven by passion. We still believe that one day we will break even and surpass where we are. Our work code is: ‘Keep the quality, keep the content rich and keep the brand alive’. That’s what we’re doing.”
How do you get content from America like the Oscars, Barack Obama’s inauguration?
“It is hard work, I must tell you, hard work and experience. There are a lot of things that come into play and you know that every trade has its own secret. But to get to that, you must have knowledge and experience. I knew what it was to establish a solid media house. When I started, I didn’t start just to be printing and publishing and showing my face; I had a plan. You must know what you’re doing. You can’t be egocentric or you’ll not go too far. So we did all that and in doing that we put ourselves out there in the right quarters. So to get all the accreditations to cover the US presidential inauguration, I had already done the ground work well ahead of time. You have to establish your brand properly. I’ve always known how to create content. We are also blessed to have professional correspondents in Hollywood and other industries. That’s how we’ve kept our brand going.”
People that are thinking of opening a magazine – what do you think they should do?
“One thing, make sure you have a passion first of all; two, make sure you understand the industry of magazine publishing; three, make sure you have a long time plan. The web has actually undercut a lot of publications in terms of printing. Everything is going on the web…”
How do people make their money from online media?
“Well, they have advertising slots once you design your website. The most common one is Google. It depends on how many hits you have on your page. The more views you get, the better potentials for increased revenue”
Do you actually focus more on a particular community, or is it a general magazine for everybody?
“My magazine is a lifestyle magazine. We do celebrate professionals, we celebrate culture, we report on health, we report on motoring, we report on food, we report on fashion; we are a multi-content magazine. We have blue chip advertisers who have supported us throughout the years. The editorial board decides what goes into the magazine”
Where can people buy the magazine?
“You can subscribe for it and we mail it out”
What is next for you now?
“We are poised to be a one stop media house for international news content with a focus on African culture, public relations and communications. Our next drive is to create a presence in different parts of the world. We are going interactive…We have a TV channel……So we have a creative team working with us to gain a captive audience. We are also going multilingual – French, Spanish, Portuguese. We want to be a one stop shop.”
Where do you see 'Trending Africa' 10 years from now?
“Oh…in 10 years we will have branches that will have been built under our present umbrella that will increase our structure tremendously and create employment opportunities which will enable us impact the economy wherever we find ourselves. Our brand will be enriched and make us a voice to be reckoned with. That’s where we see ourselves in 10 years.”
By Issy Taiwo for ‘Our Africa’
ABOUT TRENDY AFRICA MAGAZINE
We are collectively building the brand through self determination, unwavering passion and the will to make a difference in lifestyle and entertainment media with a primary focus on Africa.
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ABOUT TRENDY AFRICA MAGAZINE
Trendy Africa is an award winning multimedia solutions concept that has evolved from years of experience and vision. Our focus is to report, document and present the positive values and attributes of Africa, Africans and the world at large.
Trendy Africa reports on but is not limited to aspects of life such as human development, finance, Health, Sports, Fashion, Tourism, Personality profiles, Social Events, Automobiles, Religion, cuisine and daily News.
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