This week we hear from David Adeleke, Founder of CMQ Media and creator of the Communiqué newsletter analysing the intersection of the media, content ecosystem, and the digital economy in Africa. He outlines the complexities of using African media as a catch-all term, how podcasts are growing across the continent, and why an acquisition last year by Stripe has provided a lightbulb moment for technology investors.

In the news roundup, the team discuss yet more revelations about Facebook (now Meta), a stock market comeback for a number of publishers, and more publisher NFTs going for crazy amounts of money.

The full transcript will be live here shortly, but for now, here are some highlights:

His vision for the Communiqué newsletter

My ambition for Communiqué generally is to build it into a standalone publication that analyses different sectors of the creative economy… In its current form, it’s a newsletter. But it’s not always going to be just a newsletter. Eventually it will morph into other things.

[My vision] is to raise the level of conversations that we have within and around the media. At that time I was focusing on Nigeria, but over time I started to see the possibility of media analysis for Africa.

I say that knowing fully well the irony that you’re just one person living in one country in an entire continent, and then you want to write about the entire continent. And I get that. But I also understand that a lot of the challenges that we face, especially in media and the digital ecosystem in general, they’re very similar, they’re similar problems.

And so the more I wrote about the media in Nigeria, the more I talked to people outside Nigeria, the more I realised, okay, this is something that should actually expand across the continent. So that’s what I’ve been trying to do.

On using African media as a catch-all term

It bothers me, and it doesn’t bother me. It bothers me when people see it in such a way as to distil the understanding of an entire continent into a single story. That’s when I have a problem with it. But when I understand people say African media, and I say African media because I understand that there is diversity within the content.

But I also believe that for the content itself to be able to gain a foothold in a lot of these global conversations, we first have to approach the conversation as one body, so as Africa.

Africa is made up of many countries, but it’s still one continent. We have many similarities – a lot of differences, but a lot of similarities as well – so if we approach the conversation from the standpoint of our similarities to say, this is how we are coming to the table. Recognise that we are coming as one entity with many faces.

David explains the podcast scene

I can see from the backend that there is a lot of hunger for analysis and insight for podcasts. So it’s not necessarily that maybe podcasts are not gaining… podcasts can scale in Africa, they can. But it matters what the podcast is about, it matters how the podcast is presented.

There are a lot of options when we talk about podcasts on the continent. But in comparison, because this is the loudest voice in the conversation, it’s difficult not to compare to that voice in comparison to the West. It’s not yet at the level where it can be, mostly because the way we use mobile phones and the way we consume content in this part of the world is a little different from the way say people in America or Canada primarily consume their content.

For example, we think about audio; radio is still very big here. Traditional media is still very big – traditional media spend is still bigger in Nigeria at least than digital media ad spend. So that just puts things into perspective.

We are at the beginning. But there’s still a long way to go.

Different relationships with social media

In Zimbabwe, WhatsApp is the primary way through which people access the internet. In some countries, Google is the first point of contact between the user and the world of the internet. In some countries, it’s Facebook. In Zimbabwe, it’s WhatsApp.

I’m not seeing a lot of the indignation against Facebook in the West replicated here, because this market is largely utilitarian, it’s heavily utilitarian. It’s much more about what this platform can do for me than it is about anything else.

And so far, people find Facebook useful. It’s useful for connecting with friends, useful for selling merchandise, useful for making money, for building their businesses, for building an audience. So it’s useful.

[The indignation] is a privilege thing, I assure you!

Finding unicorns in Africa

The technology ecosystem is really big. This year alone, the ecosystem has raised a lot of money, billions of dollars in venture funding. This was not the case, maybe five, six years ago. But in 2020, Paystack – a FinTech company here – got acquired by Stripe for $200 million. So when that acquisition happened, people started to see just what was possible… it was like the lightbulb moment for a lot of global companies to see, maybe there is something here that we should explore.

So now a lot more capital is flowing into the ecosystem. And that is impacting the quality of ideas, impacting the quality of execution, impacting the quality of talent. You find Nigerian developers, for example, becoming so good that they get snapped up by Facebook, snapped up by Google.

It comes with its drawbacks. But it’s net positive, because a lot of these companies are financed in the early stages by angel investors. And those angel investors are founders or executives who’ve worked in these global companies before.

Main story:

Facebook rebrands to Meta, which is not at all a move to distract from everything else that’s come out over the past month.

Monday saw the joint publication of more Facebook Papers, and we need lists to keep up.

Live list from Axios: The “Facebook Papers” arrive, shedding light on what the company knew about harms caused on its platform and how it handled that information. 40 publishing companies have joined in so far to get the contents out. Three conclusions:

  • Policing information abroadCasey Newton’s written on this in the Verge, talking about a tier list around which countries get protection. Censorship of dissidents in some countries (Vietnam), but no protection in others (Myanmar).
  • Aging user base – Not attracting under 30s, younger people posting less (actually everyone is posting less) – one chart from Axios suggested just 2% of teens like Facebook.
  • Struggling to police content that leads to radicalization and mental health issues – No clear plan content delegitimizing US election results – we know how that ended. They did discuss hiding “Like” button, but went with preserving user engagement.

From Nieman Lab: In the ocean’s worth of new Facebook revelations out today, here are some of the most important drops

Yes but…

  • Casey Newton also published an interview with a FB employee this week, saying that a lot of the leaks are based on chat in their Workplace platform, and that the posts have been taken out of their ‘proper organizational context’.
  • “These are being described as Facebook Papers and Facebook Files and Leaked Documents, but really the right way to understand them (for the most part) is they are posts and comment threads. And I think that the hyper-collaborative culture driven by Workplace is probably alien to a lot of people, who don’t understand the Poster’s culture that thrives at Facebook…Anyone can post anything about anything at any time, and their post might be bad or good or badly thought out, and the person may have little or nothing to do with what they’re posting about, but their opinions are being published as though they’re the decision makers.”

News in brief:

  • 18 months after the pandemic hit, News Corp, the New York Times, Gannett, DMGT, Reach and Future have staged a full comeback on the stock market, and are now worth more than they were at the end of 2019, according to Press Gazette analysis. After a collective bounce down 26%, they now all claim a combined value of $34.6 billion, up 78% on two years ago.
  • Publishers are seeing increases in advertiser requests around climate and sustainability coverage, according to Digiday. The BBC is seeing up to two-thirds of advertiser briefs containing a sustainability element, while the FT has seen a tenfold increase in request in proposals year over year.
  • When it comes to gender equality, the news industry continues to be unrepresentative – an update from Poynter around the Gender Gap Tracker shows that around 30% of quotes in US newspapers are from women.
  • This week, The Economist created an NFT of their crypto-themed Alice in Wonderland September cover. They auctioned it for charity, and the winning bid was 99.9 ether; equivalent to just over £300k.

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