Its the eyeballs, not the content, duh! :)
One of the things about working in technology like I do is that you learn change is the only constant. As a result, paradigm shifts in what was once tried and proven way of doing things is indeed the norm. Therefore, it came as a surprise this week when someone I know pretty well and whom I used to work with some years ago “swatted” a Facebook status update I made about content being in its “golden age” after the Huffington Post was acquired by AOL for a staggering US$ 315 Million. He started an “argument” with me of sorts where he asserted that its not about the content but rather its about the audience. I took offense to his harsh remarks on the whole issue and the conversation kept going till just yesterday. It finally dawned on me that we we’re both saying the same thing, but in different ways, and from different perspectives.
Let me use this blog as an example. Why do you come here? Why do you read what I am writing about? I am guessing (and hoping?) that you like what I have to write about, which is more often than not all about technology in Kenya, and sometimes the rest of Africa. Right? Yes? OK, assuming that this is indeed the reason, and lets say I wanted to monetize this blog for a living, would I be able to do so? I hope so, based on the assumption there would be enough to traffic to this blog (read: your eyeballs) to make it work. Now, take another perspective. The Huffington Post being bought for US$ 315 million by AOL. Its an eye popping amount of cash for what is essentially a souped up and diverse blog. Yes. A blog! With good content that’s updated regularly. But. That’s not really it. Is it? Really?
So, here comes the punch line. AOL did not buy a blog. No. They bought the eyeballs that gaze lovingly at the Huffington Post. Those millions and millions of eyeballs that in January 2011 amounted to 28 million – that’s more than half the population of Kenya – that’s loads and loads of people. For AOL, those 28 million eyeballs amount to a massive opportunity to sell more advertising and to also “own” them for the offerings they may want to sell them, long term. So. Really. Its not the content. Really. Its the eyeballs. Duh!
As everyone races for the content honeypot in Kenya and the rest of Africa, what they should really be thinking is do they have the ability to scale the way that the Huffington Post did to make a significant dent on the status quo? In this case, the Huffington Post grew organically (more or less with the occasional funding) to where it is today and they made US$ 30 million last year. They have an exceptionally good editorial approach that has endeared the eyeballs to them. When old school media is falling away they are only getting bigger and bigger (African media can you see whats coming? Change!). Good content always counts but its the eyeballs that matter most – that’s the value – that’s what AOL bought – Its a sweet deal for 28 million eyeballs!
Note: Thanks for stretching my thinking Ath – I needed that “content” reality check! 🙂