Well, until you open one bottle and take a sip. At N30 daily and N150 weekly, subscribing to a mobile channel on the MTN/Starnews platform may not look like a big investment. As this essay argues however, that thinking misses the point. With the typical mobile user almost drowning in a deluge of free content, you will have to go the extra mile to get him to pay for a second bottle.
Okay, so have you subscribed to the Starnews mobile content since you saw the advertisement on Facebook or elsewhere? Don’t tell me you were not mesmerized by Kaffy’s superb pose (above) and her promise to teach you some scintillating dance steps while helping you maintain some good health. Did you miss the other headliners including Onos (live concert and religious inspirationals), Lordsky (how to create music) and the hugely talented Kenny Blaq and his irreverent musicomedy.
On the face of it, it looks like another great opportunity to give Africa’s content makers a boost in their bank account. The ads themselves do the job. But how many consumers are likely to buy? Or keep buying? At 30 naira daily, obviously to be shared between the network (MTN), platform owner (Starnews) and the content creator, you need to sell more than tens of thousands to create wealth for these guys.
When you first look at it, you imagine, WoW! See money! It looks easy-peasy. I can see some of the content creators (especially comedians) falling back on their traditional content and repackaging them for this platform. Would that work? As a mobile user responded to me, why would that sell when they already offer so much for free on platforms like YouTube and Facebook shorts, not to mention the Tik toks of this world?
Even a Kaffy, who makes an effort to package original content will still have a big struggle, I think, given that thousands of fitness ‘gurus’ left, right and center are delivering fitness advice for free on the listed platforms.
Bisola Ogunde had a good laugh after her experiment with Kaffy’s content. According to her, she subscribed because of the great advertising and the photos but when she got in, the story was different:
“I expected something very different from the regular fitness advice I get all the time for free on Facebook shorts and the others. Maybe I expected too much but then that was the promise. Anyway I want more.”
One line of content that has received tremendous support and success from consumers is football live content. And this is a pointer to the direction this platform should be looking at. According to a Starnews release,
“We have launched new and innovative ways of monetizing trending events by launching event-dedicated channels on the Starnews mobile platform and providing subscribers with exclusive behind-the-scenes content.”
And what was the result? “This experiment was massively successful during the Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) campaign, acquiring over 765,000 subscribers and producing highly engaging content.”
That was good. But it could be far bigger. Football has an extraordinary hold on Africans and the fact that they did not hit the million mark is proof that there is still a lot of ground to cover. But it was a pointer to a direction that could deliver consistent results northwards.
That strategy is evident in the packaging of Onos live concert and behind the scenes—this is apart from her inspirational religious content, which will also struggle a bit.
One thing is certain, this is a great opportunity that still requires a great deal of strategic thinking by the creators if they are going to be able to reap the huge potential benefits. The platform puts some issues in sharp focus.
One of the big problems, as mentioned earlier, is that there is already a surfeit of free content that has virtually become a problem for society. Many people can’t live their normal lives simply because of over consumption of exciting, engaging but free content!
So the question, why pay for more?
To be able to cross that gully, you have to develop a cast iron content strategy, not only in terms of creativity, but in terms of market segmentation. While live football or music related content (especially when exclusive) can target the general populace, it will not be wise to hope that those same people will embrace premium content with a price tag.
This means that a different content strategy may have to be developed for this platform. If targeted at segmented audiences, tailor made content can carry the day.
Before we move forward to the last big issue, let’s not forget the minor matter of piracy. I bumped this idea on an 18-year-old university undergraduate who was busy sipping a pack of orange juice and munching fried chips on the opposite side of my table as I mulled this subject in a coffee shop. She was all about the beauty of free content.
“Sir, do you know that whatever content people find good, they just find a way of copying it and making it available for free? Most of us will rather wait till premium becomes free in this Nigeria. Where is the money?”
I couldn’t stop grinning. In a way she is right, or isn’t she?
Beyond all these, I couldn’t get past the thought that maybe, just maybe, the owners of this platform are missing something. How come it’s all about sports, entertainment and religion, from what we can see in the phalanx of online advertising in support of the platform.
What about serious business content? What about high level talks on strategy, marketing, business development and personal development? My gut feeling tells me that those who want that kind of stuff in a well packaged professionally delivered and planned format will not be in a hurry to unsubscribe once they have got to experience the transformational power on offer. However, if they have a core focus on entertainment this may be off limits.
But the brand owners are upbeat and so the numbers may be more impressive than this article suggests. From their communication, the Starnews team appear to be doing brisk business across Africa, and opening new country offices, including a recent one in Ghana. As an alternative to traditional social media with the free flow of free content doing creators little good in terms of reward, its definitely an idea whose time has come.