I was privileged to attend Kings College Lagos – the only Federal Government College or Unity School for boys at the time when the Nigerian elite still had faith in the public school system in the country. In our final year as was customary, we all wrote what we wanted to do after we left the prestigious school. Many naturally mentioned popular courses like law, medicine, economics, finance, engineering etc but I recall an ex-classmate said he wanted to become a statistician. That was the first time I ever heard about that profession and I probed further what it meant as Google hadn’t yet gained traction in the country at the time. He said he was going to work with big data and help the country and Africa solve its huge data challenge for more effective public policy decision making. He said the profession was one for the future and that one day it will be the next big thing.
How Prophetic when I look back though it didn’t make sense to me then!
Nigeria and Africa have a huge gap when it comes to accurate data collection which is critical for effective decision making in both the public and private sectors. American Media Giant – Bloomberg is actively present in the country and continent using its immense resources at its disposal to tackle the challenge. However, who can solve this challenge better than a Nigerian or African firm as the solution must be autochthonous or home grown for it to be more effective as nobody can tell the African story better than the Africans themselves.
Stears Business identified this data gap and is led by extremely brilliant minds – Preston Ideh who is the CEO, Abdul Abdulrahman, the COO and Michael Famoroti who serves as the Head of its Data and Intelligence Arm. They all met at the London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE) where they all studied a combination of law, engineering and economics and moved back home rejecting the more convenient ‘japa’ option to use the popular street lingo for a permanent relocation to the West.
Stears began its operations in 2017 and was smartly modeled after American political media company – Real Clear Politics. The American website provides highly informed political commentary but beneath the visible analysis on its platform does a lot of data mining which is its actual bread and butter. Stears does incisive and cerebral analysis on the Nigerian Economy and Polity which is written by a network of experts who are its members of staff and sometimes are backed by guest contributors. Behind the scenes, it has a robust data arm where it does data mining for clients in the private and public sectors which is what obviously brings home the bacon.
The media globally is going through a rough patch as a result of the disruption and blue ocean strategy by the duo of Google and Facebook. Advertising revenue is the ancient revenue model of the media but this business model has been greatly threatened by this duopoly as they have cornered a huge chunk of the adverts due to the fact that they reach billions of people daily leaving the crumbs to be scrambled for by the remaining media houses. So powerful are they some western countries are now regulating social media in order to safeguard the continued existence of the traditional media whose existence is now under a great threat. As reported by Al Jazeera, Australia passed a law last year compelling Google and Facebook to pay for news as a way of protecting the economic interests of its local media – https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2021/2/25/australia-passes-law-making-facebook-and-google-pay-for-news. As reported by the BBC, the UK technology watchdog, CMA has compelled Meta the parent company of Facebook to sell Giphy which it owns as a way of discouraging anti-trust and promoting competition – https://www.bbc.com/news/technology-63302179.
These behemoths have made advertising revenue unsustainable making many media houses to now go behind a paywall to stay afloat. Foreign ones like New York Times, Washington Post, The Economist, Wall Street Journal, Financial Times etc have all gone behind a paywall. Locally, the likes of The Africa Report, Business Day and even Stears Business with them going under a paywall in 2020 have followed suit.
There will always be a high demand for data and so the business model of Stears being heavily involved in data mining is a sturdy way of not only staying afloat but prospering in a harsh economic climate not particularly friendly to the media.
This data mining business model has strategically positioned itself as the beautiful bride as it has greatly helped it raise funds from investors on two occasions so far.
As reported by Tech Point, it raised $600,000 in 2020 to build Africa’s ‘Bloomberg’ – https://techpoint.africa/2020/04/22/nigerian-media-startup-stears-raises-600000-in-seed-funding
As previously reported by Nairametrics, they went ahead to raise $3.3 million to expand into some other African countries – Deal: Stears, Nigerian data and intelligence company, raises $3.3 million in seed round.
Aspiring media entrepreneurs have a lot to learn from Stears in building a model that can stand the test of time as advertising revenue is shrinking due to the aforementioned reasons. It is now so bad that the likes of the foreign Guardian UK, Conversation and coming home, Premium Times and Daily Trust have adopted or incorporated the donations model to survive and stay editorially independent. Data mining is a bulwark as life is dynamic and so data mining has to be constantly updated as the needs of the target market of any institution change. This model is a sturdy way to scale and attract much-needed investor funding as one of the banes of the local media is underfunding. With the media in Nigeria having a rather high mortality rate due to a plethora of factors most notably paucity of funds, data mining should be the direction of media owners who desire to not only run profitable media enterprises so that we change the ancient narrative that the media is mere charity.
The data mining business model from Stears Business is thus highly recommended as the media can only perform its noble functions of educating, entertaining, and informing the public if it is adequately solvent and free from the economic apron strings of stifling as well as malevolent interests.
Tony Ademiluyi is a Lagos, Nigeria based Journalist and Writer and can be reached on +2348167677075 and firstname.lastname@example.org