On 15th August, 2010 Nigerian youth culture brand, Y! officially launched in Lagos, Nigeria. Described by the Founders as “the high priest of Nigerian youth culture,” the media platform joined the growing stable of brands under REDSTRAT Communications. REDSTRAT is home to leading youth brands the upwardly mobile Nigerian youth has come to know and love such as the Future Nigeria Project (Organizers of the Future Awards), Enough is Enough Nigeria as well as the RSVP (Register. Select. Vote. Protect) campaign, among others.
In this exclusive interview with Nmachi Jidenma, Chude Jideonwo of Y!Naija talks Y!, the Nigerian media landscape and what it has been like running a fast rising Nigerian media brand. Enjoy the interview and please share with your friends who are aspiring entrepreneurs. This interview is part of CP-Africa’s on-going African Entrepreneur Series sponsored by LEC International, a leading indigenous Human Resource Consulting firm. Visit LEC at www.lecinternational.net today for your job search and recruiting needs.
Interview with Chude Jideonwo of Y!
Nmachi Jidenma: Thanks for joining us at CP-Africa Chude! How has the journey been so far running Y!Naija?
Chude Jideonwo: Gosh! Gosh! It has been a tough one – no kidding! But ultimately rewarding. I am a news man – and my dream has always been to be a journalist, a storyteller and to be in the thick of things as they unravel and use the media to drive the conversation and, sometimes, to be the conversation. When you are just a journalist following cues it can be difficult to do that. With a magazine, even monthly, you are limited. But with online media, where you are feeding the beast, (and I mean that as a team ofendearment!) on a constant basis as you have to with online media, it is exciting and simply exhilarating. You can break everything and be a part of everything and drive the things that are important – and you know the almighty chase for Traffic means that you have to be on top of your game, and that just keeps me excited. My team makes it better – Damilola Oyedele, who is Online Editor is one of the most amazing writers and editors I have ever met. I threw her into the deep end and she swam. I was so glad. In fact, having her convinced me that this was something we could and should do. There is an incredibly talented team including Yemi Olowu, Ore Fakorede, Demola Adesina and all our amazing writers; Yolanda Gray, Onyeka Nwelue, Akan Nweke, Jumoke and others who just make it worth it to be able to present this delightful menu. Every day is an amazing creation and it is a blessing to be a part of it. That being said, God! It is a full time job – and it can break you!
Nmachi: I certainly hear you on your point about online media being a beast. It indeed sometimes feels like a big insatiable beast…Why did you choose to launch the Y! platform and how does it fit into the overall vision for RedSTRAT/The Future Project?
Chude: Let me share a small story with you. You know, after launching YNaija.com, I wondered why I had never done it earlier. It’s amazing – I began to blog as Chude at about the same time as my friends, Linda Ikeji and Uche (Bella Naija), and you know it was a delightful online community, and then I became so engaged in other things that I closed it. Big mistake! And people were reading! Because of my natural hunger to break stories, and be part of the conversation, an online platform has been a perfect fit, and so I really wonder why this was not done earlier. It’s not just me, but it is also the foundation of our business; (my partner Adebola is also a go out and get the story, go out and be a part of what is happening type of person).
Our company RedSTRAT has three arms; RedSTRAT Original Content, RedSTRAT Communications and The Future Project.
RedSTRAT Communications is our purely business arm that has given PR, new media and youth marketing services to blue chip companies, SMEs and development organizations over the past years by quietly but professionally delivering premium communication solutions.
Its original content business is the other arm, which has a vision to have positive-focused pop-culture media spread across platforms – so everywhere there is media we are going to be there. As such, we are in print, we are on TV, we are on radio, we are online and we are on your mobile phone.
The Future Project is a different entity focused solely on development and enterprise support – what these pop culture platforms do is that they provide a way of injecting the work of The Future Project into the mainstream of the media and culture because we believe that is the best way to make change happen. You can’t want to change the minds of young people or to engage them with the values you seek if you stand apart from what they pay attention to and believe in. To that extent, this fits smack into the long term plan for The Future Project. The brands are separate.
Chude: There is a Nigerian youth culture. Whether elite or illiterate, we love the same artistes (yes the young man in Mushin likes 2Face just like the man on Bourdillion, and if Pasuma is on Celebrity Takes Two, all Nigerians across social segments are rooting for him). We adore the same actresses, both educated and non-educated alike. We were excited by the Jenifa movie and we all know what ‘swagger’ implies. There is a whole pop culture phenomenon in terms of language, style and understanding of what is ‘razz’ and what is not (again a peculiarly Nigerian youth culture lingo), and all that. We are the new priest that defines those trends – we are relentless, we are aggressive and we are on top of it. When the rave was politics, following the issues around former President Umaru Yar’Adua’s illness and then death, young people were angry and there was a renewed political consciousness.
We immediately captured it with our Anger Issue, featuring the cover, Omotola is Angry. When there was a whole period of hope and change with the 50th Anniversary and the vibe that young people were now primed and position to drive the affairs of our country, we came up with the Freedom issue, profiling 50 leaders across sectors that will shine a new direction for our country.
With a new decade came the New Decade issue and the beautiful Asa cover, and as the nation moves into the elections, we are birthing our RSVP issue – we are closely following the pulse of the young population and capturing that essence. We anoint what is cool and what is hot. That’s the new high priest.
Nmachi: In recent times, there has been a plethora of online and print publications cropping up all over Nigeria. What in your opinion makes the Y! online platform and print publication unique?
Chude: The very essence of Y! is unique. Like we remarked in an interview with the Guardian UK last year, we are doing something that hasn’t been done before – capturing the essence of Nigerian youth culture. We’ve had people try to capture sports, fashion, music and movies, but Nigerian youth have a youth culture vibe that goes beyond these – that embraces politics, faith, travel, the economy, business – it is all-encompassing, it is intelligent and it is cutting edge. We – like many others – are now a part of a deliciously connected global village, and post-democracy, we have evolved a unique affectation, a unique language, a unique identity that defines us. What Y!Naija does is capture this – be both a trend setter and a trend watcher – the ultimate guide to what makes young Nigerians tick at any one time as well as a driver of that same reality.
Nmachi: Y! has a presence in both TV and radio apart from its digital and print editions. What informed this decision and how does it tie into Y!’s overall vision?
Chude: Oh we’ve always had a TV component. I am first and foremost a TV person – I began my career presenting the Sunday Show, and then as researcher for Inside Out with Agatha Amata and then for three years, I was with New Dawn with Funmi Iyanda, leaving as a producer. My partner, Adebola was with Nigeria International as Producer, and before that, he was with the NTA, so we all have TV backgrounds. We have produced Rubbin’ Minds over the past four years on Channels Television and interviewed everyone from Chimamanda to Asa, but we kind of kept it on the down-low, focused on building a business structure and of course, focused on The Future Awards. However, last year, when our company underwent a major management restructure and we launched a new company essentially, we decided to launch a full range of premium media brands, and Y! TV is that arm – a collection of quality youth and pop culture programmes, and now Rubbin’ Minds is under that umbrella, same as the Y! Red Carpet which we launched in January this year.
The Y! Radio arm had the #IamNigeria series on Cool and Wazobia FMs, which went side by side with The Future Awards and ran for three months. We will be back on the air soon and we have other radio shows coming soon. So it’s all part of one big interconnected whole – the Y! brand like I said is a multi-platform 360 degrees media brand and we’re just getting started by His grace.
Nmachi: Which African/global entrepreneur has had the most influence on you?
Chude: I like to stick with Africa, because we have peculiar challenges. I am more likely to learn from someone who survives in and despite this environment. I always go with Ben Bruce. I have role models and I believe strongly in learning through them and Mr. Bruce is excellent in terms of having an integrated entertainment empire that strongly reinforces each of its arms. There is Silverbird TV, Rhythm FM, the MBGN competition, Mr. Nigeria, the shows and concerts, the Silverbird Cinemas and the Silverbird Malls. As an entrepreneur who has learnt to trust his powerful instincts and his gut, he has my vote for balls and for vision. And now it’s across Nigeria and across Africa – creating real value for an industry on the cusp of true explosion and he has built a brand that will completely outlast him. That is exciting – all of this in a Nigeria where entrepreneurs usually have to focus on oil blocs or banking licenses. He inspires me greatly – and more so because I followed his story from when he was only doing the concerts and the MBGNs and everyone thought he was mad. We need more Bruces – we need more fearless, iconoclastic entrepreneurs like him. They are the ones who will change Africa – not those who just get government contracts and build nothing.
Nmachi: What has been the most fulfilling aspect of running Y!?
Chude: I would have to speak personally
Nmachi: (Laughs) Sure thing. Okay so as a young Nigerian media entrepreneur, what kinds of challenges have you faced so far in the media business?
Chude: My sister! Do you want to talk about it now? People sometimes forget that we are a business – not run on donations or sponsorships alone. In fact the core of our enterprise is pure capitalism, so we face as many challenges as those in oil or finance or printing or whatever you want to call it. Running a multi-departmental enterprise with more than a dozen staff and a trailer load of consultants and contractors – facing all the legal, financial and even purely existential challenges that come with running a Nigerian business is not easy. Of course the fact that we started so young – Adebola was 18 when we started – and are doing so much and are trying to do it well makes the challenges we face much more formidable. But God has been faithful, we are in a very good place, and expansion is the next immediate step. I don’t want to go into challenges as you might have noticed – it’s a draining process, we’d rather focus on going forward full turbo! (Laughter)
Nmachi: (Laughs) Forward ever Chude. I hear you. In your opinion, what key entrepreneurial skills do you think have you helped you the most in running the platform till date?
Chude: An eye on the money is crucial – the thankful part for me is that I have a solid background of experience working with structured organizations and businesses on many levels – from my days at New Dawn, to managerial experience at Virgin Nigeria – from startups to bluechips, and one thing I know is that it’s all about the money. At a point, for a stretch, I worked back to back with organizations that had gross financial problems even though on the face of it they were attractive brands and I have learnt that it’s not just about the brand you have to have your eye on the money – where is it coming from and where is it going? Debt, profits and savings – I always say, that’s where the real deal is. I think that learning skills involved with frugality (they call me Ijebu in my office) early was a blessing. I have also understood the power of having customer-facing products as well as multiple streams of income, all closely followed by a strong accountability structure. It is all – as every entrepreneur knows – quite complex when you get down to it, but an eye on the money is the one major skill that I would say has helped me most as an entrepreneur. Every other thing – brand management, client service and retention, marketing – they all subsist or cease to exist based on how you handle this crucial arm. Then people! Actually people should be number one – I am reading a book called Before you Quit Your Job – and I am telling you, all entrepreneurs should read it before they make that jump. Having good people and using them effectively is perhaps the most underrated tool – when you have the hands that you need, you are able to do more than anyone else. It’s not even about paying the most amount of money, it is about creating a space that allows for fulfillment and personal growth for the people who help you grow your business. My sister, I could go on!
Nmachi: What are your thoughts on the impact of online/social media on the Nigerian print media landscape? Do you think it mirrors the trends in the West in terms of reducing consumer appetite for traditional media or do different dynamics apply in the Nigerian terrain?
Chude: Oh it absolutely mirrors the West – don’t mind what traditional marketing people do. I give it 5 years and the world would be online, Nmachi. Guys like you and I – especially in the media – who have identified this reality and have taken the leap, using all this sweat and blood, even with the miniscule return, investing people and money because we see the future, we will be laughing loud soon. Sahara Reporters is setting the political agenda not unlike the Huffington Post, 234next mirrors Politico.com, BellaNaija is People.com, and everyone else in Lifestyle rolled together, Linda Ikeji is driving the conversation even though she is just one person with a blog – you place an ad on Facebook for clients and they are always amazed by the reach and impact. The world is going online – whether Nigerian traditional media experts like it or not (laughter). Social Media is driving what traditional media is doing – look at Jonathan and Facebook, issues like Bode George’s release, Enioluwa’s kidnap and release, D’banj and Snoop Dogg/Kanye West, MI’s album release, I won’t say it is reducing the consumer appetite…at least not yet. But it is giving it a fine run for its money. In any case, in five to ten years, it’s gonna replace it completely. It’s not just an oyinbo thing, it’s here people.
CP-Africa: True talk! Where do you see Y!Naija in the next 5 years? What is your ultimate grand vision for the brand?
Chude: Y! is presently a youth culture brand – but its quickly going to grow into a cross-segment media network. I look at the Conde Nast company – with Vogue, Vanity Fair, GQ, Brides etc – and I want that here; a network of print and online stables that connect with various markets. What do you know? Adebola and I want to be the Rupert Murdoch of the continent – everything from the Sun in London to Fox News in America (I am fascinated by Murdoch by the way – I don’t exactly admire his persona or methods, but I find him incredibly fascinating and someone to learn business and management from). In any case, it is almost like what Johnnic Communications is doing with their range of media brands across the continent, and that is the kind of format we follow. A Nigerian who fascinates us in this light is Biodun Shobanjo – people know insight but what they don’t know is the Troyka group, that massive mega-brand that owns Insight Communications, FKG2, The Quadrant company, and he just opened a Marketing Communications firm – Azzagai! They are trying to open a New Media firm (well there, we are waiting to show them!) and up unto Halogen Securities, outdoor companies – it is am empire! Those are the kinds of indications we pay close attention to. There’s a reason our brands are not termed RedSTRAT. RedSTRAT is the mother lode – the big kahuna behind pulling the strings – delivering Y!, The Future and other brands reaching varied markets through the media. 5 years is of course just here, so we might not reach our goal immediately, which is to reach a varied market with premium media platforms, but in another 5 years, we’d be very far along in our way. We’d have set up the structures, strengthened the brands and laid out the framework for this network – all with an eye for sustainability. We want to build brands that will outlive us – we’ll be everywhere that lifestyles are defined quietly but steadily making things happen.
Nmachi: What should fans/readers of Y! expect to see in Y!’s RSVP issue?
Chude: The RSVP issue will blow your mind! That’s what next – but what is here now will have the same effect let me tell you :). The
Asa cover – with her in a dress! – is already causing ripples, and the interview will melt you. We are excited about the shoot with 10 style geniuses! And as usual – we are incredibly proud of our internal-standard writers – Mfon Ekpo, Gbolahan Faleye, Tolu Ogunlesi and Chinedu Iroche amongst others will blow you right away! It is out this week on the streets – you’ll love it! We’re pushing those boundaries.
Nmachi: What advice do you have for young Nigerian media entrepreneurs?
Chude: Media entrepreneurs – the media is just like any business, yes our business is branding and it’s all public bright and beautiful, but it is still a business. And there are principles as to how to manage a business. As we have seen, no matter how dominant or colourful or popular a media firm is, if it doesn’t get its profit and loss sorted, it will crash. Many have crashed right before our eyes, or gone from up there to where-are-they-now? It is a lesson for all of us to learn from. We’re young and it looks like the world is our oyster, but then it’s also a minefield – how to continuously take advantage of those opportunities while avoiding the many pitfalls (some come with ignorance, others with naivety) is what makes us successful. It is a lot of hardwork – success is, er, not beans! And even beans takes times to boil abi? (Laughter)
Nmachi: (Laughs) Na so. Success is certainly not beans. Young Africans in the house, get inspired, be remarkable and go out there and do something to help take the continent to the next level. Thanks for joining us Chude and to our readers, thanks for reading!
About Chude Jideonwo
A lawyer by training, Chude has, for almost a decade, garnered key experience in all forms of tradition and new media, and has managed to translate that practical experience into successful media campaigns.
He began his career as a researcher with Inside Out with Agatha, a TV show syndicated across the country, and then moved to Nigeria ’s leading breakfast show at the time, New Dawn, which showed on the NTA Network, He was at New Dawn for three years, rising to become Associate Producer as well as heading the Special Projects division. He has been Assistant Director and scriptwriter with The Academy (an international reality TV show). As a TV presenter, he has hosted The Sunday Show (NTA), and Patito’s Gang. He is now host of Rubbin’ Minds on Channels Television. He also consults for Moments with Mo, showing on Mnet.
He began his writing career in 2002 with the defunct Tempo magazine. His writing credits include Time Out Nigeria , Thisday, The Guardian, Farafina, True Love West Africa, Made, Takaii and the Big Brother magazine. He has also been consultant editor to a number of magazines including Tour Nigeria (for the Federal Ministry of Tourism), and an official magazine for the Nigerian Airforce.
Chude was Assistant Publicist with Common Ground Productions in 2006, and in October 2007, he was appointed Publicist for Bank PHB’s The Apprentice Africa. He served briefly in the External Relations department of the Nigeria LNG, before moving to Virgin Nigeria Airways, as Asst. Manager, Media Relations, the youngest in a managerial position. He joined NEXT Newspapers as Copy Editor in July 2009.
Called to the Nigerian Bar in November 2007, after emerging Best Student in Land Law from the University of Lagos, his awards include winning the British Council Telling Stories Competition. He is also the youngest recipient of the Nigeria Media Merit Award, announced as Entertainment Journalist of the Year in 2007. He has been recipient of the Olive Award for Media and Production, the Inside Out role model award, and the Green Yaggy Achievement Award. In 2007, he was selected as one of the 101 Young African Leaders by the African Business Forum, and in 2009, he was selected for the US Government’s International Visitors Leadership Programme (IVLP).
As Founder & Creative Director of REDSTRAT, he has organized the Future Awards, Nigeria’s largest youth event recognizing outstanding young Nigerians in different spheres of life. In March 16, 2010, he (along with other Nigerian youth leaders) led the Enough is Enough Nigeria rally in Abuja, Nigeria. The rally has since grown into a full scale national campaign and has been widely covered by local and international media.
In August 2010, he co-Founded Y!, a Nigerian youth culture platform.
CP-Africa’s African Entrepreneur Series is sponsored by LEC international. LEC is a Nigerian based human resources consulting firm that provides executive search and selection services to companies in West Africa. LEC also provides manpower assessments and human capital training for their corporate clients. Visit LEC at www.lecinternational.net for your human capital, job search and recruiting needs.