Editorial: Bella Naija At 5

Posted on August 06 2011 , at 11:28 am
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Uche Eze

Bainstone Nigeria Limited recently announced, to our pleasant surprise, that its website www.bellanaija.com, is celebrating five years since going live.

In a country where there’s a frightening level of unemployment and underemployment, the success of BellaNaija, its growth from an idea to a profitable business, is a testimony to the power of possibilities; an inspiration to millions of Nigerian youths who are hoping to make the best out of the chaotic Nigerian system.

Founder Uche Eze is a driven young woman who identified a vacuum and couldn’t rest until she filled it. The fashion industry in Nigeria held a lot of promise. Nigerian designers and models were doing well all over the world. But conventional media, just like the government, was still struggling to identify the beauty hiding behind the queer mask. Just like the entertainment beat, fashion received only a few pages every Saturday and Sunday – not enough space, or resources to capture and fuel the impending growth.

To make matters worse, as at when BellaNaija came on board, most of these fashion columns had no presence on their respective newspapers’ websites.

The soft-sell journals, fond of dedicating generous space to fashion and lifestyle also had zero presence online.

And BellaNaija entered that space and made it hers.

The site’s writers and editors display excellent understanding of fashion matters and they’ve been able to cultivate a community of readers who understand what time it is, when the topic is fashion. The site’s event section, as well as music and prose segments are also impressive, even though its major strength remains fashion news, opinion, prose, features and red carpet coverage.

Alexa says most visitors to the site today, are women who are based outside Nigeria. And in five years, the site has grown to become one of the top 100 sites in Nigeria. (No 52 as at the time of writing).

It’s interesting that, for a team of young people with little journalism experience, the site parades almost hundred percent error free content. And running on the internet where most platforms are wont to break the rules and act with abandon, BN remains decent, positive and very professional – generating over 90 percent of the content it puts up.

But, just like every other blog, they continue to be under heavy criticism for what would seem a suspicious romance with the subjects the site covers – BN continues to insist that running ‘sponsored content’ is one of the ways to ensure revenue, in a system where most big spenders are yet to fully appreciate the reach of online media. The site has not for one minute pretended to be a news website and its editors constantly shy away from ‘negative news or damaging gossip’.

That the owners have been able to turn the platform into a viable brand; a household name and a force to reckon with within the Nigerian media landscape, is a feat worthy of acknowledgment and celebration. And we must note that they’ve done this entirely as a privately-funded internet company working in a country without access to fast, reliable internet or electricity.

Uche Eze and her team have been sharing the story of BellaNaija with us. It’s important we listen – apparently there’s a lot to learn from this start-up that’s making waves home and abroad…

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