The Team from The Founders visited Naijaloaded CEO for an exclusive interview and it was lit
During this interview session, Mr. Makinde Azeez opens up on how he built the leading and most visited online platform in Nigeria, he shares his secret, advice, and business hacks for every hustler out there.
Enjoy the interview below.
Hi Makinde, what’s your background, and what are you currently working on?
I’m Azeez Makinde, a Blogger, Online Entrepreneur, and businessman. I’m the Founder and CEO of Naijaloaded; the most visited online platform that delivers hot Nigerian Music, Video, Entertainment Gist, and News Contents on a daily basis to Nigerians Home and Abroad.
What motivated you to get started with Naijaloaded?
When I started Naijaloaded then, it was an era of free browsing. The Internet was so expensive then, and everyone wanted access to the internet, but it wasn’t affordable, even I couldn’t afford it. So, I decided to create a blog, Naijaloaded, where people could get access to free, working browsing tricks and hacks.
I used to use a forum before then, but whatever you are reading on a forum is people’s opinion. Some people will come, they’ll just want to waste your time and drop something that’s not working.
So, I took it upon myself that anything I see on this forum or I’m able to get, instead of making people search through the comments, why not put it on the blog.
This forum was getting more numbers than us, but we were getting more success stories than them because if you come on Naijaloaded today, instead of opening multiple pages before you can get what you want or you eventually get 20 and you test, only 2 is working, I’ve wasted your time, but as an entrepreneur, I get more page views, but this is about satisfaction on the customer’s end.
So what we do is we’ll painstakingly get the job done then put working methods on the website, and once you come in the afternoon, what you are going to meet is going to work and if that one stops working, if you come again tomorrow, you’ll meet something that’ll work there. This was how people started to know about Naijaloaded.
As I saw that the era of free browsing was going, I created a music website and I noticed the music website was battling with the free browsing blog. So, I was like, instead of making these 2 websites stand alone, and we understand that the free browsing era is going already, why not infuse this one into the other one and cancel this one and redirect the whole traffic in this one to this one.
And that was how we made it, in fact, if we want to split Naijaloaded into 10 different products today, we’ll split them and they will all be doing well, but we don’t want to have 10 products, we want to have 1 product that will solve all your needs.
So once you are talking about football, you can come; you want to talk about music, come; video, come; entertainment, gist, and podcasts come. If you are building a product, you just need to learn how to put a lot of products under it, so that even if one of the products fades out, you still have other ones that can keep you stable.
I remember when I was still in school; if I’m going to school and one of all these music websites drop a song, I won’t stress, because I had done something that will make the users wait for me.
When these music websites post a song, people will go and listen to it, but can’t download it, and then they have to wait for Naijaloaded to download it because then, on Blackberry, if you click on ‘Download’, it will start playing instead of downloading, so we worked on a code that will make it download instead of playing, we’ll now upload it.
So, once we upload it and you click on ‘Download’ from your end, instead of the song playing, it will download; it took these other music websites about 3 years before they knew, and by then, all their users were already getting used to Naijaloaded.
Sometimes, you don’t need big changes to beat your competitors; you just need to understand the industry, do some little tweaks, and see how you skyrocket.
We’ve never seen Naijaloaded Ads, so what are your marketing strategies?
The truth is since we accept Ads from brands and then you now see us advertising also, we are indirectly telling advertisers on our platform that we are not confident enough, that they should use this platform that we are also advertising on because it’s better than ours.
As a blog, as a website, as a content platformer, advertising means you want to just shoot yourself in the leg because it’s an indirect, degrading way of telling your clients that you aren’t competent enough to handle their adverts.
So, sometimes when we know we want our numbers to go up, or we want people to be aware of us, I think Content is our sword. There is a way we can always adjust contents to go this way, put up more quiz, put up some thought-provoking topics, put up some interesting kinds of articles we know people will want to read, a whole lot of that, put it up and then the numbers will go up, but all in all, I think the Content is what is really doing the marketing for us.
If we don’t put contents, if we don’t get it right, people will not come, and if we advertise elsewhere, we are indirectly pushing our advertisers away, so as a brand, as a content brand that accepts Ads, we need to be careful running Ads.
So content has always been what has been giving us good numbers, and for now, we don’t want to back down on that.
What is the number of traffic you get in a month?
We just got our analytics stats for July 2020, last week, and we got about 141 Million impressions (page views) from about 19 million users.
What’s the average traffic this year so far?
From January 2020, the average is capped at 120 million.
From January to July, the numbers are on our “Advertise With Us” page; the number of page views, visitors, returning users, new users, music downloads on our platform for a particular month, numbers of comments we get for a particular month.
Everything is on our “Advertise With Us” page; we had to put it there so advertisers can know where they are putting their Ads, and know what they should expect from us.
What were the biggest challenges you faced and the obstacles you overcame?
The challenges come in different classes.
At a point, we had a lot of traffic, and having a server to contain it was a big problem. We used to work in the night because we know the traffic is going to be so much in the afternoon, and we would not be able to open the dashboard; so whatever we post in the night is what people will read in the afternoon, so we load up the website with posts in the night so people can consume in the afternoon.
But now, we have a reliable server that even in the afternoon, while people are reading, we are posting.
Also, the price we are paying for the server is too much, so that’s a challenge for us, but we still thank God.
As a music platform, copyright is a big deal for us; an artiste will send his song in 2013, if he has made it in 2020, he’ll start saying rubbish and then he wants you to do this, do that. We bloggers are only beneficial to them when they are still looking for publicity, but immediately they get it, they become big. So, copyright is a very big problem for us.
As a content person, we want to write articles that would make an impact, that people will read and they will be interested in, but sometimes, writing the article is not even the problem there, but what to write.
Sometimes, when you think of a valid idea, writing it can just take you like a maximum of 15-20 minutes, but thinking of what to write can take you 2-3 days. I think that’s every content creator’s problem.
How can Entrepreneurs that want to start a Music/Entertainment platform start and differentiate themselves?
My own advice is that if they have a concrete idea of what they want to bring that’s going to be different from what Naijaloaded or any other platform is currently offering, I think they will still make good money and make a good impact.
The thing is that if they are just coming and they want to be like Naijaloaded or they are coming and they want to do the same thing, operate the same way Naijaloaded is operating, they are just deceiving themselves.
If you want to come into an already saturated market, you need to understand what you want to do differently, not trying to come in and you want to do it the way people are already doing it, you are not going to make any impact.
I use to tell people, I’m never afraid of entering into any industry because I know my ideas and the way I think basically. I don’t deceive myself. Fortunately, there are only 2 results in life, it’s either you win or you fail.
There is always a fan that is tired of a particular platform or brand but just because nobody is offering what they are offering, they have to stick with them.
Immediately a new brand comes and is able to usher in new ideas different from what the existing brand is bringing, it’s going to cause disruption, and then before you know, people will start rushing towards that new brand.
They will leave what they’ve been using for so long, and try something new because they know you are here to offer something different.
A few years back, like 2 years ago, I was afraid of how blogging is going to be in the next 2-3 years. I was actually very afraid; someone now told me that there are companies that make billions of dollars every year from blogs.
The only thing that can die is a particular niche, a niche could die, and if a niche dies and you are doing just 1 niche or 2 niches, and both niches die, you are gone. But if you understand that people look up on Google for information every day about anything, the only thing you could do is to start changing the type of contents you put up on your platform, then you will keep being relevant.
And then you need to understand that there are some types of businesses that when you do, you are not doing it for today, you are doing it to build a brand.
Sometimes, you just have to go outside of your own shell and think, take notes, and implement. Someone said if everybody is implementing what they are thinking, there will be no broke person in this life, but it’s just that implementation is hard, in fact, thinking is the simplest, implementation is the hardest.
What do you do that gets you pumped up?
I believe it’s experience; experience is actually the best teacher.
Sometimes, I read, but it might not necessarily be books but like blogs on how to do certain things.
Have you had any failed business?
I’m now very careful with doing any business because I don’t want to fail again, but that is even more way to fail; trying to be careful from failing, you will fail more. Now you are not going to fail in business, you are going to fail in life.
I had a farm then, in fact, I wasted a lot, but we need to understand that sometimes when you fail, you did not fail because you are not good enough or because you are not serious enough, you just fail because that’s Nigeria for you. There are some brands that didn’t fail, the government failed them instead which resulted in them failing.
Sometimes, you need to understand that the failure is not from you, it’s from the society, and then you move happily, but I’m rest assured that whatever I want to do and I’m seeing the green light in it, I’m going to do it perfectly.
So’ I’ve failed. I started a dog business, I failed; I started a PR company, Gidi Promo, we failed and we did not fail because we are not getting money, we failed because I have what I do every day on my own desk, and then I assign people, but the money was coming but we were mismanaging it and I can’t leave my own existing business to go and start running after a new business, it’s madness. So we just thought, let’s close it.
We are still very much alive, when we have a better structure and we understand business better than the way it was 3-4 years ago, we’ll be able to even tackle it, it’s like a project that we’ll still continue, but for now, we have to put a stop to it.
Advice for other entrepreneurs who want to get started or are just starting out?
We need to understand that there are 2 different types of entrepreneurs. I think what has really helped me is not thinking like an entrepreneur because it doesn’t work.
I’ve sensed something in this industry that there are 2 types of entrepreneurs;
- Those who want to make the news without actually getting results, or making any impact, they just want to be in the news, get investors; they want Tech platforms to post them, talk about them.
- Those who are not looking for investors, rather they are looking for customers, some people are looking for customers and the customer is going to give them money.
So you choose whichever one you want yourself. But, my own advice is just to run it as a normal business, like a normal shop. If you run a business, whether it’s a techie business or a normal business like a shop, you’ll start making decisions that are going to really impact the business positively.
I know of somebody, he has a very big business, and there was a point, they were not making a lot of money, they were not making enough money to even pay the salary. This guy got to the office, and he told his staff that there was no money, that paying their salaries this month might be a problem.
He said saying that alone to his staff actually gingered them and they made money to even sort bills.
Now, if you think like a normal businessman or a normal entrepreneur, you might not be able to make such a statement, but when you say it the way it actually is, it may lead to better results.
If you want to go far, you need to follow your own instincts, not what people will say.
When Naijaloaded used to be a forum, it was custom-made before we moved to WordPress, and it took me 3 months to even move on after paying over ₦4 million to developers to help us upgrade it. They upgraded it, it got hacked that night. I just closed my eyes, I deleted the whole file, and that was the end. Now, it took me 3 weeks because I didn’t want to move to WordPress because I knew people would laugh at me.
Now, we moved; even after I decided to even move to WordPress, I was now looking for a programmer that would help with the design that will make it look so good that nobody will sense it’s WordPress. I just closed my eyes, and we moved to WordPress and people started laughing; people laughed so hard, but today, are they still laughing? They don’t even remember.
In life, you need to make decisions that will influence your own life, not what people will think about you, because whether you do it or you don’t do it, they’ll still laugh.
If you fail running a custom-made website, they will still laugh; if you fail running WordPress, they will still laugh. So, just choose the one that you know and go for it. I think I made a good decision moving to WordPress in all sincerity.
Just think the way it is, don’t overcomplicate things. To run a business, don’t think too much, except you are strategizing but when you are trying to make a choice and you know what is right for you, but you are now trying to dilute your choice because of what people will think, you are in trouble.
Sometimes, we want something to be perfect, and then we end up not doing it, but if you start or do it the way it is, you can always adjust or keep going or learn 1 or 2 tricks on how to even make it better, but if you want perfection, you shouldn’t expect success.
Are you looking to hire for certain positions right now?
We’ll need a Video Editor and a Sound Engineer. We also need interns that we can offload some jobs to, teach them how it’s done, make them work for us.
For interns, we want to do female, because we have more guys here than girls; but for the Video Editor and Sound Engineer, we are doing male.
For the interns, we’ll be needing writers, we’ll be needing marketers; might be a Content Marketer or an Ads Marketer