How Big Cabal Media became one of the fastest-growing news outlets in Africa
CEO Tomiwa Aladekomo walked me through the company’s origin story, explained why he joined in 2018, and outlined its monetization strategy.
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Aside from the Covid pandemic itself, there was probably no other issue in 2020 that did more to shift the political landscape, both locally and at the national level, than the George Floyd protests against police brutality. Millions took to the streets while tens of millions more watched footage on their phones, computers, and television screens. Two years later, pundits and political scientists alike are still discussing the impact of such a seismic movement.
Unbeknownst to most Americans, another massive protest erupted half a world away. In October 2020, a member of Nigeria’s Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS) was caught on camera shooting a young Nigerian in front of a hotel. By that point, SARS had become notorious for its violent abuse of Nigerian citizens, and the viral video of the encounter sparked massive protests, both online and off. Millions of Nigerians took to the streets, and the hashtag #EndSARS went viral across social media.
At the forefront of the #EndSARS coverage was Big Cabal Media, a company founded in 2013. Through its two websites, TechCabal and Zikoko, it provided constant news updates about the movement. At one point Zikoko, a Buzzfeed-like site targeted toward Nigeria’s youth, halted all production on its lighter fare so that it could devote 100% of its resources to its #EndSARS coverage.
While Big Cabal Media was already well-known within Africa, its #EndSARS coverage exposed it to an international audience. Tech titans that included Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey and Y Combinator partner Michael Seibel tweeted links to its articles, and millions of visitors flooded to its website. For a company that started out with just a single writer running a tech blog, the attention was a vindication of its massive success.
So how did an outlet with such humble beginnings reach such a stature? To answer that question, I spoke to CEO Tomiwa Aladekomo. He walked me through the company’s origin story, explained why he joined in 2018, and outlined its monetization strategy.
Let’s jump into my findings…
Big Cabal Media was founded by Bankole Oluwafemi. A lawyer by training, Oluwafemi came out of law school and began contributing to a now-defunct tech blog. “They would publish gadget reviews,” explained Aladekomo. “This was back when phone reviews were a big thing. The only problem was that the iPhone would get released in America and it would take three months for it to reach Nigeria.” That meant that U.S.-based tech outlets had a huge head start on reviewing the phone, which put Oluwafemi’s articles at a huge disadvantage. “And so he got kind of frustrated with that fairly quickly.”
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