Africa’s mobile media moves beyond ringtones, football scores and news headlines

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Everyone will nod quickly at the idea that the mobile is Africa’s device of choice but people have been much slower to realize the implications for mobile media. Algy Williams, CEO, Every1Mobile is publishing seven mobile channels (what in old media speak you might have called magazines) on everything from sex and relationships to creative writing. What marks it out as unusual is that it has already gathered sizeable loyal readerships for each of these channels across Africa. Russell Southwood talked to him last week.

Algy Williams spotted the mobile media opportunity in 2010:”These kinds of audiences in Africa were almost inaccessible by conventional media. Suddenly you had a communications media that could offer access across all the socio-demographic spectrum and mostly with high levels of penetration”.

“So we set out to provide mobile enabled social networks for young people, often disadvantaged young people. We wanted to help young people at scale get into the formal economy. But it’s not a do-gooder proposition, it’s a good business opportunity.”

The company builds mobile web sites on different topics and creates social networks around them. Not every topic succeeds and it dropped music because the rights issues made it complicated. These social communities are currently available in South Africa, Nigeria, Ghana, Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda.

”The entire strategy is to be available across all Sub-Saharan African markets before going into other emerging markets like India. It’s handset/platform agnostic. However, the place to be at the moment is on feature phones. We also have the advantage that we can cross-promote between sites.”

It got its reach through making partnerships with other organisations. It has partnered with MXit and Opera and has two other deals with major African platforms which it will announce shortly.

The table below shows the monthly unique views and level of pages viewed:

- 841,973 visits
- 8,449,078 pages viewed

- 535,236 visits
- 5,726,122 pages viewed

- 412,845 visits
- 5,253,789 pages viewed

- 358,873 visits
- 2,417,907 pages viewed

- 298,457 visits
- 1,272,273 pages viewed

- 145,828 visits
- 661,636 pages viewed

- 71,032 visits
- 379,554 pages viewed

“We build large communities around particular areas of interest, providing various content and services.” The largest of these is smartSex which cover sexual health and relationships:”It doesn’t patronize or sermonize and it offers a dual approach, some parts tabloid, other parts broadsheet and there are Forums where users can ask questions.”

D-siders claims to be the first text-based pan-African soap opera. The users vote on what will happen in the story. He laughs because users tend to vote to “do the right thing” rather than “throw the character off a cliff.”

loveWords is a site about creative writing and perhaps gives the lie to the idea that Africans are only interested in speaking not writing (more of which below). It has 600,000 poems on the site.

Gender varies by site but smartSex has 60% women users and the overall level of women users is 52%.

The business model is that nearly all the content is free and that it gets revenues from advertising, sponsorship and in due course market research. It has created a professional development site called Legal Eagles for a large international company and done research on female products for a multinational.

”We can provide international NGOs ready-made the audiences they are trying to reach and the medium is very powerful. So we can create a community around their particular interests and get an engaged audience for them.”

It currently produces most of the content but wants to shift that balance over time:”We currently produce about 60% of the content and the rest is user-generated. We need to flip those proportions so that we deliver something that is local all the time.”

The week before I talked to Algy Williams, Every1Mobile I talked to Kenyan writer and publisher Binyavanga Wainana. His next project is to create a digital publishing house that puts out African pulp fiction. See the video clip interview below. So start to imagine Africa having a more dense and complex mobile media than currently exists in other forms.

Video clip interview:

Algy Williams, CEO, Every1Mobile on its African mobile social networks, the most popular of which is SmartSex

Video briefings on:
New this week:
New content for mobile phones:
Kenyan writer Binyavanga Wainana plans to set up a digital publishing house to sell cheap African pulp fiction

Kenyan booking portal set to expand across Africa and in the Middle East:
Johann Jenson, on how this accommodation portal works and its expansion plans

More successful bloggers are now attracting advertising:
Kennedy Kachwanya on the size of the Kenyan blogosphere and what people are writing about

Think before you launch an app – User-based research essential:
Mark Kamau, UX Lab on how research with users can overcome barriers to mobile apps adoption

Citizen Journalism:
Santos Okottah, Eziki on its citizen journalism app Reporta that's also being used for weddings

TV White Spaces Briefing from Dakar event sponsored by Google and Microsoft:
Paul Mitchell explains Microsoft's TV White Spaces pilots and why it thinks TVWS is important

Kai Wulff on Google's TV White Spaces pilots and why they are important for developing countries

Africa’s Tech Incubators:
Karim Sy on the innovative projects Jokko Labs supports and the expansion of its network

Africa’s first accelerator 88mph:
Nikolai Barnwell - How Africa's first accelerator 88mph will to help create local content & services

Viewing and talking about football in Africa:
Football, TV viewers and social media:
Gary Rathbone, Founder Sports News Africa (formerly Head of Supersports) on African TV sports watching habits and the rise of the tablet as first screen

Premier League football agent Ayo Alli on the launch of his football social network site Gbamm!

Computer gaming in Kenya:
Wesley Kirinya, Leti Games on its new games and comic series based on African myths and legends

Nathan Masyuko on the launch of Kenya's first computer games league

New mobile online music platforms:
Gustav Ericsson on Mdundo's ambition to become the iTunes of Africa

A new online content platform on Intel’s Yolo phone:
Tim Rimbui, Innovative Music on the launch of online music and audio-books platform in K