The proliferation of podcasts in Nigeria has given rise to a new class of luminaries, who position themselves as promoters of Nigerian popular culture. ‘Podcastars’ are building formidable personal brands and social capital through the podcasts they host—but how far can they go?
From its modest beginnings in the early 2010s, the Nigerian podcasting subculture has evolved tremendously. What began as an obscure medium with few early adopters has today become one of the mainstream formats for storytelling, news, and entertainment in Nigeria. It is not an overstatement to say that podcasting is reshaping the Nigeria’s cultural and societal landscape.
During its infancy in the early 2010s, podcasts as a broadcast medium were relatively unknown. This was due in part to limited internet access and the continued dominance of the FM radio. Many of the podcasters were tech-savvy individuals who were already active in global online communities and were familiar with digital content creation. Others were bloggers and journalists looking for new ways to distribute their content.
In previous years, these individuals might have considered seeking jobs in traditional broadcasting, or may have decided to set up their own radio station altogether. However, the difficulty involved in getting a radio operating license as well as the rising costs of purchasing and shipping broadcasting equipment to Nigeria led many to reconsider. In addition to this, Nigerian radio stations were (and continue to be) subject to politically motivated bans and censorship from the Nigerian Broadcasting Commission.
Though podcasting pioneers saw the medium as a way to expand their reach beyond traditional media outlets and reach a more global audience, it was still a risky venture. The concept of streaming audio content on demand was relatively foreign, and many Nigerians were neither familiar with the technology nor the term ‘podcasting’.
Many of those who did it anyway had to endure abysmal production quality, as the technology and expertise needed for crisp recording and post-production was not readily available. Immanuel Anosike, who could be considered as one of the very few pioneers of podcasting in Nigeria and the host of The Class Prefects recalled the time when he and his friends started the podcast in an interview with The Republic; ‘If you were to listen to our old episodes,’ he said, ‘you’d literally hear the fridge humming in the background. We just had a basic microphone, my laptop, we used to sit on the floor and just talk.’
Despite these challenges, a small community of Nigerian podcasters began to emerge. As more Nigerians began to use smartphones and other mobile devices to access the internet, they also began to discover and consume a broader range of new media offerings, including podcasts. Today, listeners have access to over 2.9 million podcast titles though Spotify. This trend will only intensify with the increasing availability of high-speed internet and the proliferation of smartphones. According to a report by Statista, Nigeria had nearly 84 million internet users as of 2022, and this figure is projected to grow to 117 million internet users by 2027. The market potential for podcasts is clearly expanding.
SOCIAL REVOLUTIONS AND POLITICS
One test of the efficacy of a media platform is how much effect it has on people, culture and society. Within this context, podcasts are easily one of the most influential platforms in Nigeria’s media ecosystem today.
Podcasts have offered Nigerians an avenue to express their personal narratives and experiences in ways that were not previously possible. Creators can now build an audience while speaking their truth—no matter how taboo or controversial. Through podcasts, marginalized communities have been given a voice, and critical discussions around pertinent social issues have been ignited. For instance, Nigeria’s criminalization of same-sex sexual activity has resulted in increased discrimination and violence against the LGBTQ+ community, fuelled by religious fundamentalism and conservative cultural values. Podcasts such as No Strings Podcast, Queer Talk With Nini, and Queer City are working to promote positive discussions around LGBTQ+ issues in Nigeria by documenting queer narratives, dispelling negative stereotypes and raising awareness and understanding of and about queer people. These platforms are challenging commonly held misconceptions about the LGBTQ+ community and providing a safe space for queer individuals in Nigeria.
Similarly, the ‘Body Positivity’ episode of The Honest Bunch podcast illustrates how podcasts have been used to spark critical conversations around taboo social issues. A particularly controversial portion of the conversation set virtual social spaces alight, and helped facilitate engagement between doctors, sexual health professionals and the public. The trend of openly discussing one’s sexuality is undoubtedly influenced by younger generations and the internet, and catalyzed by the uptake in podcasting culture. A few years ago, it would be unthinkable to have such revelatory and intimate discussions on a mainstream media platform. Today, it is commonplace.
By sharing personal stories and experiences, podcast hosts are creating virtual communities where people not only feel empowered to challenge stigmas concerning their own opinions and experiences, but are exposed to fringe topics that expand their worldview. As more Nigerians adopt podcasting, it is anticipated that this medium will continue to play a vital role in shaping Nigerian culture, advancing inclusivity, and promoting social change.
The development of a podcasting culture amongst Nigerians has also created an avenue to encourage deeper youth participation in politics. Today, many podcasts address socio-political issues such as corruption, human rights, and governance—while demanding transparency and responsibility from Nigerian leaders. The 4th Republic Podcast by Culture Custodian, for instance, has helped raise the collective levels of political awareness within their target audience by producing episodes on Nigerian history and interviewing key political actors and thought leaders. During the recently concluded Lagos Gubernatorial election, Gbadebo Rhodes-Vivour, the candidate of Labour Party, made appearances on several noteworthy podcasts, including I Said What I Said and Menisms. The fact that podcast appearances were a campaign priority for the flag bearer of a leading political party signal just how important such platforms have become. In future elections, doing ‘podcast rounds’ to connect with the voting public may be considered just as important as television appearances and social media engagement.
EXPORTING THE CULTURE
As Nigerians continue to emigrate in large droves, our culture continues to be exported to the far reaches of the world. Consequently, there has been a surge in the number of podcasts hosted by Nigerians abroad—propelled by the popularity of podcasting in these regions. These Nigerians in diaspora have done a lot to promote Nigerian culture abroad. Given the diverse audiences that these podcasts reach, they are effective as tools for building soft power. A notable example of such a podcast is The Receipts Podcast, hosted by Tolani Shoneye, Audrey Indome, and Milena Sanchez. The unique blend of their different experiences has made it one of the most hilarious female-lead podcasts in the UK. Other noteworthy mentions include 3 Shots of Tequila (hosted by Marvin Abbey, Keith Dube and Tazer Black), 90’s Baby Show (hosted by Fred Santana and Temi ‘Alchemy’ Oladimeji) and Rhymeshe (hosted by Teeyana Aromi, Cee Valentina and Ray Sang). These individuals and their platforms have played a significant role, directly and indirectly, in promoting Nigerian pop-culture across various parts of the world.
Anosike concurs with the notion of podcasts as a culture-driver. In his words, ‘Tradition, stories and tales are passed down through generations by oral narration. Oral storytelling is the backbone of culture within African societies. Podcasting is just a modern continuation of a traditional practice.’
MONETIZATION, SPONSORSHIPS AND THE RISE OF ‘PODCASTARS’
It is worth acknowledging that the proliferation of podcasts in Nigeria has given rise to a new class of luminaries, who position themselves as promoters of Nigerian popular culture. These ‘podcastars’—such as Adesope Olajide of The Afrobeats Podcast; Joey Akan of Afrobeats Intelligence; Teymisan Emmanuel of Tea With Tey; Michael Muyiwa of Menisms; and Feyikemi Abudu and Jola Ayeye of I Said What I Said—have built formidable personal brands and social capital through the podcasts they host. Nigeria, with its young, diverse and tech-savvy urban population, is positioned to become a major player in the global podcasting ecosystem shortly.
Thanks to the rising popularity of ‘podcastars’ and the growth of the industry in general, many young Nigerians now harbour dreams of starting their own podcasts. The introduction of podcast agencies like Eggcorn Digital, Visual Audio Times and Midas Radio has also made sponsorship and monetization of podcasts more accessible. But according to Ayo Lawal, former head of content at Eggcorn Digital assets, it is not easy to get rich off a podcast. Lawal shared that an agency will only take on a new podcast, if it is ‘original and different from what they already have on their network.’ He explained that unlike an artist putting out new music and racking up income through streams with little to no promotion, the only way podcasts generate earnings is through advertisement. ‘With podcasting, even if you gathered hundreds of millions of streams, you’re not getting paid; it doesn’t convert to physical cash. You’re going to need to use those numbers as a tool to generate revenue.’
Ironically, though many upstart podcasters focus too much on the money, others pay too little attention to it early in their journey—for a number of reasons. For some, it is because they are eager to simply get their message out to their audience. For others, it has to do with the structure of their podcast, the use of profanity or the niche within which it dwells. Whatever the case, their inability to optimize for potential for revenue makes it harder to seek out sponsorship later on. Anosike of The Class Prefects podcast, shares this sentiment. His intention with his podcast at inception was simply to ‘reach and touch a diverse but like-minded set of Nigerians’. Now, with over a thousand minutes in episodes recorded, he admits feeling disappointed that he failed to leverage the positive feedback and momentum he built over the years towards some form of financial pay out. Now, he is looking for new monetization opportunities. ‘We are trying to leverage all the things we have done, because I feel like there is still a space we fill that hasn’t been occupied yet by the Nigerian podcast community.’
TMT Goodman, one of the three hosts of Submarine and a Roach never really thought about earning from podcasting in the first three years. He recalled,
It was mostly a way for three friends to be vulnerable while making each other laugh. Then we realized we were connecting with a lot of people. Then we all got full time jobs and it became harder to record. At some point in 2021 we decided to be super disciplined with not just recording but content creation around the podcast and after a couple of months we started getting offers from brands.
Ayo Lawal provided more context on the options available to those who wish to monetize their podcast platforms. ‘You could get an endorsement deal in the sense that a brand, for example, is your official drink sponsor. If you have visuals that accompany your podcast, you could have their drinks on your table. That’s one way of promotion. Another way this could be done is through advert placement, which also has various formats and structures.’
Podcast agencies function similarly to record labels in that they handle the majority of the workload. Without the support of an agency, podcasters must manage everything from ideation and scripting to equipment, recording, production, and marketing. By assuming responsibility for these tasks, the agency frees up hosts to simply arrive at the studio and record. This arrangement allows podcasters to launch with a level of quality that might be difficult to achieve on their own. However, Lawal argues that starting independently can give hosts more negotiating power with sponsors and agencies down the line. ‘Personally, I’ll advise new podcasters to start on their own because when you do that, it gives you leverage with the production company,’ he said. The disadvantage is that preparing a podcast for consumption independently can be overwhelming as there are numerous moving parts to consider. This is a common reason why many podcasts never make it beyond the planning stage.
Kehinde Fagbule is a Nigerian lifestyle and culture writer whose podcast, Here’s What I Think, couldn’t make it past the second episode. Fagbule told me that not having the proper resources and adequate funding played a crucial role in his podcast never making it past the starting blocks. He added, ‘For any individual looking to make a living from podcasting, there must be a financial plan for things like top quality equipment, skilled personnel to help with the technical side of things and sufficient marketing to get people to listen.’
Because the podcast industry is still in its early stages in Nigeria, those seeking to pursue a full-time podcasting career should be prepared to invest a significant amount of money. Typically, it takes around three years before a podcast can generate any revenue independently. Joey Akan recently revealed that he spent over N12 million to run his podcast in 2022, and only managed to generate N1 million in revenue. I asked him why it costs so much to start and run a podcast. He said that renting or purchasing high-end recording equipment was a significant factor. According to Akan,
We’re talking about the RODECaster Pro, good microphones with condensers and so on. After that, you begin to talk about transportation and venue costs. If there’s a video element to your podcast, then you also need to pay for other things like lighting and support staff. You’re spending close to N400,000 – N500,000 per episode.
Given the nascence of the Afrobeats Intelligence podcast when it first launched in 2022, one would reasonably anticipate that a portion of those funds would have been allocated towards promotional activities. However, according to Akan, this was not the case:
I didn’t bother with putting any money in promotion. Instead, I trusted the quality of my work. I’ve gained more from focusing all my money on editorial prowess, making sure I have the best stories coming out from this market. Peer-to-peer recommendations as a result of quality work is the most effective kind of promotion.
Spotify recently established the African Podcast Fund, which aims to support and advance the careers of podcast creators through financial grants, workshops, and networking opportunities. The fund, which totals $100,000, has been awarded to 13 African podcast creators, including Feyikemi Abudu and Jola Ayeye of I Said What I Said, Taymesan Emmanuel of Tea With Tay and Feyikemi Akin-Bankole and Simi Badiru, the hosts of F&S Uncensored. The establishment of more funds like this will broaden and deepen growth prospects for the Nigerian podcast industry.
CATALYZING CONVERSATIONS, INFLUENCING THE CULTURE
Podcasts have emerged as a transformative medium, fundamentally changing the way we create and consume content in Nigeria. In addition to that, an entire industry has been established from podcasting, with the promise of diverse employment prospects. It is undeniable that podcasts have given many Nigerians the platforms (and in some cases, the social and financial capital) to challenge the status-quo and facilitate enlightening conversations. However, the jury is still out as to the lasting effects of podcasts on cultural norms in Nigeria. Lawal says, ‘Honestly, I haven’t seen that podcast that has led to societal change yet. In the entertainment culture maybe, but in the grand scheme of things it’s still very small.’ Akan shares the same sentiment: ‘On its own podcasting hasn’t done anything for pop-culture.’
These assertions notwithstanding, it is difficult to deny that relative to the age and size of the podcasting industry within the Nigerian media ecosystem, podcasts have left an indelible impact on the lives and outlook of young Nigerians. The industry is evolving and will continue to gather steam in the coming years, but we can all be very proud of the progress thus far⎈
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