The name Linda Ikeji strikes fear into many a Nigerian celebrity. They’re often petrified their secrets are about be revealed in the powerful one-woman gossip machine that has dominated online media in Nigeria for the last decade.
Ikeji’s legend has been established not just by her canny ability to uncover scurrilous news about the rich and famous, but also because she’s unabashedly shared how financially successful she’s become from blogging, still a nascent platform in Nigeria and an inspiration to many of Nigeria’s teeming youth.
Now Ikeji, 36, is establishing her own blogging and social network platform at Linda Ikeji Social with the promise to share some of the advertising revenue with everyday users of her platform. ”Every day, millions of people are on social media,” Ikeji says. “Most of us are there for the great experience but imagine a place where you can get all of that experience and excitement and still make some cool cash?” She started her blog in 2007 using Google’s free Blogger platform and over much of the past decade, it has become one of the country’s most visited websites, earning her millions of naira in ad revenues.
Linda Ikeji Social, is a lot like Facebook, but with a twist. In addition to developing a network of followers, users will be able to access a steady stream of content from the already popular Linda Ikeji blog on their home pages. “It’s a place where people can connect with friends, chat, post whatever they want, share memories and get the latest news,” she says. “It’s a combination of Facebook and the Linda Ikeji blog.”
Users with a large following will earn 20% of revenue from advertising placed on their profile and business pages. “There’s a lot of money from advertising on social media, a lot of brands put money on popular online platforms and we want to share some of the money we make on this platform with our users,” she says. Even though her blog will continue publishing stories daily on the social network’s news feeds, Ikeji is also looking to stir user generated content by also offering payment (around $3) for “exclusive, authentic” and “original” stories. Put another way, users can run mini-blogs on the social network and get paid for publishing content. That’s not all: Linda Ikeji Social also has a classifieds section, offering users deals and discounts.
For Ikeji, the big goal is likely to develop a pot of digital advertising gold in a still undeveloped online ad market and take advantage of Nigeria’s growing internet usage numbers and dropping internet access costs. While the digital advertising spend of local brands still pales in comparison to advertising on traditional media, should Ikeji grow a significant user base, she will become an important platform for advertisers, as her blog has been.
Ikeji’s ride to internet stardom and wealth has not been without bumps. Celebrities have often accused her of fabricating stories and she’s had skirmishes over copyright and her right to use some content and pictures. In 2014, her blog was temporarily shut down by Google over claims of plagiarism and unauthorized use of images.