Digital platform boosts African content

No-one has ever said that Africa is short of potential creative talent – in music, film and writing – but until recently it has lacked the channels through which newcomers can project what they do.

Bozza’s digital platform aims to take talent from the slum or township and allow it to connect with potential audiences. Russell Southwood talked to Emma Kaye about how she sees Bozza developing.

Late last year Bozza closed its second round of funding with investment from Omidyar, Hasso Plattner Ventures Africa and an individually wealthy investor. For Emma Kaye, the company’s CEO this provided the runway to start exploring the business models and to “build out the business.”

Kaye is quite clear that she is not going to be one of now very numerous content platforms that have exploded on the continent with the arrival of better bandwidth. “Nearly all these content platforms are working with the top layer of celebrities who are already famous.”

“Bozza is about enabling individuals in the creative industries to have a voice. But content is about the talent and Bozza will be digging down deep into that to create new talent. It’s about breaking the glass ceiling that exists for township or slum talent”.

“They can play to local audiences but usually never get beyond that. Bozza allows them to self-publish and bring audiences to themselves and with them to the platform. It can be the township audiences and those from the diaspora together. Record labels, brands and handset vendors are all interested in local content of this kind.”

But despite having got a considerable repository of self-generated local content and people potentially interested in it, Bozza has been grappling with how it can best make a business model out of these assets.

“If you’re dependent on mobile payment, you need high volumes and that’s unlikely to happen with unknown artists. If you look to advertising, mobile advertising is quite challenging and banner ads are not yet successful.”

So Bozza has gone into the market with its third version of its platforms and is now focused on three ways to monetize:

  • It will operate a similar fremium model to LinkedIn. This means it will offer things like local music talent opportunities like local gigs and events and local writers opportunities to write copy for ad agencies. It will be the classic “pay per seat” and commission model.
  • It will attract sponsorship and advertising from brands who want access to the fledgling artists’ audiences and it will see whether it is possible to scale this as the artist’s audience size grows.
  • It will syndicate content from the platform to operators and handset manufacturers, offering rich, dynamic and new content.

Bozza’s current reach is mainly South Africa, Nigeria and Kenya but also from across the continent and with a peppering of users from Europe. The platform is available on Android, Blackberry, Java and Nokia Express. The platform has grown steadily and reached 300,000 users without marketing so far.

In the first phase of its growth, Bozza focused on building up access to a pool of local talent:”There’s now a lot of new talent coming to us but in the beginning we had to do a lot of ground work with talent scouting and talking to local community leaders and radio stations. But we now have built a critical mass of this talent.”

In making its Pan-African expansion, it has worked with local partners who have got a strong understanding of things like poetry, music and video and know how to get new talent to market. They have sought to find quality over quantity so that the platform becomes trusted as a reliable place to go for quality, new content.

It has already taken several artists from having a mentor to getting their first big gig. The most striking example is South Africa’s Gee Mara Tee got his own studio set-up and recorded several other artists through working with Bozza.

The Internet has the capacity to do two things to the process of letting talent rise to the top.

Firstly, it accelerates the difficult process of building audiences, allowing both local and international audiences to build at the same time.

Secondly, if an audience exists that has trust in those who curate the platform, then it allows the talent a much higher profile than they could hope to achieve by themselves.

By Balancing Act

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Digital platform boosts African content