You might not have heard of the name Wande Thomas. But for most of the last decade, his work as a serial audio content producer and creative was instrumental in building the coterie of hit podcasts millennials and gen-zers obsess over these days on social media.
As a young cub at the production company Midas Radio in 2017, Wande Thomas oversaw the production of some of the shows that have claimed the top 10 spots on Apple Podcasts and Spotify over the year, including; I Said What I Said, Doctor’s Orders, We Just Got Back etc.
“We were very early in the space. We had about ten podcasts,” Wande Thomas said of his days of humble beginnings. “I was producer. I was engineer. We spread ourselves too thin.” But things were irregular. production was not calculated. months went by without a new episode release.
“A lot of us were at the beginning of our careers and podcast penetration was not really deep. It’s still not as deep as it could be right now. But back then, it was in its infancy. So you can imagine? A lot of people were not necessarily regular because we couldn’t see the full potential of what we were doing,” he said.
But now Wande Thomas sees the full potential. He has launched his media company Urbangidi, under which he houses the podcast network Madeaux Africa which he launched in 2021. Already shows from the company–Menism, Peeker, Lowkey Relatable– are already making waves.
“It’s basically a content slash podcast network. Not only do we do podcats we have visual content as well,” he said of Madeaux. Over the years, he has learnt some lessons and brought them to his company.
. “That’s one of the things I wanted to make sure we did when we started our podcasts, and it’s still the reason we don’t have like ten of 15 podcasts,” he said
But Madeaux’s content though successful, is catering to the same millennial/gen-z audience with a low attention span that many podcasts pursue as their audience, leaving gen-x with a longer attention span starved of premium digital content catering specifically to them on the continent.
“Our audience is primarily in that range; millennial/gen-z. To be honest, we try to make sure we have them catered for first before we kind of spread. A lot of us have great ideas but we kind of rush to zero because of the excitement of the fear of missing out. We push ourselves and not execute flawlessly.” he said.
Wande Thomas said that what has made Madeaux Africa’s content stand out in a sea of similar content, promising vulnerable, honest conversations, is that the conversations are actually vulnerable and honest.
“With our two flagship podcasts, Menisms and Lowkey Relatable, in terms of finding talent, that’s something that we took our time with,” he said.
“The idea for Menisms started a couple of years ago. But we didn’t start till February last year. How we found it was by locating those people that we feel are entertaining, have a bit of an audience, even if not a lot. But also, people who are willing, to be honest, and vulnerable. That’s the key for most of these podcasts. There are a lot of people that want to connect to something deeper and not cookie-cutter media.”
He adds that the vulnerability is instrumental to why their content has done so well since its launch.
As the podcast industry has grown over time, revenue remains a problem for companies entering the space. Podcasts like I Said What I Said have taken to hosting live shows in Lagos and Abuja to sustain production, despite being the most downloaded in Nigeria.
Madeaux held an event in December, but Wande Thomas said he doesn’t see events as a top revenue-generating source for the company.
“Events are a good revenue line, a good outreach, a good place to build your base. I don’t look at it as a top revenue source yet. I think it’s possible but that’s like hustling backwards, in the sense that, how many live podcasts events could you do? Compared to the revenue that will be generated from content that you spend two hours recording? The logistic is quite complex. It will be tough breaking even as well.” he said.
But he is considering it and exploring other options to make money for the network, including secondary distribution with satellite TV channels. Other podcasts like Off Air with Gbemi and Toolz have gone on to air on Africa Magic and its streaming platform Showmax.
Wande Thomas believes there might be some money to be made licensing their content on such platforms.
“I think that there are other revenue streams that can be capitalised upon, one of which is basically secondary distribution. We have one of our podcats being picked up by a satellite TV channel for secondary distribution. These are revenue generation sources that we look upon. There is also product placement and other methods that we look to explore.” Wande Thomas said.
There are barely any venture capital firms catering to media startups in Nigeria. The little venture firms coming into the market are laser-focused on tech companies. Media startups like Stears, a blog that writes news analyses which recently raised 3.3 million dollars, presented itself as a data and intelligence company.
Wande Thomas said that venture funding could create opportunities for startups like his to thrive and grow.
“Nigerians are hungry for a different type of content. However, the risk-to-reward ratio is so high. And because a lot of media companies are literary squeezing budgets, they’ll rather go the safer route than experiment.Wande Thomas
And with Madeaux, we tried to put some experimental content on our platform. But it will speed our effort if we have the right partners regarding VC funding,” he said.
“Having VC funding will help focus our efforts in making sure we are building the most fun content for a period of time consistently, and not just hyper-focus on how to pay salaries this month and next month,” he added.
But there are still problems with generating income from a media product, enough to make investors happy about their investment. How will a media startup like Madeaux do that?
“The path to profitability is not far from traditional methods. It’s just that now we have a lot more options. The path is in the audience. Eyeballs will always be valuable. If you can produce high-quality highly entertaining content consistently for a period of time, the audience will reward you, especially if it’s something that they enjoy.” he said.
Wande Thomas said he is not only in the game for the YouTube content that has given him critical acclaim. He said that with Madeaux, and the parent company Urbangidi, he has big dreams of playing in multiple media spaces.
“I look at Madeaux as one piece of the puzzle. With the company as a whole, Urbangiodi, I can’t shake off the idea of us being like an African Disney where we are operating in several media spaces. And we’re able to dominate in podcasts, TV shows, and different pieces of content. The way technology and the media space is, it does not all have to be centralised. You can experience Madeaux in different formats.”
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