1one4.com went LIVE on the 1st of March, 2012. No fun fare, no proper launch, just by sheer grit and determination of a lady who felt something was missing in a society of around 80 Million Muslims. This was after 3 years of writing and re-writing the business plans, holding consultations, meetings and talking to everyone I was about starting a Muslim magazine that spoke to today's youths. What started as a planned print magazine becomes a veritable web platform for Muslims from around the world. We have visitors from far flung places as India, South Africa, and Australia. Alhamdulillah.
For five solid years, we sat down for countless editorial meetings, strategised, re-strategise, changed focus, tone and tried to stay relevant and on the course and learned an awful lot than we ever imagined. I must say the learning curve has been steep and for the fact that we started with hardly any media exposure or experience, it has been daunting and blissful in equal measures. We have stayed in our lane and remain thankful that societal forces have not made us deviate from this jihad we faithfully embarked on.
I am going to highlight 10 things I have learnt blogging and running a website for 5 years with the hope that it helps someone out there. I am going to be brutally honest with this piece, so as to lay it out for all it's worth. It may sound a tad bit condescending, but I will not sugar coat as this is not a feel-good article in any way. I have definitely learnt what is not taught in any school and this would better be shared.
1. Nigerian Muslims Don't Write and More Don't Read - When we started out, I contacted every Muslim I knew could string words together to contribute to a Nigerian Muslim magazine which later metamorphosed to 1one4.com. I became a thorn in my friends' flesh, anytime they saw me; they would ask me not to ask them if they knew any good writer. They were tired of my constant demand for any good Muslim writer out there; some even started avoiding me because apparently all I spoke about was nothing except writers, columnists, and contributors. That was all I needed and asked to the highest heavens. I only got one consistent writer, a Nigerian Muslim lady based in the USA. She was consistent in the beginning and wrote 8 or so laudable pieces before running out of steam. I never got a consistent Nigerian based writer who wrote clear, fluid prose on topical issues as it affects us here in Nigeria and from an Islamic perspective. When I got, they wanted to write on partisan politics, sports, entertainment and at most hijab. There is so much more to life and Islam and these writers were NEVER consistent. It has meant more pressure on myself and learning to curate and aggregate content from various sources as opposed to seeking only original content. Our reading habit is also abysmal and poor. Attention span is between 2 to 5 minutes per article, so we have to be as short and precise as possible. I have learnt to give people what they want without really compromising on standards.
2. The Economic Power of Nigerian Muslims is Quite Low - Within two years of starting out 1one4.com, we figured there was need to earn much needed money to stay afloat. Getting advertisements and collaborations were difficult, in fact impossible. Nigerian Muslims businesses were limited in funding and did not have any marketing budget; they relied strictly on word of mouth. They would call in, make all the inquiries and 99.9% never got back. The blog had to continue one way or the other. We were convinced there was need for it and was resolute that we had to keep enlightening people in the best possible way we could. We then started selling Islamic merchandise, but sales have been slow, sometimes grinding to a total halt. People want what we do, but at little or nothing. It has been grossly difficult, but Allah (SWT) has been with us all along and we have been consistent for 5 solid years with improvement on our website to meet up with today's needs.
3. 1one4.com is not a Charity - As I mentioned earlier, when we started out, I wrote a standard business plan. Emphasis on business. A lot of people call in asking for help for their business, family, medicals and so on. While we love to offer help and contribute to Muslims in need, we are a new media company not a charitable organisation. We hope to build a decent community going forward. I think people believe there is a sponsor and we must be rich doing something like this in Nigeria of today. No, our ultimate sponsor is Allah; there is no big man anywhere. We do not even encourage such largesse from anyone except we know the source of the wealth. We do advertisements and sponsored posts when we get. The best we can do is to put a post up for our readers to then offer help, but we do not have handouts to anyone. May Allah (SWT) help us all in our time of need.
4. Ratings - There was a period that all I checked was our ranking, readership and all available analytics, every hour of every day. I have since learnt and accepted that gossip, entertainment, fashion, wedding, sport and political blogs will always be ahead of us in ratings. People do not really want to dwell in religion, the hereafter, Qur’an all day, except during Ramadan. So basically, the best things are only for a few people. While multitudes are on gossip blogs, a few are consuming what would affect their life here and hereafter positively. Only a very significant few understand this and it is okay.
5. Online and Offline Phenomenon - No matter what we do online, no matter how popular a blog or website is, no matter the followership, there is still need for offline evangelism for maximum impact. We are still mostly offline people in Nigeria and some still ask for the print version of 1one4. Something to touch and feel. I do not believe we need one. Blogging is about creating content, aggregating content, building a brand and a community which we have tried to do albeit slowly. I do not think there is any need for a print version in this day and age. We will try and organise a meet and greet and most probably something for the sisters to come together. There are several events planned out, we will see the one that best suits the brand and invite all when the time comes.
6. Grind, Grind and More Grind - Blogging is hard. There is a daily grind involved and one can burn out easily. You need to have your journalistic antennae up ALL the time. There is a need for constant mental alertness to everything around you. You source, write, edit, promote posts, design graphics, cut and trim pictures, keep tabs on software to make your work easier and of course keep an eye on basic analytics to keep your website or blog running. You have to read your eyes almost blind, constantly process new information, check for appropriateness and the Islamic injunction. 1one4 was a one-woman juggernaut until I started growing grey hair rapidly, then I had to source for people with a similar mindset to help out. It is hard, tedious work, even the brain cells feels it.
7. Clicks and Coins - When we started out, we had a 5 point agenda to chiefly promote Islam as a religion and preach peaceful coexistence. We had so many people tell us that our concern should be making money and to do that we had to break news, sensationalise articles, do some politics and light gossip. The emphasis was on getting clicks and much-needed coins in the bank. Yes, it costs an arm and a leg running businesses in Nigeria, even a simple website needs domain registration and renewal, website development and maintenance, paying for content, high-speed internet access, rent, office maintenance, keeping the lights on and so much more. The bill is huge and doesn't get better. We have stuck to our guns in promoting Islam with our genuine desire to share and add real value and nothing more. We have watched a lot of news and gossip blogs come and go. What I have learnt is that trading with Allah (SWT) will always bring gains in the long run.
8. The Judges Among Us - People can be very judgmental. We promised to write about anything under the sun from an Islamic perspective and I believe we have largely delivered on that. Some people do not see any good in what we do. We post nikah pictures, they complain about dressing; we post on wars and Islamic issues, they call in to complain that we should promote positivity and leave the mainstream media with the negativity; we post on Islamic music, they call in and lambast us. Everything we post is offensive to some. We give them the opportunity to write a rejoinder, and they take forever if they write at all. I have learnt that life is not that hard. Live a little, laugh a little and enjoy the ride. And if you do not enjoy what we do, start your own blog and do it right.
9. Sex and Pornography - The most clicks, views and comments on 1one4 are on posts that has something to do with sex, pornography, fashion, wedding and marriage. I'm wondering why this is and what I can learn from this. Hmmm...
10. Cheers - As we celebrate our 5 year anniversary today, here is to another 5, 10 and 50 years of 1one4.com. We are positioning the blog to be able to run seamlessly in case anything happens to anyone. I hope this venture gets bigger, better, more impactful and outlives us all. There are giveaways to celebrate this milestone. To qualify for the giveaway and a cash gift, you are to list 2 things you have gained reading 1one4.com and 2 areas you think we can do better in. The answer with the highest vote gets the gift and cash. All other answers adjudged good also get gifts. Jazakhalah khyran for the last 5 years and I wish you all Allah's Rahman always. CHEERS!
Salam Alaikum Waramatuhi Wabarakatu.