You can’t believe that I am starting this article by mentioning a Zimbabwean musician called Hosiah Chipanga but yeah that’s what I am doing right now.
Chipanga is an interesting character who stunned the nation by declaring his intention to contest for a parliamentary seat in the recently ended harmonised elections.
Hosiah’s lyrics are even more interesting. He is a social commentator, a lateral thinker with a weird sense of humour. An example is a song he proposes that black Zimbabweans are poor and ‘missing God’s blessings’ because they pray in English such that God thinks it’s a white person praying and he pours more blessings onto the white community.
What does Chipanga have to do with Techzim business models?
He has a song called ‘Vatsigiri vangu’ which means ‘My fans.’ In the song he accuses his fans of paying lip service to him. He says his fans say they love him and his music but won’t buy the music and so in effect wish him poverty. Sometimes it feels like that when it comes to online publishing. It feels like that with Techzim. I hope I am not offending you our readers….
Almost two years ago we announced that we were changing business models or maybe not change but to commit to the business model we already had: advertising. That was going to mean that we would place less emphasis on the reader and focus on the advertiser as our customer. We reversed this decision in no time at all because it wasn’t in the spirit of Techzim.
Our community is king
The focus on advertiser decision was wrong because that is not what Techzim is. It came from a position of frustration not from a position of conviction. Our conviction is community. We believe in the promise of technology especially the internet. We are driven to share the opportunity of the internet for individuals and businesses in our part of the world.
That can only happen when there is trust between ourselves and our readers and when we create useful and relevant content that not only interprets what’s going on but also has application in everyday life. Sometimes doing that means we don’t always agree with would be advertisers. When that happens, our choice is simple: we choose our readers.
This doesn’t mean we just antagonise businesses for the sake of it. Actually, no. We like good news more than bad news and we are committed to give benefit of the doubt to bad news. However, sometimes our advertising clients believe that advertising with us should make us their mouthpiece. Unfortunately, we don’t see it that way.
Last year I wrote all our advertising clients and I started by saying, “You are not our customer and that’s a good thing.” What I explained was that if Techzim’s focus is its community then the value of advertising to that community is increased. We thus give more to our advertisers when we focus on them less and concentrate on our community.
There’s still a challenge with advertising
By and large, Techzim’s advertisers now understand our position and we have a good relationship with all of them. There is still a challenge with advertising as a business model for us though. Scaling it is not so easy. We don’t want ads to dominate the user experience. When we redesigned the site, we significantly cut the number of ad units.
The way to grow then is increasing the price per ad. The Zim reality then comes knocking. Not so many companies can afford that. We were thus left with the question of how to derive value directly from our growing community.
Fulfill a need, the basics of business
We are getting value from our community of readers more directly in two ways. First: we have always had readers who demand more indepth content or very specific answers to equally specific questions. Such content is expensive to produce both in time and money terms. We are thus selling that content directly. If you have been paying attention you should have come across a few reports that we did and are selling for $4.99 each.
The second thing we are doing is to connect our community with products and to allow them to buy directly on our platforms. One of the challenges we noted when we experimented with e-commerce before is that trust is a very important aspect to it. Over the years, people’s fingers have been burnt and now they are wary of buying stuff online. This is a problem we can solve and we are solving it!
We sign up merchants who we can trust and when you buy on our platforms the merchant doesn’t get paid until you receive your goods and you have confirmed that they are what was promised. Delivery is our responsibility too. This is exciting to us because we now don’t get to just write about stuff, we give you access to it and we are using tech to do it. You and us are geeks for sure now.
It has been there all along
One of the biggest motivations to go this route is that over the years we have received calls, emails, WhatsApp messages almost every other day people asking us how much we were selling product x, y or z. Stupidly our answer was always, “Sorry, we do not sell any such products, we just write about them…”
How lame is that? Customers were telling us what they expected all these years and we were adamant in our narrow view of ourselves. Now we listen.
Here’s the Techzim Marketplace. We will be refining it and adding more products as we go. We wish our merchants the best and we wish you our customers a good shopping experience.
PS: Hit us up with any feedback you may have on the direction we are taking and on the marketplace itself including any items you would want to find there.