Tony Doe: Networking Nigeria
Updated: May 31
This week, we're making what might be the longest-distance connection we've ever made for an episode. Tony Doe is a Nigerian Radio and Podcast Consultant who spent years on-air in the past, and remains a podcast staple in Nigeria.
I'm willing to bet most of our audience has never really thought about the podcast and radio scene in Nigeria, but as Tony will tell you, it's certainly different from what we have in North America. Stable, cheap internet is much harder to come by, and as a whole, the country is much more fragmented- both by languages and by the fact that each person likely has multiple SIM cards and phone numbers for different parts of the country.
Tony walks us through the way radio stations have come to handle these challenges, and what it's meant for the development of Nigerian broadcasting as a whole. He explains how he got into radio in the first place, how it's changed over the years, and some new developments rolling in that he thinks could change the landscape of broadcasting in a big way. He also shares some traditional broadcaster wisdom about what it means to be a great radio host, and how to make your show feel "complete."
If you'd like to stay caught up with Tony, the best way is through The Tony Doe Podcast. If you're a fan of Arsenal Football Club, you can also check out his other show, UPGNRS. Or you could just do it the old-fashioned way and follow him on Instagram, Twitter or LinkedIn.
Matt Cundill (Host) 00:00:00
Osato, Iraq Payee. Sound City Radio Abuja! Question for you. Should I have Tony Doe on my podcast?
Yeah, I think you're going to like him. I think he's doing something really solid for podcasting in Nigeria. And he has a really good network across Africa as well. I'm seeing things he's doing with with other African podcasters. I like him. I've never met him actually in person, but I knew him off- He's been on radio for a long time, actually. So it's transitioning really neatly into podcasting as well. He's one of the leading podcast voices in the country.
Matt Cundill (Host) 00:00:32
It also says Radio consultant.
Yeah, he does that as well. He was a presenter for a long time and then he's doing a bit of both. I mean, Nigeria, with the economy right now, you kind of like to put your hands in a lot of pies just to make sure everything's good.
Matt Cundill (Host) 00:00:46
Yeah. He reminds me of me.
The grind is tough, man. It is tough.
Tara Sands (VO) 00:00:52
The Sound Off podcast. The podcast about broadcast with Matt Cundill... starts now.
Matt Cundill (Host) 00:01:02
This week, I speak with Tony Doe. He does a lot of the things I do. He worked in radio for a number of years and does a lot of voiceover work. He consults radio and podcasts, and writes a solid newsletter featuring a lot of the podcast things you might need to know if you wanted to start one. He also has a podcast a lot like this one. For instance, I had Valerie Geller appear on episode 256, and he decided to start his story of radio with Valerie Geller at episode one. This episode is an opportunity to hear about radio in Nigeria. A country, by the way, that downloads this show more than Australia, Ireland and New Zealand, and almost as much as the United Kingdom. Tony Doe joins me from Lagos, Nigeria. So Tony, how did you ever get started in radio?
Tony Doe (Guest) 00:01:49
Let's see, was it by accident or was it intentional? I knew I loved radio from my very young days. I grew up in the early 80s, listening to a lot of local stars on radio and great music. So I think it was always a part of my life. I leave the radio on all night, maybe just turn on the knob on the volume and wake up to radio as well. I guess when the opportunity came, it was more like fate, even if I wasn't sure that was what I wanted at that time. I went into radio in 2004, was volunteering at the state-owned radio station as part of requirements for a Journalism course I was taking. I was trying to get certified as a broadcast journalist, and this was three years after I tried to get certified as a communicator. So I think I even had TV experience before I did radio. But yes, getting into radio for me started in 2004. I was working closely with producers. I spent a lot of time in the studios and then I think my break came when I had to do a PSA read. I was spending time with one of the producers because at the time I liked meddling with digital audio workstations, so I thought I could also be an artist. I was trying to wrap and sing at the same time, so I was a bit familiar with recording audio software. So I was hanging around with the gentleman who was working in there at the time and he was trying to get this particular talent to read the script and they seem to be having issues. And he looked at me, I was like, Why don't you give it a try? And I did, and I think it had the same day, and a few other presenters heard me and they were like, oh, you know what we could do with someone like you on our show. And I think it started from there. And three years down the line, I finally got into radio as sports presenter, and then I became an on air talent in 2007.
Matt Cundill (Host) 00:03:41
But you started out thinking about journalism, so what was it about that field that made you want to go into that? Because being a journalist in Nigeria, it's not the most secure profession.
Tony Doe (Guest) 00:03:52
No, it's not, but it's passion driven, just as radio and TV could be for some people. I like writing a lot, and I used to think I was a better writer than I was a talker, so it just seemed the closest thing for me to chase. And of course, I wasn't going to get involved in the political aspect of deep investigative journalism. I just wanted to be in a space that allowed me to write and express myself. I used to get diaries when I was young. It would seem natural that I feel like journalism would appeal to me.
Matt Cundill (Host) 00:04:25
Tell me a little bit about the first time you heard your voice on the radio. So it would have been after you had recorded that spot. What station was it? Where was it? Do you remember what was in it and how excited were you?
Tony Doe (Guest) 00:04:38
It was a COFM 89.7. There used to be 89.75. They took the five out a few years ago, and I thought it was kind of interesting. I doubted my voice. I didn't think it sounded anything like me at the time. But it was also exciting because it was an aspect of myself that I hadn't really paid attention to. So to have people react and be like, oh, you actually sound like this, you really could be doing this on-air. And I was like, okay, I didn't know this was what my voice could sound like, so it was exciting for me. Yeah, it was.
Matt Cundill (Host) 00:05:13
And I'll roll you back just a little bit to when you are listening to your radio, how much choice did you have when you were listening to the radio in your teen years, how many stations were there?
Tony Doe (Guest) 00:05:24
There were a few, but not too many in the regions I was in. For instance, I was in a boarding school in the 90s in a different state from where I currently live in. I'm in Lagos state. I was in a boarding school in Ogun state, which is about 150, 200 miles away from here. And the major video station in the state was kind of new. I think the station was just coming in at the same time I was getting into boarding school in Abel Katan, so they were kind of new, they were fresh. It was an urban sound, so it was one station in Ogun state at the time. And then when I was coming to Lagos, we had a Radio Lagos, which was on both the Am and FM dials at the time. And so I would switch from AM to FM in the evening, but listening to just one station, I think it later became Metro FM, and then we had radio stations popping up from the mid 90s. We had Ray Power, which had some of the most amazing signals, amazing playlists, amazing presenters, some of them moving from the radio station I used to listen to in Ogun state, which was OGBC Two. Many of the really great talents had migrated from OGBC Two to Ray Power when Ray Power came into Lagos. So they had great stars there. And then we had Rhythm, then we have Cool FM and we have a lot of them now. By the time, I would say between three and four radio stations had my attention when I was listening much earlier in my life.
Matt Cundill (Host) 00:06:52
When you listen to AM radio in Nigeria, and you get to see what you could pull in, what is the radio station that came in from the furthest away that surprised you?
Tony Doe (Guest) 00:07:04
I don't know if it's Radio Luxembourg? There was a radio station from somewhere in Europe, though. They did broadcast in English, but it wasn't from the UK and it was pretty awesome. They had great music, they had great presenters. I can't remember the particular name of the station because for me, a lot of those times it was a quick flip of the dials and then if it wasn't clear, I was moving on to the next thing. But sometimes I would just listen to the music for a while, depending on how the sound waves worked for me at night, and then it would fade off and then I would have to go back to what I was used to in Radio Lagos. But I think there was a station in Europe and I'm not sure of the name, but maybe when I find it, I'll send it to you in a DM.
Matt Cundill (Host) 00:07:45
I'm going to say it was probably Radio Luxembourg, because that thing is powerful and was picked up everywhere. So I'm not surprised that that was your answer.
Tony Doe (Guest) 00:07:53
Okay, well that makes sense then. One of my mentors actually listened to that as well, so. Okay, cool.
Matt Cundill (Host) 00:07:58
You brought it up. Who are your mentors?
Tony Doe (Guest) 00:08:03
I think this is one of the best things that happened to me on the job. I did mention Rhythm as one of my favorite radio stations at the time and I think Rhythm became the main station I actually really paid attention to, especially in the mornings. I was a bit obsessed with the Breakfast Show if I was out at school, I missed that a lot. And so when I came home, I would spend 6:00 to 10:00 A.m. with my radio set. I wouldn't be doing anything because of how much I missed it. There's a gentleman called Femme Showalu. He's retired now, and I used to think his voice was magical, and he used to have mentors of his who he admired the same way. But there was just something rich about the way he talked. It was a richness to his show prep. It was always so complete, and it was just him and a DJ. And the conversations, the segue between the speech bands and the music was always delicious for me, and it wasn't just a presenter talking on their music playing. It was how everything was well meshed and just sounded like this nice seamless flow of conversations and melodies. And I used to be like, well, the day I meet this man, I'm going to worship him and tell him all sorts of things. And then here's the interesting thing. This was like me in the 90s, my teenage years, and then down the line into the second year on the job, 2008, there's going to be a change in management and stuff and he's coming in as one of the consultants to have a look at staffers and then make decisions on who stays and who goes. And I'm working, of course I'm paying attention to work, but I know that this man is around and I'm like, whoa, who would have thought that this sort of situation would happen? And it so happened that I got laid off with some other people, and someone I hadn't had a conversation with, someone who didn't even know I had this amount of respect for had been paying attention to what I was doing on the job. And so he gave a condition that he was then asked later on to take up the position of being the director of radio programs. And he accepted. And among the things he said he was going to do was assign particular roles and expectations to certain radio personalities. And he had my name on the list and he insisted that unless they brought me back to the job, he wasn't going to kick off what he wanted to do. Now, bear in mind that this is somebody I'd always been in awe of. I'd never spoken to him. So it was really interesting to see that he liked what I was doing on radio, even if he didn't know that a lot of it was inspired by what he did. And when I came back and worked with him, it was like the best four years of my life, just being in the same space with him. And usually they say, you know, you shouldn't meet your heroes, that they won't be the sort of people you expect them to be. But he was all that and more. He was very inspiring. He was easy to work with. He was just amazing and it was a full circle moment for me. So, yeah, Femme Showalu was definitely one of the most iconic people I've worked with. And we're still in touch. We talk every now and then and it's just an amazing feeling.
Matt Cundill (Host) 00:11:13
One of the words you use to describe him and his show is that you said the show prep was complete. And now, of course, you're consulting Broadcast Properties. What does it mean to have complete show prep?
Tony Doe (Guest) 00:11:25
For me, it starts with knowing who your audience is and then doing your best to be as authentic as you need to be for that audience. And I follow Valerie Geller's three pointers, which is tell the truth, make it matter, and never be boring. Sometimes I do think that some great on their talents get away with being excellent liars as long as they are entertaining. So, yeah, it's knowing your audience, being authentic to them, and giving them what they need, what they want, without deviating from who you are as a person. This has always been something for me when it comes to being an online talent, on radio, it has to be something you have. There has to be something about you, a quirk, a weirdness, a sense of humor. There's something you're bringing to the job itself besides the voice. So it's being able to have those core characteristics and then creating a schedule or a rundown of how you're going to bring these bits of your person into your show during your different segments. It's about being prepared to give your listener the best experience they can get for that moment that you're right there, being attentive to them in such a way that they're not thinking of going anywhere else. Femme likes to ask questions. He likes to build teasers in such a way that if he was going to take a music break, he was going to leave you hanging with something he was saying. And you know that he's going to complete the statement when he comes back after the music break and you want to be there. So know your language, know how to talk to the people that you're prepared to talk to and give them the best of you while you're doing it.
Matt Cundill (Host) 00:13:08
In just a second, more with Tony about podcasting in Nigeria, where it succeeds and how it can be better. We also talk about what kind of radio is the most successful radio, and what languages are available up and down the dial. By the way, our show now does Value for value. So if you're using one of those newer podcast apps, be sure to send us a boost. But do it only if you're getting value from it. That's how it works, right? And if you have no idea what I'm talking about, it's in the show notes. There's more, including a transcript of this episode, at soundoffpodcast.com.
Sarah Burke (VO) 00:13:44
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Tara Sands (VO) 00:13:44
The Sound Off Podcast.
Matt Cundill (Host) 00:14:00
So when I listen to the radio where you live. How many languages are being broadcast? I know English is very predominant in Nigeria. I see the downloads. There's a lot of English speaking radio stations in Nigeria, but what's the percentage and balance and how many other languages are floating out there?
Tony Doe (Guest) 00:14:16
We have so many languages. We have so many languages. But the core language, of course, you've mentioned is English. But we do have the Yoruba language, we have the Igbo language, we have Hausa, which is even in some cases, more prominent than the other languages. And this being the fact that BBC has a very strong Hausa broadcasting presence in Nigeria. And so a lot of the guys up north in Nigeria have transistor radios that they're attached to, and broadcasters reach them in their languages. But commercially, of course, it has to be English. And then there's pidgin. So it's English pidgin, Yoruba, Hausa, Igbo. And then of course, there are still some other local languages, depending on the regions. You have Durobo in Delta state. For instance, Shakiri still in Delta state. We have Efic in Cross River state. We have Ibibio in Akwa Ibom. But these are smaller scales. And sometimes some of these languages feature as programs on major radio stations that probably have English or Pidgin as their major languages. But the major languages are English pidgin, Igbo, Yoruba and Hausa.
Matt Cundill (Host) 00:15:26
And what is the reach of the BBC in Nigeria? Are they mandated to broadcast everywhere, or are they only in certain locations?
Tony Doe (Guest) 00:15:34
Well, the BBC's reach here is... I think it's limited really to online accessibility, except for partnerships with local radio stations. I think that's where BBC Media action comes in. They have some programs that they partner with local stations, especially state-owned or federal stations, and sometimes some private owned stations to have programs featured on, but otherwise probably available on the AM band and usually in the northern area. But a lot of the content that comes from the BBC is, either through satellite TV or syndicated radio with local stations here.
Matt Cundill (Host) 00:16:13
That is something that I have seen here in Canada, where some stations were licensed to carry CBC programming back in the- I'm not sure that we're continuing that in Canada now, but there might be a few stations that still do that. You also have a great sort of knowledge and idea about radio around the world. What's one of the things that radio in Nigeria does really, really well that the rest of the world should probably pick up on?
Tony Doe (Guest) 00:16:36
I think local and live. It's still something I sort of envy, because one of the things I noticed is we're not really big on the standard formats here. I find that we reinvent how we want to do radio. It's my quarrel, and it's also my admiration for how we do radio here. For instance, more established societies have their formatted stations to cater to particular audiences, like, you have your news talk, you have your sports, you have your music stations. It could be pop, urban and so on. But over here, we find a way to bring everything together and then define our format, maybe by the language or by location. And so it's one of the things I find fascinating that when some people think of building radio stations in Nigeria, they usually go to locations or communities where they want to serve the communities. So we're kind of like a community based nation when it comes to building radio stations, but we also want to commercialize those platforms, so we do it our own way, and then we really don't have a format for it, because I know I've asked many times, what exactly is the format of this radio station? And they're like it's entertainment. It's for everybody. It's news and entertainment. We want to do everything. I'm like, okay, all right, cool. And it works, at least for the successful ones who've been doing it. It's been working. It's amazing.
Matt Cundill (Host) 00:17:58
And along comes podcast. And now, of course, you're knee deep into podcasting as well, and you've started a podcast. Who's the first person you bring on your podcast? Of course, you go right to Valerie Geller. We think this is a very strong move, and we wholly endorse this. Tell me about the reach of podcast in Nigeria.
Tony Doe (Guest) 00:18:16
Yeah. Let me put it this way. We don't have all the numbers yet, but I see us increasing daily. In fact, just before coming into this conversation with you now, there's a Twitter space where the future of podcasting was being discussed with some members of the community I belong to. So we're just starting to really pay attention to the numbers of what we're doing. But thanks to platforms like Anchor that have made it easy for podcasters to come on board, we're growing. I do a weekly playlist nowadays where- I think I started this about two or three weeks ago as a part of my newsletter- where I get to feature fresh episodes from podcasters I follow locally, and I find that each week my playlist is about five, 6 hours long. I'm asking myself, if nobody is listening to these fellows, why would they be recording so many long episodes? But it seems to be working and they're enjoying themselves. Then Spotify has just done something fascinating. They've put down $100,000 for 13 African podcasters and of the 13 African podcasters, three are from Nigeria. And I was like, I didn't know when this was happening. Did you guys apply? And they were like, no, what happened was, Spotify was keeping records of their performances, and based on that, they were able to reach out to them and say, you know what, we think you're good enough for our fund. And I was excited about that because having three from Nigeria and you have like 20 other African countries to fight with. I think Kenya had four representatives, and then South Africa, and then Nigeria had three representatives. It was inspiring. So I know that a lot of guys are going to get excited about opportunities for more recognition next year. And this year in September, we had our first ever podcast awards. We had over 2000 nominations and tens of thousands of votes. And it was exciting to see that people were actually paying attention to podcasting on the continent, especially content coming from Nigeria as well.
Matt Cundill (Host) 00:20:18
There was a podcast conference that you attended, you did so online, and it was a few months ago. I can't remember the name of the conference. What was it called?
Tony Doe (Guest) 00:20:25
Africa Podfest. That was in February.
Matt Cundill (Host) 00:20:28
What was the biggest concerns that came out of that conference? What were some of the things that people sort of agreed on were holding podcast in Africa back?
Tony Doe (Guest) 00:20:37
Internet connectivity was number one. It's a lot better than it used to be, but it's not as affordable as, you know, one would want it to be. For people to create the kind of content they want and reach the people they need, they would have to spend a lot more money on Internet connectivity and then still think about equipment and marketing strategies and making the best of social media platforms and so on. So, Internet connectivity is one of the issues we have, and then maybe not having enough platforms on the continent to cater particularly to African creatives. But I can see the Afreport and Jammit, for instance, helping to solve that particular issue. But yes, Internet connectivity, the fact that creating content might be more expensive than the average Nigerian or African will be willing to admit.
Matt Cundill (Host) 00:21:32
So this podcast is going to be about 40mgb when I'm done with it. I guess it would cost about $3.25 US for somebody to just download it over cell phone or 3G coverage. I mean, I'm trying to explain this to North Americans to understand that it's not like we have unlimited data in Nigeria and parts of Africa, but over to the Internet connectivity issue. Does this leave people running around looking for WiFi to download their favorite podcast?
Tony Doe (Guest) 00:22:00
Not really. What it does really do is create competition among the telecoms companies in Nigeria, for instance, everybody's battling to have more subscribers or more users. So sometimes it depends on the region you're in. For instance, when I had to leave Lagos to go to the southeast of Nigeria to take up a position. Co-Head in a station there. I had one particular SIM from a particular telecoms company, and I was made to understand that the signals in the southeast for that SIM card were not so strong. So I had to get myself another number, and I was told that those signals were stronger in the southeast. So what you get to see in Nigeria is people having multiple phone lines from different companies, each SIM card serving a different purpose. Maybe one is for your major calls and the fact that family and friends recognize that number, and then you're using another one for your Internet accessibility. But there's a lot of competition locally. One of the major platforms has already rolled out its 5G. It's not cheap yet, but it's exciting to see. So there's a lot of competition among the telecoms companies, and people actually go to where they think it works best for them.
Matt Cundill (Host) 00:23:13
From the numbers that I ran, a lot of people do not own Apple phones over in Nigeria. I can certainly see that with the Nigeria downloads, it's only about 15% or 20% that would do so with an Apple product. But does everybody else use Android? And what is everybody's favorite app to listen to podcasts in Nigeria?
Tony Doe (Guest) 00:23:33
In Nigeria, favorite app to listen to podcasts would be Spotify. In Africa Podfest's data analysis. I think that was all ranked number one in Africa. And of course, it's the same in Nigeria here. Now, why Spotify would work is because a lot of Nigerians already listen to music through Spotify. So there's a lot of music streaming going on on Spotify, and then there's podcasting on Spotify as well. I would also say Google Podcast too comes close, and then Apple. Interestingly, there are a lot of people who listen to podcasts via their desktops or Windows based PCs through iTunes, and then they access their Apple accounts through there. I know in the early days, it was the only thing available at the beginning for a lot of us. So for some who started that way, they've continued that way. But when it comes to devices, of course, Android devices are what reign supreme down here. But there are a few people who brag about their iOS devices.
Matt Cundill (Host) 00:24:32
How many podcasts do you have right now?
Tony Doe (Guest) 00:24:32
That I'm producing?
Matt Cundill (Host) 00:24:32
Or that you host?
Tony Doe (Guest) 00:24:38
That I host. Well, I host and produce both. So I have two. And then there's one I'm managing for a pastor. So I have the Tony Doe podcast, I have UPGNRS, which is dedicated to fans of the Arsenal Football Club in England, and that's off and on. But that's the longer running podcast I've had. That's been running since 2014, so it's been serving well. And then there's the Seun Osigbesan podcast, which is a curation of sermons from Seun Osigbesan, which I've been managing since last year.
Matt Cundill (Host) 00:25:10
And the Tony Doe show.
Tony Doe (Guest) 00:25:11
Yeah, the Tony Doe podcast, but I called something on the Tony Doe show a while back, so I didn't want to confuse it. Yeah, I've been doing that since last year. The idea was to make it a limited series. I just wanted a few people I really respected and revered to be my guests and then just have conversations with them that could last a lifetime. So things I could always go back to, refer people to, and just find circumstances in everyday life to bring episodes into the timelines again, to remind people that, oh, you know what, I had this conversation with this person on the show.
Matt Cundill (Host) 00:25:47
And also you've got a newsletter. I think it's up on Substack, right?
Tony Doe (Guest) 00:25:51
Yes, it is. There's a new edition out November 4. It's called Podcast Related, aka this Week in the Pod Verse, and I'm hoping to start a podcast with that too.
Matt Cundill (Host) 00:26:02
So is this new podcast going to be a lot about what we find in the newsletter? Sort of longer details about some of the stories?
Tony Doe (Guest) 00:26:09
Yes, that's exactly what it will be. Deep dives, sound bites from some of the people I have conversations with about things happening in the podcast industry as well.
Matt Cundill (Host) 00:26:19
It started out with voiceover for you. That was the moment when you said, I'm going to become a presenter and I'm going to get involved with radio. And you still have this wonderful microphone that you're talking into right now, and you still do voiceovers, correct?
Tony Doe (Guest) 00:26:31
Yes, I do.
Matt Cundill (Host) 00:26:33
So if you're looking for a voice, Tony could be your guy. In fact, it's @TonyDoeVO, by the way, on Twitter. If you want to give him a follow. No blue check mark required.
Tony Doe (Guest) 00:26:42
No, I've never really been fond of those, so I really don't know how to react to what's going on yet because I'm like, well, like, I never had one, so I really don't know what the association is. So why is everybody upset if somebody wants to put a price check on it?
Matt Cundill (Host) 00:26:56
There's only one Tony Doe VO. Don't worry. Hey, Tony, thanks a lot for joining us on the podcast. I really appreciate you giving the perspective from Nigeria, talking about Nigerian radio and how podcasting is growing in Africa.
Tony Doe (Guest) 00:27:10
Thank you, Matt. I really appreciate this opportunity. It's been a pleasure being on The Sound Off podcast. My favorites. I think when I started the Tony Doe podcast and then I was searching for similar podcasts, I think I found The Sound Off podcast on Podchaser. I was like, okay, I'm in good company, so I'm not doing anything too different. So this is really awesome.
Matt Cundill (Host) 00:27:29
I love your show.
Tony Doe (Guest) 00:27:30
Tara Sands (VO) 00:27:31
The Sound Off podcast written and hosted by Matt Cundill. Produced by Evan Surminski. Social Media by Courtney Krebsbach. Another great creation from the Soundoff Media Company. There's always more at soundoffpodcast.com.