Today marks two years since Addis Insight was launched with the aim of becoming a leading digital media platform for Ethiopians across the world. As a founder When I first started Addis Insight, I had two clear goals, which were to improve the quality and quantity of contents that are available online regarding Ethiopia and allowing the new generation to dictate their narration. Before starting on Addis Insight, I had the opportunity to work as a Wikipedian In Residence and Google Student Ambassador which gave me the opportunity to identify an area that I can work passionately.
Six months after launching Addis Insight I won a scholarship in Media and Communication to attend at Ohio University but at the same time, I had to make a tough decision about Addis Insight. I had to choose between incorporating Addis Insight as a company or just let it become a website that aggregates news from other news sources. That is when I met Rediat Belehu who was willing to leave her high paying job and join Addis Insight to run the company as a CEO and shareholder while I was away for two years.
Despite having no background in Media and Communication we as a team had the determination to build a media brand that will give our audience an insight into several topic areas. And to achieve our goal we started out by reaching out to people who want to contribute articles on different topics. It was our belief that most of the professional people in Ethiopia have not been given a chance to share their expertise in areas they are interested in. You rarely see an architect, doctor, banker, investor, engineer or athlete sharing their insightful take on topics they are good at. As a result, we started encouraging people to share their views on our platform even if they were not journalists or politicians. Because of this effort in the past years, we have had more than 24 contributors from all sorts of fields and background with a total contribution of 170 articles. 95% of our contributors were under thirty and 60% of them were women. This approach really solidified our brand recognition through social media, as we were associated with contributors who are influencers in their social media sphere.
The other important move we did was to give coverage to several events, initiatives, causes and organizations that are making an impact in their society but who were not given enough coverage by medias. Some of the initiatives include the inspiring stories of Yellow Movement who support and empower girls by selling roses, the story of Hermella Wondimu who built more than 27 water wells at age 28, the story of Abraham who disrupted the car washing business in Ethiopia by using his experience from Dubai. We also happily shared our platform with artists, creators and tech entrepreneurs who wanted to get the public vote during global competitions. Whenever tragedies broke we did our best to tell a story that will lift us and makes us strong as a nation and our exclusive interview with one of the Koshe victims titled The Koshe Dreamers were among the most visited posts we had.
Lack of experience in the field of media and limitation of resource didn’t stop us from pursuing our dream. On several fronts we were able to score a lead especially in forging media partnership with YouTube, Music In Africa and Ethiopian Diaspora Fellowship. We really valued our user experience and consistently improved our platforms by becoming the first media in Ethiopia to adopt Facebook Instant Article and Google Accelerated Mobile Page that significantly saved data cost for users. Despite how tempting the idea of clickbait is, we refrained from monetizing our contents by misleading readers with contents that are full of gossip and fake news.
Our journey has never been easy, and we were able to sustain our business without making any profit for the past two years. We were really affected when the nation imposed the command post for ten months which drastically affected our traffic and reach impact our teams were arrested two times while taking a photo in the streets. We had to go an extra mile in convincing local advertisers that digital media is the next big thing for Ethiopia even though we were not lucky to get clients as we expected. We had to support our business by funding from our school stipend and with the generosity of our teammates like Kalkidan Getnet, who don’t complain but work passionately even when we fail to pay salaries on time. Even after living 16 months in the US I didn’t fix my sleeping hours because I had to operate in Ethiopia time to help my teammates. I may graduate with my masters in Media and Communication without my team, but I make sure I shared my school materials and knowledge with my team so that we can all grow as a team. Our dream is so powerful that, we had people like Sergut Dejene who left the US to join our team. When we don’t have any editorial guideline people like Hadra Ahmed extended a hand to help us. Full-time students and workers like Dagim Hiwot Bishaw, Pomy Hailu, and Dr. Genet Kifle committed their weekends and nights to make sure we don’t lack researched and well-written content. We always took the criticism of our readers on our grammars and contents positively and responded graciously. We believed even in collaborating with other media and we have learned a lot from people like Tsedale Lemma who is the founder of Addis Standard. We get inspiration from her works and challenged ourselves to improve our content depth and journalistic professionalism.
Because of our team perseverance, selflessness and our devoted readers now we have passed over 500,000 unique visitors with 1.5 million views. Our stories were picked by global media, we challenged irresponsible media figures when they go unaccountable for their unprofessionalism, we inspired the change makers who are building the Ethiopian Dream against all odds, our health tip videos were screening in one of Ethiopia’s largest hospital Black Lion, we gave voice to the first generation Ethiopian American to share their views about their identity.
Finally starting from today for the next 10 days we will be marking our second anniversary by sharing popular articles written by our contributors in the past two years. We also would like to extend our deep gratitude for the first innovation hub in Ethiopia iceaddis who has been supporting us from day one to this very day by providing space, internet and expertise. Becoming The Leading Digital Media Platform in Ethiopia will be our resolution no matter which new year calendar we are at.