conference notes: dubai – the new media event

I'm the Dubai Marriott for The New Media Event, billed as "the first event in the region dedicated to the growing power of new media…" I've not made much of an attempt to value add in this post – it's mostly just notes but there is some good stuff here nonetheless.

The first speaker of the morning, Debbie Weil, author of the Corporate Blogging Book, kicked off the conference by pointing out a post by Bill Marriott. The head of Marriott hotel chain received 368 comments on a post reminiscing about the time he nearly blew himself up by trying to clean a deep fat fryer soap. According to Weil, Marriott insiders claim they can trace $7 million worth of room bookings to people clicking through from the blog. I doubt much, if any, of that was new business, but so what – if people actually read the blog and clicked through to make a room booking then it's doing something of value.
Some quick fire notes, quotes and links from Debbie's presentation:

  • Debbie's key question that companies should be asking themselves when thinking about getting into blogging: "What can you do that actually makes them want to share what you're doing"
  • @comcastcares – three most posted words "Can I Help?"
  • – "has sold $1 million" from the link on their list of Dell twitterers
  • Social Media for Business (Dell) on Facebook
  • Dell's Digital Nomads blog – not really about Dell, but about a lifestyle
  • "What's the ROI on Social Media? Well, we're trying to figure that out…"
  • Most companies don't have a department of "Community and Conversations" like Dell
  • According to Weil – the most important thing on a blog post? "Linking. You have to have links – other articles, something else you've written… that's what makes it a blog."

  • The second speaker of the morning
    , and moderator of the conference this morning, was Ahmed Nassef from

  • 35-40 million internet users in the 22 countries of the Arab world
  • Maktoob has an audience of 12 million
  • Growth – from 2 million monthly visitors; now close to 14 million
  • 60% online penetration in UAE; around 20% in Saudi Arabia; Egypt is around 10% – but throughout the Arab world there are "aggressive" projects to get more online
  • So is the Arab internet audience reflecting the global trends towards video consumption online? Maktoob Research conducted a study which consisted of 2,030 respondents between 15 and 25 years old (60% male) in Egypt, Jordan, KSA and UAE. Here's some of the notes Nassef quoted from the study:

  • What is your primary source of information? 67%-72% internet
  • 15-24% don't ever read magazines
  • 10% to 13% don't eve read newspapers
  • 11-25% don't listen to radio
  • 34-40% regularly use internet whilst television is on, with similar percentages doing so sometimes – that's around 70-80% regularly or sometimes using the internet as they watch television
  • avg time spent online is around 3 hours per day
  • over 45% of respondents in all countries report that the internet helps them find out more about products and services they "need to know more about"
  • Maktoob has done user generated content campaigns for Sony Ericsson and LG, the latter of which got 121,574 unique users, 367,227 pages and 2,815 registrations. Maktoob also worked with Barbican, a regional drinks company, where users submitted videos of their cars to try to get selected to go on Dallil Sayyartak, the Arab version of Pimp My Ride. One of the user submissions, showing a mini van and set to a Saudi nationalist hip hop tune was viewed over 32,000 times in the first month.

    Nassef says that when Maktoob launched, around 40% were using the English interface, but now 80% are using the Arabic interface:

    "To go beyond UAE… you need to have strong Arabic content… The majority of our traffic is around interactions… forums are the dominate way that Arabs interact together online…there isn't a huge amount of produced, professional content out there… so with a lack of that existing content, people have to produce their own… we provide very strong aggregated content… overlay that on top of an existing community, a discussion forum… which increases page views…"

    Mohamed El Fatatry, Founder of was the final speaker before lunch. Some quick stats:

  • World's largest Muslim lifestyle community
  • 20 employees
  • 2 million visitors per month
  • 150,000 registered users
  • From over 190 countries
  • 150,000 registered users
  • 65-70% from the US and UK
  • last week launched World's first Muslim virtual world
  • The site is in English, in part because they want to reach Muslim's living in countries where having a Muslim lifestyle is a challenge rather than the status quo. 2% of users are non-Muslims and they hope to grow that to as much as 10% in the future.

    "Muslim lifestyle" = How Muslim's interact with techonolgy, comedy, fashion, music, sports and art. They have 26 categories on site, only one is religion. They don't try to steer conversations and only remove posts that break the law or violate community guidelines – otherwise it's uncensored.

  • Apple iPhone ebay neighbourhood – people helping people solve problems with iphones
  • paraphrased: "I don't believe in the model where you create a site and bring in millions of people. You have to reach them where they are already."
  • on the day he got his venture capital funding for Muxlim, Mohamed received a message from someone at BlueStarJets, who'd been listening to social media chatter about the funding, asking if he'd be interested…
  • Zeid Nasser from mediaME, the Middle East Advertising and Media Professionals Network, took us on a post-lunch tour of the Arab social web. There is a good chance that these sites will be able to survive when Facebook and other social networks come to the Middle East, and that's because they understand and work within the culturally sensitivities, as well as language, of the region.

  • maktoob = 13 million Arab users using photosharing, video, chat, forums, email, etc
  • Jeeran = 60,000 Arab bloggers (some in English)
  • = 140,000 videos from the Middle East
  • Also,, and

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