Saudi Arabia is the locomotive of the region, but each country is special to us, says Twitter

Benjamin Ampen: 82 percent of the world leaders are on Twitter. (Reuters)
Updated 20 November 2017
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Saudi Arabia is the locomotive of the region, but each country is special to us, says Twitter

LONDON: Twitter finally granted its users their request and increased the character limit from 140 to 280 on Nov. 7. This move came as part of a series of steps Twitter has taken to attract more users worldwide.
The MENA region is vital for the continuation of growth. From the regional office in Dubai, Benjamin Ampen, head of sales, revealed the company’s plans to expand in the Arab world. Ampen, who spoke to Asharq Al-Awsat over the phone, expressed his utmost optimism: Twitter’s future is bright.
He noted that Saudi Arabia is the region’s “locomotive” and is among Twitter’s top 10 markets worldwide. Ampen also expressed the company’s intention to cater for all of the MENA countries, and expand. In such a youthful demographic, Twitter will thrive, he insisted.

Q: Congratulations on increasing the character limit to 280. Twitter underwent an experiment and the results led to this decision. Can you tell me more?

A: It is indeed a positive step. What we have been doing for the past month is run a test on users, seeing how having access to 280 characters affects their Twitter behavior. We realized that users were often hitting the limit of 140 characters.
That means a significant portion of our users were trying to express themselves, but were not able to do so. When they hit the 140-word limit, they would either get frustrated and abandon the tweet or spend more time on how to create it rather than flexibly expressing. This new feature made the frustration disappear and that is really exciting for us.

Q: The feature has just gone into effect. What is the feedback so far from tech experts and from users on the platform?

A: It is really positive. Something really important to us was making sure it was not hindering the very nature of Twitter that is speed. When we did this test, we noticed that only 5 percent of the tweets were longer than 140 characters, and only 2 percent were longer than 190. So, in reality, Twitter’s character is not changing, it has just made life easier when it is necessary.

Q: Reports from the summer have illustrated that Twitter has reached a point of stagnation in growth, and is not yielding earnings, but the latest report has noted that things have taken a turn. Is Twitter finally getting back on track?

A: Few weeks ago we announced our earnings. The summary was that it was a good quarter for us. Growth was broad-based and from different areas. We have witnessed more user engagement, for example. This is the fourth quarter in a row we have witnessed an increase in daily active users. In terms of growth we are talking in double digits. This quarter it was 14 percent. We have 330 million active users on the platform. We are now focusing on video too. We are definitely on the right track.

Q: Let us talk about MENA users. Has the Gulf been witnessing further growth?

A: MENA is a very important region for Twitter. This is a region that is growing in terms of users and revenue. This is a region where we have a country, Saudi Arabia, that is really the locomotive of the region. Saudi on its own is among our top 10 markets globally. The reason is that you have a population that is young, equipped and when you go back to what the essence of Twitter is, it is about what is happening.

Q: What is the next step and challenge you have for the MENA region?

A: We opened the MENA headquarters in Dubai only two years ago. In two years, we have been sure to focus our efforts on Saudi Arabia and the UAE as the drivers for the region’s market. However, the region is wider; we have to spend time in Egypt in the countries of the Levant, in North AfricA: We need to understand the audiences in each country, and the existing and potential users to provide to them the best platform possible. Each country of the region is special.

Q: For some social users, Facebook is seen as the tool to keep in touch with friends and family and Instagram is to share and browse moments presented in pictures. What is Twitter’s brand and core essence?

A: Twitter is what is happening and what people are talking about. We talk about a platform that is used to keep in touch with who you went to school with; Twitter is the people you wish you had been to school with. You go to Twitter based on your interests. Twitter will give you, in real time, the best content available over there. Today, what happens in the world happens on Twitter. It can be official words, as we have more than 82 percent of the world leaders on Twitter, but it can also be your words and your thoughts.


Saudi Arabia ‘has a case’ in complaint over World Cup ‘politicization’ by Qatar’s BeIN

Updated 19 June 2018
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Saudi Arabia ‘has a case’ in complaint over World Cup ‘politicization’ by Qatar’s BeIN

  • Broadcast of political messages in coverage forbidden, analyst confirms.
  • Saudi football federation urges FIFA to sanction the Doha-owned channel.

LONDON: Saudi Arabia has a justified case in complaining to FIFA over the “politicization” of the World Cup by the Qatari broadcaster BeIN Sports, a prominent TV analyst has said.
A flurry of comments by hosts and pundits aired on BeIN’s Arabic station prompted the Saudi Arabian Football Federation to complain to FIFA this week, saying the broadcaster was using the football tournament to spread political messages aimed at insulting Saudi Arabia and its leaders.
In its complaint, the federation called on FIFA to take severe sanctions against the Qatari channel and to abolish the rights granted to the network.
One BeIN commentator accused Saudi Arabia of “selling out the Palestinian cause,” while a Doha-based international footballer invited on the channel was allowed to call for an end to the year-long boycott of Qatar by neighbors Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Egypt and Bahrain.
Constantinos Papavassilopoulos, principal TV research analyst at IHS Markit Technology, said that politicized coverage was expressly forbidden by world football’s governing body as well as the Union of European Football Associations (UEFA).
“FIFA and UEFA forbid the transmission of political messages during football matches for which they control the rights. It’s not only comments by the broadcasters — but even banners; everything (political) is forbidden,” the analyst told Arab News.
“So messages about Palestine, about political things, are not allowed.”
Papavassilopoulos said that if there is evidence of such cases, authorities in the Kingdom would be justified in taking the matter to FIFA.
“If there are video clips that show BeIN media personnel speaking against Saudi Arabia, Saudi Arabia has a case,” he said.
But whether FIFA will take any action against BeIN is another matter. Papavassilopoulos pointed to the fact that BeIN is a valued client of FIFA — it bought the rights to host the World Cup across the Middle East and North Africa — and that Qatar plans to host the tournament in 2022.
“BeIN media is a very good client for FIFA. And don’t forget that Qatar is the country that will host the 2022 World Cup,” he said. “It’s going to be very very hard for FIFA to impose penalties on BeIN media knowing that Qatar will hold the next World Cup.”
Some of the biggest names in Arab sport have signed a petition to protest against BeIN’s politicization of World Cup coverage, urging FIFA President Gianni Infantino to investigate the coverage.
FIFA did not immediately respond to a request for comment when contacted by Arab News.