Social media usage in the Middle East

Updated 29 February 2016
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Social media usage in the Middle East

Damian Radcliffe, a journalism professor at the University of Oregon, issued his fourth annual report titled “The story of 2015” discussing the social media in the Middle East.

As expected, the region is scoring high penetration rates in social media. According to the report, there are more than 41 million active users in the region. Needless to say, the young, tech-savvy generation available in the region is the main reason driving these high rates of social media consumption.
Although the whole region is witnessing a boom in the new media usage, there are still some differences in the platforms’ preferences and usage across the Middle East, especially between the Gulf countries and North Africa.
For instance, the leading platform in Saudi Arabia, UAE, Qatar, and Lebanon is none other than the messaging service WhatsApp.
In percentage, WhatsApp is used by more than 94 percent of the social media active users in the Kingdom, while used by virtually all those active on social media in the UAE. In general, 41 percent of the social media users in the region are using WhatsApp.
However, the platform that is leading the race in the region as a whole is Facebook. Egypt constitutes the largest fan-base of the platform at 27 million active users, while there are 12 million users in Saudi Arabia, and 11 million in Iraq. In the region as a whole, 87 percent of the social media active users have a presence on Facebook, with 84 percent of them accessing the platform from their mobile devices, and 89 percent of them on a daily basis.
When it comes to Twitter, Saudi Arabia and UAE are on top with 53 percent and 51 percent active users in these countries, respectively, using the platform. The lowest usage across the region comes in Libya and Syria, with 12 percent and 14 percent respectively. Interestingly, the study states that 45 percent of those using Twitter age between 18 and 24, while 25 percent only of them are aged 45 or above. However, it is good to notice that Saudi Arabia is having the largest number of users of the platform, it is scoring low in daily usage, which could hint that Saudis are moving away from the platform toward its competitors like Instagram and Snapchat.
Snapchat has recorded the highest annual growth, jumping from 3 percent to 12 percent in the region. The live stories the platform features on Makkah, Riyadh and Dubai secured its popularity in the region and turned it into a new platform of choice for many social media influencers.
The rest of the report discusses the behavior of the region’s consumers in the field of entrainment and news consumption, shedding more light and emphasizing on the fact that social media platforms became a very important and sometimes sensitive areas of interest in any attempt to analyze and understand the region.


Instagram unveils new video service in challenge to YouTube

Kevin Systrom, CEO and co-founder of Instagram said he hopes IGTV will emerge as a hub of creativity for relative unknowns. (AP)
Updated 20 June 2018
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Instagram unveils new video service in challenge to YouTube

  • Video will be available through Instagram or a new app called IGTV
  • Before, Facebook and Instagram have copied Snapchat — another magnet for teens and young adults

SAN FRANCISCO: Facebook’s Instagram service is loosening its restraints on video in an attempt to lure younger viewers away from YouTube when they’re looking for something to watch on their smartphones.
The expansion announced Wednesday, dubbed IGTV, will increase Instagram’s video time limit from one minute to 10 minutes for most users. Accounts with large audiences will be able to go as long as an hour.
Video will be available through Instagram or a new app called IGTV. The video will eventually give Facebook more opportunities to sell advertising.
It’s the latest instance in which Instagram has ripped a page from a rival’s playbook in an effort to preserve its status as a cool place for young people to share and view content. In this case, Instagram is mimicking Google’s YouTube. Before, Facebook and Instagram have copied Snapchat — another magnet for teens and young adults.
Instagram, now nearly 8 years old, is moving further from its roots as a photo-sharing service as it dives headlong into longer-form video.
The initiative comes as parent company Facebook struggles to attract teens, while also dealing with a scandal that exposed its leaky controls for protecting users’ personal information.
Instagram CEO Kevin Systrom told The Associated Press that he hopes IGTV will emerge as a hub of creativity for relative unknowns who turn into Internet sensations with fervent followings among teens and young adults.
That is what’s already happening on YouTube, which has become the world’s most popular video outlet since Google bought it for $1.76 billion nearly 12 years ago. YouTube now boasts 1.8 billion users.
Instagram, which Facebook bought for $1 billion six years ago, now has 1 billion users, up from 800 million nine months ago.
More importantly, 72 percent of US kids ranging from 13 to 17 years old use Instagram, second to YouTube at 85 percent, according to the Pew Research Center. Only 51 percent of people in that group now use Facebook, down from 71 percent from a similar Pew survey in 2014-15.
That trend appears to be one of the reasons that Facebook is “hedging its bets” by opening Instagram to the longer-form videos typically found on YouTube, said analyst Paul Verna of the research firm eMarketer.
Besides giving Instagram another potential drawing card, longer clips are more conducive for video ads lasting from 30 seconds to one minute. Instagram doesn’t currently allow video ads, but Systrom said it eventually will. When the ads come, Instagram intends to share revenue with the videos’ creators — just as YouTube already does.
“We want to make sure they make a living because that is the only way it works in the long run,” Systrom said.
The ads also will help Facebook sustain its revenue growth. Total spending on online video ads in the US is expected to rise from nearly $18 billion this year to $27 billion in 2021, according to eMarketer.
Lele Pons, a YouTube sensation who also has amassed 25 million followers on Instagram, plans to launch a new cooking show on IGTV in hopes of increasing her audience and eventually generating more revenue. “It’s like Coca-Cola and Pepsi,” she said. “You will never know what you like better unless you try both.”
IGTV’s programming format will consist exclusively of vertical video designed to fill the entire screen of smartphones — the devices that are emerging as the main way younger people watch video. By contrast, most YouTube videos fill only a portion of the screen unless the phone is tilted horizontally.
Snapchat began featuring vertical video before Instagram, another example of its penchant for copying rivals.
But Systrom sees it differently. “This is acknowledging vertical video is the future and we want the future to come more quickly, so we built IGTV.”