How Arab News, Saudi Arabia’s first English-language newspaper, was born

How Arab News, Saudi Arabia’s first English-language newspaper, was born
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Updated 20 April 2020

How Arab News, Saudi Arabia’s first English-language newspaper, was born

How Arab News, Saudi Arabia’s first English-language newspaper, was born
  • 45 years ago, Hisham and Mohammed Hafiz launched it in a Jeddah garage
  • The first issue was a 16-page tabloid published on April 20, 1975

JEDDAH: Brothers Hisham and Mohammed Hafiz had a dream: To publish a daily, English-language newspaper in Saudi Arabia. In 1972, they began to seriously discuss how they might turn that dream into a reality.

Almost everyone they spoke to was skeptical about the idea. Undeterred, in 1974, they pushed ahead with their plans and began to buy the equipment they needed. They also hired Ahmad Mahmoud to be the newspaper’s first editor-in-chief, and sent him to Pakistan to hire a team of journalists.

The first issue of Arab News, a 16-page tabloid, was published on April 20, 1975, from a small garage in Jeddah. Thanks to its instant popularity, and the quantity of advertising it generated, by the end of August it had blossomed into a broadsheet.

The late Farouk Luqman, who died in July 2019 at the age of 84, was there at the beginning and became editor-in-chief 18 years later. In his book “Globalization of the Arabic Press,” he told the story of the Hafiz brothers and their incredible journey, which began with the launch of Arab News and grew into the biggest publishing house in the Middle East. He revealed that in the early days the newspaper had only six employees, including the editor-in-chief.

“We were doing everything, from writing stories to translating news and laying out pages,” said Luqman, who was managing editor at the time of the launch. The entire operation was based in the garage — from writing, editing and layout to advertising and administration.

“We worked until dawn preparing the first issue and the publishers stayed with us all the time until we finished and printed,” Luqman said. “They were true journalists and often pointed out mistakes, even spelling errors.”

Newcomer Arab News was in direct competition with the renowned International Herald Tribune, which was published in Paris, and the Lebanese Daily Star, both of which went on sale in Saudi Arabia the day after initial publication.

According to Luqman, Arab News proved popular not only with Europeans and Americans but also Asians and Africans.

During an interview in 2005, Mahmoud, the first editor-in-chief, recalled the offer of the top job caught him off guard.




 The Hafiz brothers went on to publish over a dozen newspapers and magazines, but Arab News retained a special place in their hearts. (AN) 

“One fine morning in 1974, I got a call from Mohammed Ali Hafiz asking me to meet him and his brother,” he said. “At that time I was with Al-Madinah Arabic newspaper. They told me about their project and, in the same breath, offered me the post of editor-in-chief. That took me completely by surprise.”

Mahmoud added that he did not have much time to ponder the offer as the Hafiz brothers told him the first issue would roll off the presses within six months.

“I did accept the offer, but I made it clear that I had no experience in English journalism,” he said. The response of the Hafiz brothers was: “When one is a journalist, one will always be a journalist.”

Like all new arrivals, Arab News had its share of teething problems. Following some trial dummy runs, Mahmoud — assisted by Luqman, who had experience of English-language journalism — encountered a series of niggling problems as they tried to put this new and novel venture to bed every night.

“There were challenges and trials, but with youthful determination and zest we did our best and overcame them,” Mahmoud said. “Arab News came out in difficult circumstances. As it was the first of its kind, we had to face up to the fact of limited news sources, a dearth of photographs, inadequate manpower and poor printing quality. Despite all this, surprisingly, the paper was well received.”

Despite the large number of additional successful publications launched by the newspaper’s publishers in the past 45 years, most notably Asharq Al-Awsat, Arab News retains a special place in their hearts.

In a letter to readers, the Hafiz brothers wrote: “The solid base of Arab News, financially and its journalistic success, paved the way for the birth of other successful papers and magazines, of which the majority are still being read today.”

As for the distinctive green-tinted paper on which Arab News is printed, that tradition began with its Arabic sister paper, Asharq Al-Awsat. In 1978, when the Hafiz brothers launched the pan-Arab newspaper, which is published and printed in London and other European cities, they wanted to make it easy for readers to find their paper on newsstands.

Noting that almost all of the hundreds of newspapers available in a variety languages are published on white paper, they decided to print theirs on green stock so that it would stand out. Later, Arab News began to follow its sister paper’s example, using green paper for its front page.

 


Israeli reporters facing physical attacks and online threats

Israeli reporters facing physical attacks and online threats
Updated 31 min 49 sec ago

Israeli reporters facing physical attacks and online threats

Israeli reporters facing physical attacks and online threats
  • The N12 channel provided security details for four of its on-air reporters – Dana Weiss, Guy Peleg, Yonit Levi and Rina Mazliah – after a rise in online threats against them
  • Journalist and presenter Ayala Hasson was part of a TV crew that was assaulted in Lod with rocks last week by people from the far-right group La Familia

LONDON: A rise in physical attacks and online threats against high-profile TV reporters perpetrated by members of far-right Jewish groups has been recorded in Israel and Palestine, with one media outlet providing security for some of its journalists as a result.

The N12 channel provided security details for four of its on-air reporters – Dana Weiss, Guy Peleg, Yonit Levi and Rina Mazliah – after a rise in online threats against them. One suspect has been arrested in connection to the threats made against Weiss.

Reporters from Channel 12, Israel’s public broadcaster Kan News, and Channel 13 were attacked after extremists took to the streets to target Israeli citizens of Palestinian origin in locations including Tel Aviv and Lod. 

Journalist and presenter Ayala Hasson was part of a TV crew that was assaulted in Lod with rocks last week by people from the far-right group La Familia. 

Concern over journalist safety has increased significantly since Israel bombed a Gaza tower block used by Associated Press and Al Jazeera at the weekend.


Customer experience firm promotes key managers in MENA region

Customer experience firm promotes key managers in MENA region
Vimal Badiani, MD of Merkle and dentsu’s Customer Experience Management (CXM) Service Line for MENA
Updated 18 May 2021

Customer experience firm promotes key managers in MENA region

Customer experience firm promotes key managers in MENA region
  • Vimal Badiani made MD of Merkle, Dentsu’s CXM Service Line, and will be responsible for leading and growing the business
  • Beth Williams becomes Merkle’s head of performance media

DUBAI: Vimal Badiani has been promoted to managing director of customer experience management (CXM) company Merkle, which is part of Dentsu.

And he will also head Dentsu’s CXM service line for the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region.

In his new role, Badiani will be responsible for leading and growing the business by helping clients deliver a total customer experience.

Previously head of performance, he has been part of the Dentsu group for nearly five years. He joined Merkle UK in 2016 to oversee paid search through the acquisition of Periscopix, which is now Merkle’s media agency, and moved to the MENA region in 2017 to develop Merkle’s performance business.

“My focus will be on delivering growth and maturity through new business support and existing client engagement, providing a total customer experience, underpinned by a strong data foundation, proof in performance media execution, and highlighting the value of CRM (customer relationship management) strategies for nurture,” said Badiani.

Beth Williams, the newly appointed head of performance media at Merkle MENA, has been part the business for eight years, gaining market experience in Europe, the Asia-Pacific region, and now MENA.

She joined Merkle at the beginning of her career in 2014 as an associate and has experience across ad tech platforms as well as building additional service lines for Merkle MENA in feed management. In her new position, Williams will oversee Merkle’s growing performance team in Dubai and Lebanon.


Twitter reportedly set to launch new subscription service

Twitter reportedly set to launch new subscription service
Updated 18 May 2021

Twitter reportedly set to launch new subscription service

Twitter reportedly set to launch new subscription service
  • $2.99 per month Twitter Blue rumored to include features such as Undo Tweet and Collections

DUBAI: Twitter is reportedly working on a new subscription service called Twitter Blue that would charge users $2.99 a month.

App researcher Jane Manchun Wong tweeted that she had discovered details about the paid service, which would include features such as Undo Tweets – similar to Gmail’s Undo Mail option – and Collections, a way for users to organize favorited tweets.

According to Wong, Twitter is also working on a tiered-subscription pricing model wherein higher tiers would have premium features such as a “clutter-free news reading experience.”

Talk of Twitter launching a subscription service is not new.

In July, the company’s CEO Jack Dorsey told CNN that the firm was looking at additional streams of revenue including, potentially, a subscription model.

That same month, journalist Andrew Roth tweeted pictures of a survey the company was conducting to find out what users would like in a paid service. The options included features such as undo tweets, longer videos, and ad blocking.

In January, Twitter bought newsletter platform Revue and in May acquired Scroll. In a blog post, Mike Park, vice president of product at Scroll, said that the service was going into private beta “as we integrate into a broader Twitter subscription later in the year,” indicating that the subscription service was due for launch this year.

Twitter was reportedly also planning to launch a $4.99 per month subscription product this year called Super Follows, which would allow users and publishers to earn money from followers for exclusive content and e-commerce deals.

The exact launch date and pricing as well as product details of Twitter Blue and Super Follows are yet to be officially announced by the company.

Twitter declined to comment on the launch of Twitter Blue but with regard to Super Follows a spokesperson told Arab News: “Our purpose is to serve the public conversation. As a part of that work, we are examining and rethinking the incentives of our service – the behaviors that our product features encourage and discourage as people participate in conversation on Twitter.

“Exploring audience funding opportunities like Super Follows will allow creators and publishers to be directly supported by their audience and will incentivize them to continue creating content that their audience loves.

“Super Follows is not available yet, but we’ll have more to share in the coming months,” the spokesperson said.


Snap launches Spotlight prize entertainment platform in MENA

Snap launches Spotlight prize entertainment platform in MENA
Updated 18 May 2021

Snap launches Spotlight prize entertainment platform in MENA

Snap launches Spotlight prize entertainment platform in MENA
  • Spotlight allows users to share their creativity, gain rewards

DUBAI: Social media firm Snap Inc. has launched its new entertainment platform Spotlight throughout the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region.

With 75 million regional users, Snap aims to capitalize on the audience by allowing them to share their creativity on the platform and be rewarded for it through an incentive program paying out $1 million a day to users.

A Snap spokesman told Arab News that Snapchatters had a desire to use the Snapchat messaging app as a “social platform” where they could share their creations with a community, not just with friends.

Snap did not want to lose users to other platforms and had been thinking for “quite a while” about how it could cater for this need.

Hussein Freijeh, general manager of Snap Inc. in the Middle East, said: “We’ve seen from our platform that Snapchatters are super creative and looking for more ways to share snaps with the larger community. We want to help empower them to express themselves and share their experiences through the Snapchat Camera.”

The answer came in the form of Spotlight, which features the most entertaining snaps from the community. These snaps will be tailored to each user over time based on their preferences and favorites.

Anyone on the app can share snaps on the platform – either anonymously or through their profile. The content is then moderated by a computer and a person before being published on Spotlight.

Comments are also turned off in order to avoid offensive and inappropriate content on the new platform. “So, rather than relying on content being reported, it’s pre-moderated before it goes live,” said the spokesman.

He added that with other content-based platforms, there were always a few users who racked up followers and soon enough started creating professional content, which served as a deterrent of sorts to amateur users of the platforms.

“Our hope was that Spotlight lowers the barrier to content creation and we have already seen this taking place in countries where we have rolled it out so far,” Freijeh added.

The new platform had garnered more than 100 million users as of January, just two months after its initial release. Part of its success has been attributed to the incentive program that is now being launched in the MENA region.

The spokesman said that when any new platform came up, influencers switched to it taking their followers with them, resulting in “a closed circle of people who get wide distribution,” because most platforms rewarded content creators based on the number of followers. “We did not want to do that,” he added.

On Spotlight, the incentive program is not based on the number of followers or celebrity status of a user, but rather on the engagement received on a snap.

He likened the incentive program to a football tournament. “It’s like the World Cup of content. At the group stage that they (users) start off in, they compete against each other and the snaps that are the most engaging and get watched through will unlock more distribution, where they will go against other content, which has gone through that previous stage.

“And then the most engaging piece of content in that subset will unlock more distribution with the ones that get the most (distribution), earning money directly from Snapchat.”

Spotlight sounds and feels quite similar to platforms such as TikTok, as several users have pointed out. However, the spokesman said there was a “huge difference” between the type of content that did well on Spotlight versus TikTok. “You can accidentally create an amazing Spotlight, but I don’t think you can accidentally create an amazing TikTok,” he added.

“Most content creators (on other platforms) rely on sponsorships from brands and huge follower counts. It’s a closed circle to most people, so we wanted to open it up to more people.”

However, Snap is continuing to develop new creator tools for more professional creators, and “they will have really good opportunities to earn money on Spotlight as well,” he said.

Spotlight was launched in 11 countries in November and has been slowly introduced to other markets since then. The reason for the slow rollout, the spokesman said, was the moderation of each piece of content before it appeared on the platform – especially in local languages.

It is now available throughout the MENA region in Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Algeria, Morocco, the UAE, Jordan, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Bahrain, Palestine, Libya, and Iraq.

“Looking ahead, we’ll continue to learn from our community as we continue to evolve Spotlight and see what resonates among Snapchatters,” said Freijeh.


Blinken has not seen evidence Hamas operated from bombed Gaza media tower

Blinken has not seen evidence Hamas operated from bombed Gaza media tower
Updated 17 May 2021

Blinken has not seen evidence Hamas operated from bombed Gaza media tower

Blinken has not seen evidence Hamas operated from bombed Gaza media tower
  • Israeli attack on building housing foreign media, other businesses has drawn global condemnation
  • Associated Press calls on Israeli govt to ‘put forward the evidence’

LONDON: US Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Monday said he has not seen any Israeli evidence that Hamas was operating from a tower block housing foreign media that was destroyed in a targeted airstrike.

The Associated Press and other media companies, as well as various international businesses including consultancy Ernst & Young, had offices in the tower block.

The Israeli military said the attack on Al-Jalaa tower, which has sparked significant backlash from global media and human rights groups, was due to it housing Hamas military intelligence officials. But Blinken said he had not yet seen evidence to support this claim.

The Associated Press, a large US media agency, has called on the Israeli government to “put forward the evidence.”

The company’s President Gary Pruitt said: “AP’s bureau has been in this building for 15 years. We have had no indication Hamas was in the building or active in the building. This is something we actively check to the best of our ability. We would never knowingly put our journalists at risk.”