TikTok reveals Ramadan trends in MENA

TikTok reveals Ramadan trends in MENA
During Ramadan users were more active on their devices and engaged with content in a variety of categories. (AFP)
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Updated 25 March 2021

TikTok reveals Ramadan trends in MENA

TikTok reveals Ramadan trends in MENA
  • In 2020, content consumption during Ramadan increased by 17 percent in terms of video viewership

DUBAI: Ahead of Ramadan, which is expected to begin on April 12, TikTok has shared some insights into the behavior of users on its platform during the holy month, based data it collected last year.

In 2020, content consumption during Ramadan increased by 17 percent in terms of video viewership, and 91 percent for video engagement. Although content consumption varied throughout the year, during Ramadan users were more active on their devices and engaged with content in a variety of categories, most notably cooking, health, family entertainment and gaming.

Content consumption

The time users spent on the app and the type of content they consumed varied throughout the day.

Around sahoor families spend more time together, which resulted in increased consumption of game-related content, whereas around noon more women used the app to look for short-form content related to cooking. Content engagement decreased in the late afternoon but increased significantly after iftar as people created and posted videos while spending time with family and friends.

Prime time

The amount of video publishing and viewing decreased during the fasting hours but picked up after iftar.

Content categories

During Ramadan, four content categories were more prominent than others: cooking, entertainment, health and gaming, giving rise to hashtags such as #RamadanFood, #SahoorTime and #CookFromHome.

“In spite of the restrictions in place due to the pandemic, it is heartening to see the region excitedly resume its preparations to mark this Ramadan in all its fervor,” Shant Oknayan, TikTok’s general manager of global business solutions MENAT (Middle East, North Africa and Turkey), told Arab News.

“Social and entertainment apps have played a substantial role in keeping the spirit of Ramadan alive in the absence of physical connections, and our recent research was indicative of this.

“We also saw brands embrace TikTok further as they truly connected with their audience in an authentic and meaningful way, while also using the platform to give back to the communities they operate in.”

TikTok is attracting growing numbers of advertisers. Its own global research reveals that 43 percent of “heavy” TikTok users feel that the advertising blends in with content on the platform, and 61 percent described the ads as “unique”. Users also said they found advertising on the platform to be relatively fun and authentic.


Hong Kong’s embattled Apple Daily to close by Saturday

The paper’s closure comes as authorities crack down on dissent following months of anti-government protests in 2019. (AFP)
The paper’s closure comes as authorities crack down on dissent following months of anti-government protests in 2019. (AFP)
Updated 34 min 47 sec ago

Hong Kong’s embattled Apple Daily to close by Saturday

The paper’s closure comes as authorities crack down on dissent following months of anti-government protests in 2019. (AFP)
  • Hong Kong's Apple Daily newspaper will print its last edition on Thursday and close its doors on Saturday.
  • Last week, the Hong Kong police arrested five editors and executives from the newspaper on suspicion of colluding with foreigners to endanger national security.

HONG KONG: Hong Kong’s pro-democracy Apple Daily newspaper will close by this weekend, its parent company said Wednesday, following last week’s arrest of five editors and executives and the freezing of $2.3 million in assets under the city’s national security law.
The board of directors of Next Media said in a statement that Apple Daily’s print edition and online edition will cease no later than Saturday due to “the current circumstances prevailing in Hong Kong.”
The paper’s closure comes as authorities crack down on dissent following months of anti-government protests in 2019. The announcement also coincided with the start of the first trial under the national security law, imposed by Beijing about a year ago.
The widely expected move to close Apple Daily followed last week’s arrests of the five editors and executives, who were detained on suspicion of colluding with foreigners to endanger national security. Police cited more than 30 articles published by the paper as evidence of an alleged conspiracy to encourage foreign nations to impose sanctions on Hong Kong and China.
It was the freezing of assets that spelled the paper’s demise. The board of directors had earlier this week written to Hong Kong’s security bureau requesting the release of some of its funds so the company could pay wages.
Police earlier Wednesday arrested a 55-year-old man on suspicion of foreign collusion to endanger national security. According to Apple Daily, which cited unidentified sources, the man writes editorials for the newspaper under the pseudonym Li Ping.
The police operation against Apple Daily drew criticism from the US, the E.U. and Britain, which say Hong Kong and Chinese authorities are targeting the freedoms promised to the city when the former British colony was returned to China in 1997.
Chinese and Hong Kong officials have said the media must abide by the law, and that press freedom cannot be used as a “shield” for illegal activities.
The national security law imposed last year criminalizes subversion, secession, terrorism and foreign collusion.
The first person to stand trial under the law, Tong Ying-kit, pleaded not guilty Wednesday to charges of terrorism and inciting secession by driving a motorcycle into police officers during a 2019 rally while carrying a flag with the slogan “Liberate Hong Kong, the revolution of our times.” Several officers were knocked over and three sustained injuries.
His trial will set the tone for how Hong Kong handles national security offenses. So far, more than 100 people have been arrested under the security law, including prominent pro-democracy activists such as media tycoon Jimmy Lai, the publisher of Apple Daily.
The slogan “Liberate Hong Kong, the revolution of our times” was often chanted during anti-government demonstrations demanding broader democratic freedoms. Protests accuse Beijing of walking back on its promise at the 1997 handover of Hong Kong from Britain that the city could retain its freedoms not seen elsewhere in China for 50 years.
China responded with tough measures silencing opposition voices, including the national security law.
The legislation makes calls for Hong Kong independence illegal, and a government notice last July said the protest slogan connotes a call for independence and subversion of state power.
A court ruled last month that Tong will stand trial without a jury, a departure from Hong Kong’s common law traditions. Under the national security law, a panel of three judges can replace jurors, and the city’s leader has the power to designate judges to hear such cases.
The law carries a maximum penalty of life in prison for serious offenses. Tong is on trial at the High Court, where sentences are not capped.


US blocks websites linked to Iranian disinformation including Press TV and Houthi's Al-Masirah

US blocks websites linked to Iranian disinformation including Press TV and Houthi's Al-Masirah
Updated 23 June 2021

US blocks websites linked to Iranian disinformation including Press TV and Houthi's Al-Masirah

US blocks websites linked to Iranian disinformation including Press TV and Houthi's Al-Masirah
  • Iranian news agencies said that the US government had seized several Iranian media websites

DUBAI: The US Justice Department on Tuesday blocked some three dozen websites, many of them associated with Iranian disinformation activities, a US government source said, adding an official announcement was expected.
The source in Washington spoke after notices appeared earlier on Tuesday on a number of Iran-affiliated websites saying they had been seized by the United States government as part of law enforcement action.
Iranian news agencies said that the US government had seized several Iranian media websites and sites belonging to groups affiliated with Iran such as Yemen’s Houthi movement.
Some sites later started to display as normal.
The website of the Arabic-language Masirah TV, which is run by the Houthis, read:
“The domain almasirah.net has been seized by the United States Government in accordance with a seizure warrant ... as part of a law enforcement action by the Bureau of Industry and Security, Office of Export Enforcement and Federal Bureau of Investigation.”
The site quickly opened up a new, working website at www.almasirah.com.
Iran’s Arabic language Alalam TV said on its Telegram channel: “US authorities shut down Al-Alam TV’s website.”
A US Justice Department spokesperson had no immediate comment. Two US government sources indicated that the Justice Department was preparing an announcement on this issue.
The notices appeared days after a prominent hard-liner and fierce critic of the West, Ebrahim Raisi, was elected as Iran’s new president and after envoys for Iran and six world powers including Washington adjourned talks on reviving their tattered 2015 nuclear accord and returned to capitals for consultations.
Notices also appeared on websites of Iran’s English-language Press TV and Lualua TV, an Arabic-language Bahraini independent channel which broadcasts from Britain.
“In what seems to be a coordinated action, a similar message appears on the websites of Iranian and regional television networks that claims the domains of the websites have been ‘seized by the United States Government’,” Press TV said on Twitter.
Last October, US prosecutors seized a network of web domains which they said were used in a campaign by Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) to spread political disinformation around the world.
The US Justice Department said then that it had taken control of 92 domains used by the IRGC to pose as independent media outlets targeting audiences in the United States, Europe, Middle East and Southeast Asia.
The semi-official Iranian news agency YJC agency said on Tuesday the US move “demonstrates that calls for freedom of speech are lies.” 


YouTube wins user copyright fight in top EU court ruling

In response to the court ruling a YouTube spokesperson said: “YouTube is a leader in copyright and supports rights holders being paid their fair share.” (File/AFP)
In response to the court ruling a YouTube spokesperson said: “YouTube is a leader in copyright and supports rights holders being paid their fair share.” (File/AFP)
Updated 22 June 2021

YouTube wins user copyright fight in top EU court ruling

In response to the court ruling a YouTube spokesperson said: “YouTube is a leader in copyright and supports rights holders being paid their fair share.” (File/AFP)
  • Youtube wins long-running copyright-infringement fight against the European Union.
  • Last year, the EU overhauled law requiring YouTube, Facebook’s Instagram and other sharing platforms to install filters to prevent users from uploading copyrighted materials.

LUXEMBOURG: Google’s YouTube has scored a win in its latest copyright-infringement challenge after Europe’s top court said online platforms are not liable for users uploading unauthorized works unless the platforms failed to take quick action to remove or block access to the content.
The case marks the latest development in a long-running battle between Europe’s $1 trillion creative industry and online platforms, with the former seeking redress for unauthorized works that are uploaded.
It is also part of the wider debate on how much online platforms and social media should do to police the posting of unauthorized, illegal or hateful content, an issue that European Union regulators are targeting with tough new rules that could come into force next year.
“As currently stands, operators of online platforms do not, in principle, themselves make a communication to the public of copyright-protected content illegally posted online by users of those platforms,” the EU Court of Justice said.
“However, those operators do make such a communication in breach of copyright where they contribute, beyond merely making those platforms available, to giving access to such content to the public,” judges said.
The EU court said platforms could also be liable if they do not put in place the appropriate technological tools to tackle copyright breaches by their users or where they provide tools on their platforms for illegal sharing of content.
In response to the court ruling a YouTube spokesperson said: “YouTube is a leader in copyright and supports rights holders being paid their fair share.”
“That’s why we’ve invested in state of the art copyright tools which have created an entirely new revenue stream for the industry. In the past 12 months alone we have paid $4 billion to the music industry, over 30 percent of which comes from monetised user generated content.”
YouTube found itself in the dock after Frank Peterson, a music producer, sued the company and Google in Germany over the uploading to YouTube by users in 2008 of several phonograms to which he holds the rights.
In a second case, publishing group Elsevier took legal action against file-hosting service Cyando in Germany after its users uploaded several Elsevier works on its platform Uploaded in 2013 without its approval.
A German court subsequently sought advice from the EU Court of Justice, which ruled on both cases on Tuesday.
Existing EU rules exempt YouTube and its peers from such liability regarding copyright when they are told of violations and remove them.
The EU last year overhauled its copyright rules for the first time in two decades to help its creative industries by adopting a key provision known as Article 17. This requires YouTube, Facebook’s Instagram and other sharing platforms to install filters to prevent users from uploading copyrighted materials.
But this has drawn criticism from civil rights groups worried about potential censorship by authoritarian governments and risks to freedom of expression.
Several EU countries have yet to transpose the EU law into national legislation, due in part to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The European Commission has also proposed much a more wide-ranging Digital Services Act, which sets stringent obligations on very large online companies, online platforms and hosting services, backed by fines up to 6 percent of a company’s revenue for non-compliance.
This would apply to websites, Internet infrastructure services and online platforms such as online marketplaces, social networks, content-sharing platforms, app stores, and online travel and accommodation platforms.
The draft rules need to be thrashed out with EU countries and EU lawmakers before they can become law, likely to be next year.


EU investigates Google’s conduct in digital ad tech sector

Google is restricting access by third parties to user data for ad purposes on websites and apps. (File/AFP)
Google is restricting access by third parties to user data for ad purposes on websites and apps. (File/AFP)
Updated 22 June 2021

EU investigates Google’s conduct in digital ad tech sector

Google is restricting access by third parties to user data for ad purposes on websites and apps. (File/AFP)
  • EU launches a new antitrust investigation against Google to determine whether the company is stifling competition in digital advertising technology.

LONDON: European Union regulators have launched a fresh antitrust investigation of Google, this time over whether the US tech giant is stifling competition in digital advertising technology.
The European Commission said Tuesday that it has opened a formal investigation into whether Google violated the bloc’s competition rules by favoring its own online display advertising technology services at the expense of rival publishers, advertisers and advertising technology services.
The commission, the EU’s executive arm and the bloc’s top antitrust enforcer, is looking in particular at whether Google is restricting access by third parties to user data for ad purposes on websites and apps.
“Online advertising services are at the heart of how Google and publishers monetize their online services,” said Margrethe Vestager, the EU commission’s competition chief and executive vice president for digital. Google collects data to be used for targeted advertising while it also sells advertising space and acts as a middleman between online advertisers and publishers, she said.
“We are concerned that Google has made it harder for rival online advertising services to compete in the so-called ad tech stack,” Vestager said.
An email seeking comment was sent to Google’s press office.


Kantar reveals 2021’s most valuable brands

Kantar reveals 2021’s most valuable brands
Updated 22 June 2021

Kantar reveals 2021’s most valuable brands

Kantar reveals 2021’s most valuable brands
  • New ranking demonstrates pandemic’s role in driving brand growth

DUBAI: Global data analytics and consulting company Kantar has released its ranking of the top 100 most valuable brands of the year.

The total value of the top 100 brands has grown by 42 percent, to reach a new record of over $7 trillion, demonstrating a significant rebound from the pandemic. The increase — more than four times the study’s annual average percentage increase over the past 15 years — has been driven by confidence derived from vaccine availability, economic stimulus packages and improving GDP outlooks, according to the report.

“2020-1 has been a record year for brand growth, and despite many facing a difficult year, our research has again proven that strong brands deliver superior shareholder returns, are more resilient and recover more quickly,” said Nathalie Burdet, chief marketing officer of Kantar.

American brands account for more than half of the top 100 brands, with Amazon and Apple leading the way.

Amazon maintained its position as the world’s most valuable brand, growing by 64 percent to $684 billion. It became the first half-a-trillion-dollar brand, alongside Apple, at No. 2, which is valued at $612 billion.

The high rankings of Amazon and Apple are reflective of the growth of big tech companies with seven out of the top 10 brands coming from the technology sector. These include Google at No. 3, Microsoft at No. 4, Tencent at No. 5, Facebook at No. 6 and Alibaba at No. 7

Technology has also enabled non-tech brands to grow during the last year with several of them having to expand their digital presence and pivot to online sales. That explains why this year Zoom and Spotify made it on the top 100 list for the first time. Zoom came in at No. 52 with a valuation of $36.9 billion, while Spotify came in at No. 54 following a 454 percent growth in subscribers between 2015 and 2020.

“With global e-commerce growing from 12 to 15 percent of all sales in 2020, it has been a positive year for brands involved in that value chain — from the retailers through to the couriers like FedEx and UPS,” added Burdet.

This year, five brands doubled their value. At No. 47 is Tesla, the fastest-growing brand, which grew its value by 275 percent to $43 billion. The other four are all Chinese brands: Moutai, Meituan, TikTok and Pinduoduo.

The predominance of Chinese brands on the list marks China’s lead over Europe with Chinese brands having grown from 11 percent of the top 100 value in 2011 to 14 percent today. On the other hand, European brands represent 8 percent of the ranking’s value versus 20 percent in 2011.

The pandemic played a crucial role in driving brands’ value this year. As consumers spent more time at home, the top 10 media and entertainment brands experienced a growth of over 50 percent with gaming chip providers NVIDIA and AMD entering the ranking for the first time.

The time spent working from home also blurred the lines between loungewear and formal wear resulting in a rise in athleisure clothing, which was driven by Adidas, Nike, Puma and Lululemon all securing over 50 percent value growth.

Even the luxury category saw a 34 percent brand growth. Kantar attributes this growth to brands investing in reputation, especially for sustainable and ethical purposes, which has increasingly become a driver for brand growth. For example, LVMH invested in its corporate reputation through pandemic-related initiatives, sustainable transformation and support for social movements such as Black Lives Matter, while L’Oréal Paris secured brand growth across its beauty brands by driving female empowerment.

“This year’s results show that brand building remains critical to securing growth,” said Burdet.

Kantar tracks the stock market performance of the strongest brands and has seen that these brands recover twice as fast as other key indices, she added. The firm’s analytics show that 70 percent of the success of a brand depends on four fundamentals: providing superior experience across consistently branded touchpoints; a range of well-designed and functional products and services; convenience; and exposure through great advertising.

“However, [the pandemic] has emphasized consumer values such as trust and reliability. Those brands that are evolving their values, projecting leadership on these issues, are demonstrating differentiation and standing out,” said Burdet.