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newsweek cover arab spring uprising

DUBAI (Reuters) - Twitter Inc launched advertising services in the Middle East and North Africa on Sunday as the social media firm seeks to exploit a tripling of its regional subscriber base following its widespread use during the Arab Spring protests.

Digital advertising is relatively undeveloped in the region, accounting for an estimated 4 percent of its total advertising spending, but a young, tech-savvy population and rising Internet penetration points to significant potential for growth.

"The two are interconnected - the rapid growth of our user base with the timing of why we want to help brands connect with that audience," said Shailesh Rao, Twitter vice-president for international operations.

Twitter does not provide a regional breakdown of its more than 200 million users worldwide, but Rao said its MENA subscriber base had tripled in the past 12 months.

The company has recruited Egypt's Connect Ads, which is ultimately owned by Cairo-listed Orascom Telecom Media and Technology, to launch advertising initially in Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, Kuwait and the United Arab Emirates.

Pepsi and Saudi telecom operator Etihad Etisalat (Mobily) are among its confirmed clients, the company said.

Twitter says the products it promotes typically have an audience response rate of 1 to 3 percent, significantly higher than traditional advertising rate of 0.1 to 0.5 percent.

"Social media advertising is totally different because it relies on what people say. It's about two-way, not one-way, communication," said Mohamed El Mehairy, Connect Ads managing director.

(editing by Jane Baird)

Copyright (2013) Thomson Reuters. Click for restrictions

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shafqat islam

Content marketing is one of the biggest new trends for companies. Businesses are bringing customers closer by building their own content, or getting it from elsewhere. 

One of the biggest new players in the market is New York startup NewsCred.

The company takes content from media outlets like Bloomberg, The Economist, and The Guardian, and brings it to third parties, taking care of all of the licensing and legal issues along the way.

At first their business was primarily with publishers, but increasingly, the company's focus is on putting together customized content for huge brands like Pepsi, Johnson & Johnson, and Orange Telecom.  

Pepsi, for example, uses entertainment and music content on its consumer facing home page. 

NewsCred's CEO and founder Shafqat Islam has huge hopes for that business, telling Business Insider that "every Fortune 2000 company today is a candidate for content marketing. If they're not doing it, they will be, and we want to be in every single brand."

Even though their focus is changing, Islam told us how being in the wrong business at first helped the company build content and technology that make it dominant in a space that didn't exist a few years ago.  

"It's interesting, we were actually a consumer-facing news site, this was back in the day when Digg and Reddit were really popular. We thought we could take our own angle on this by focusing on quality and not popularity, giving users a tool to vote, to rate, comment on the quality of news so we could focus on high quality journalism.

We very quickly realized that that wasn't really a business, it was really a project or a non-profit. But while doing that, we had built out some pretty interesting technology for our site. When we tried to license content, it was a very painful experience. It was either very expensive or when people would deliver content to us, they'd FCP us 5,000 articles and expect us to kind of trawl through it and figure out what to publish.

Also, the content in itself wasn't that interesting, there was not that much diversity in terms of what our options were for licensing, so we said, why don't we just solve the problem and really innovate and kind of disrupt this syndication space? That's kind of how we got into this current business. Initially we were selling mainly to publishers, and then over the last year, year and half we realized the brand space has really taken off, and that's when we really started focusing more and more on brands."

Islam didn't give up when it became clear his first idea wouldn't work. Instead, he saw a new problem and changed the company to address it. Even their second focus, selling to publishers, wasn't quite right. "It's really hard, and it's really slow, and it's hard to extract kind of a lot of dollars because newsroom budgets are shrinking," Islam says.

But by building a massive library of content, a tough task that took years, the company put itself in the right place at exactly the right time to take advantage of brand's adoption of content and disrupt both the syndication and content marketing industries. 

It's another reminder of two of the most important lessons for startups, the importance of timing, and the fact that some of the best businesses and lessons come after initial setbacks.

NOW READ: Big Brands Are Pouring Money Into Their Own Custom News Sites

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Brian Wong

Kiip CEO Brian Wong is 21. He looks about 14. His brain, however, operates like a 28-year-old with an MBA.

Kiip is his mobile game and app ad network, which has 30 employees and clients such as Pepsi, Best Buy, Carls Jr, Popchips and Disney.

Kiip's business model—which rewards mobile phone users the further they get inside mobile games—could be about to turn the world of mobile advertising on its head. It essentially bribes consumers into doing the one thing they usually avoid: clicking on ads and giving marketers their information.

We had lunch with Wong at Dos Caminos, a Mexican restaurant around the corner from his new, unfurnished and undecorated office on Park Avenue South in New York last week. Right now, only about four people, including Chris Kobran—the former ad sales director at Digg—operate out of the office. (Kobran, who has gray hair, provides the adult supervision at Kiip. Or at least the appearance of it.)

It's easy to be cynical about Wong, the chief executive who's barely old enough to buy his own beer. But his pitch is convincing. In a nutshell, Kiip's banners appear in a mobile game once a user completes a level. The ad offers the user a reward for their gaming success: a free bottle of Propel, for instance, was offered by Pepsi inside the MapMyFitness app for every eight miles run by a user.

The ads are easily declined by users who don't want free stuff. Wong believes that as soon as advertisers learn to offer rewards that are relevant to the game and the demographics playing them—Amazon gift cards for every 15 thumbs up inside Pandora, for instance, or matchday tickets for fantasy league players—then consumers will respond by only playing games and using apps that contain Kiip-enabled rewards.

He wants Kiip to become a trusted consumer badge, like a Visa logo in a store window, only for mobile games. If Wong gets his way, "You will never use an app or use a game unless it's enabled with Kiip," he says.

Currently, Kiip is inside 300 apps on both Android and Apple platforms. Kiip is on 30 million devices and has shown a reward to 50 million users. He claims engagement rates—a tap plus an email address—of 25 percent, and redemption rates of 5 percent.

Wong says his revenue is in "the high seven figures." He's taken $4.4 million in finding from Verizon Ventures, TriVentures and Hummer Winblad.

"We don't describe ourselves as an ad network," Wong says. Other mobile ad companies—Velti, Millennial Media, Appsavvy—"they're all about the ads," he says. Kiip only does reward programs. In the future, clients will have mobile rewards budgets the same way they currently have social media, web, TV, radio and print budgets.

When asked why Kiip hasn't been acquired by a larger agency network or a rival, Wong says Kiip is continually being checked out by larger companies. "They like to keep tabs on companies they know may potentially usurp some of their business," he says.

See Also:

Why The Nation's Leading Mobile Ad Company Can't Make A Profit

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Rian Dundon

A view from inside the other new China

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This project re-examines China’s shifting cultural norms, economic transitions, and socio-political changes from within the context of its marginalized interior regions. Moving beyond the urban-centric/scenic/iconic structures, which dominate the current visual record of China, it considers the cultural dynamism of smaller provincial cities and rural prefectures far removed from China’s coastal metropole. These peripheral spaces, borderlands of China’s rural-to-urban transformation, are a crossroads for individuals finding their own place within a fluctuating and subjective cultural (and indeed physical) landscape. If economic growth has opened new avenues for expression in China so too have resultant ideological deviations affected the way people see themselves and their place in the world. This project looks to provide visual evidence of that reality by focusing on the differentiated actualities of life in an environment of sustained cultural flux.

In China’s interior provinces, where the full benefits of economic growth have yet to be realized, negotiating modernity requires hustling for a place within fresh modes of individualized experience and personal redefinition. This project traces its narrative across the diverse geographies of these liminal regions to witness how divergent notions of sex, desire, image, and identity coalesce to help shape a cultural reality not found in dominant media representations of China. Its images form a visual diary chronicling the interpersonal relationships of people living on the fringes of China’s social sphere and the vulnerability I see reflected in a generation of young people coming of age in a society set on fast-forward.



Rian Dundon (Portland, 1980) is an independent documentary photographer and writer from Monterey, California. His words and images have appeared in The Irish Times Magazine, New America Media, Time, Stern, Out, and Newsweek. Since 2005 Rian has produced several works of photography addressing social issues in China including urbanization, drug addiction, celebrity culture, homosexuality, migrant labor, and HIV/AIDS proliferation. His work has been exhibited at the Angkor Photo Festival, the FotoGrafia Festival, Caochangdi Photo Spring, The Camera Club of New York, and the New York Photo Festival. Rian is currently working on a series of photographs analyzing the impact of incarceration on prisoners in California. He speaks Mandarin Chinese and is a masters candidate in Social Documentation at University of California, Santa Cruz.


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Rian Dundon

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Ahmed Harara is a dentist. While protesting during the Egyptian revolution in January, he was struck in the eye by a rubber bullet. Blinded in that eye, he continued to protest. Then, during the November protests in Tahrir Square, Ahmed was shot in his other eye by a rubber bullet. Now he is completely blind.

But he kept protesting.

Harara is one of more than a hundred protesters around the world photographed by TIME contract photographer Peter Hapak. From Oakland, Calif., to New York City, across Europe and through the Middle East, Hapak and I traveled nearly 25,000 miles photographing protesters and activists from eight countries.

We photographed protesters representing Occupy Wall Street, Occupy Oakland, Occupy the Hood, Los Indignados of Spain, protesters in Greece, revolutionaries in Tunisia and Egypt, activists from Syria fleeing persecution, a crusader fighting corruption in India, Tea Party activists from New York, a renowned poet turned protester from Mexico and a protester from Wisconsin who carries a shovel, topped by a flag.

We set up makeshift studios in hotel rooms, apartments and people’s homes, inside a temple in rural India and an anarchist headquarters in Athens — even in the courtyard of the home of Mannoubia Bouazizi, the mother of Tunisian street vendor Mohamed Bouazizi. Tear gas wafted into our studio in a hotel room overlooking Tahrir Square — the same room where Yuri Kozyrev made a now iconic photograph of the crowd.

Each time, we asked subjects to bring with them mementos of protest. Rami Jarrah, a Syrian activist who fled to Cairo, brought his battered iPhone. He showed me some of the most intense protest footage I’ve ever seen. A Spanish protester named Stephane Grueso brought his iPhone too, referring to it as a “weapon.” Young Egyptian protesters brought rubber pellets that had been fired at them by security forces. Another brought a spent tear-gas canister. Subjects carried signs, flags and gas masks (some industrial ones, some homemade, like the one belonging to Egyptian graffiti artist El Teneen — his was made from a Pepsi can). A trio of Greek protesters brought Maalox. (Mixed with water, it was sprayed on their eyes to counter the harsh effects of tear gas.) Molly Katchpole, the young woman from Washington, D.C., who took on Bank of America — and won — brought her chopped-up debit card. Sayda al-Manahe brought a framed photograph of her son Hilme, a young Tunisian killed by police during the revolution. El Général, the Tunisian revolutionary rapper, brought nothing but his voice — he rapped a cappella for us (we have video). Lina Ben Mhenni, a blogger from Tunisia and a Nobel Peace Prize contender, brought her laptop. She spoke Arabic, yet we understood the words Facebook and Twitter.

Each subject was photographed in front of a white or black background — eliminating their environments but elevating their commonality to that of “Protester,” a fitting setup for a group of people united by a common desire for change.

“They were all unhappy. They wanted change, and they wanted a better life,” Hapak said. “Everybody is out there to unite their power for one common cause, one common expression: to get a better life.”

Witty is the international picture editor at TIME.

Hapak is a contract photographer for TIME, who most recently photographed Tilda Swinton for the Dec. 19, 2011, issue.

MORE: See the entire 2011 Person of the Year package here

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