Opportunities & challenges for the Arab media industry, insights from Alexandria Media Forum 2018!

“Technology, media and fake news in the post-truth era” was the title of the sixth edition of the annual Alexandria Media Forum, where we, as Insideout and Wordlift, were proud to be the community supporters of this edition. As a key player in the digital media business in the Arab region & Middle East we supported the forum where Fady Ramzy was a keynote speaker at the opening panel and also Andrea Volpini provided a session about the power of Artificial Intelligence powered SEO in building a rock solid content strategy for the news & media industry.

 

The opening panel: online media opportunities and challenges

The opening panel, which included Fady Ramzy Insideout CEO and Ehab el Zellaky chief editor of Al-Masry el youm, discussed the opportunities and challenges in the online news & media industry in Egypt.

“Mobile internet speeds, widespread social media usage and high video consumptions are the three pillars of the opportunity in Egypt“, highlighted Fady

In a country with population over 100 million, where half this number are connected users with annual growth of 41%, the opportunities for media industry, especially online, are massive. Also the enormous usage of social media plays a crucial role in news and media distribution with Facebook and Youtube are at the top successively. Another big opportunity for online media is the widespread of 4G networks and wide adoption of mobile internet. Last but not least, as a result of all these, is the steady  rise consumption of video content.

Challenges are mostly around the proper business model, which is still a mystery for most online news & media hubs. Despite some positive vibes in the past few years here where this industry witnessed the birth of few digital pure players (like Egyptian streets), still mostly the basic advertising model is dominant. Moreover in the TV & print  media still most of the focus and investments are around traditional media although they are online (through websites, social media, mobile apps) but still in a primitive shape that doesn’t drive solid revenues.

 

AI-powered SEO for boosting content distribution & findability

Andrea joined the forum remotely through skype providing a super interesting session about how can Artificial intelligence help publishers expand traffic using semantic technologies and keeping readers engaged by helping machines understand what the content is about.

Andrea started his session with quick but solid advises for online publishers, as follows

  1. Optimize your content for featured snippets by focusing on conversational long-tail keywords (yes, look for questions in your search logs or support transcripts)
  2. Add structured data, extract entities and publish metadata using linked data (it’s good for chatbot and it’s good for SEO)
  3. Write articles and not just answers. Voice search and chatbots typically are at the top of your funnel. You still need to guide the user to the next steps with great content
  4. Make sure your content can be read out aloud quicklyelocution matters!
  5. The Web is getting AMPed and you should embrace it too.

Moreover its crucial now for online publishers to understand that structured data is the foundation of the new web, specially chatbots and voice search. More details about this interesting topic are here in the slide deck below

Platforms and experiments for fighting fake news

Since the main topic was about fake news, the forum also presented interesting experiments for news verification & fact checking across the Arab world and Europe like

  • Da Begad in Egypt In Arabic Da Begad means “is it true?” and it has been a trustworthy hub for news verification and fact-checking. Moreover it won the forum’s award this year.
  • Akeed.jo in Jordan Launched by the Jordan Media Institute (JMI) and the King Abdullah II Fund for Development’s (KAFD) Democratic Empowerment Programme (Demoqrati) , this website acts as the Jordanian Media Credibility Monitor to track the credibility of news material that is published and broadcast by Jordanian media outlets.
  • Annahar in Lebanon Lebanon’s leading Arabic-language daily newspaper did an experiment where they launched a news portal called Lebanonnowwnews.com along with a facebook page and they published 3 articles of fake news to  monitor the user interaction with those news without checking them, and highlighted that these were fake news!
  • The Observers by France24 Is a collaborative site in French, English, Arabic and Persian and also a TV show on France 24  covering international current affairs by using eyewitness accounts from “Observers” – that’s to say people who are at the heart of an event by sending photos and videos to the observers’ team of professional journalists in Paris.

 

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The science & art behind Travel Blogging!

Its all about the experience!

Travel is all about new experiences, thats a major fact about. Travel blogging is crucial tool to share those experiences and build online communities about them exchanging different thoughts and lessons learnt. Here is some food for thought by our CEO Fady Ramzy.

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Aswan Nile view is a remarkable experience, achieving high engagement over Facebook

I admit that I always admired the job of the travel blogger since I was first invited to speak at the IOETI conference in Cairo in December 2011 and I was glad to meet top botch travel bloggers like the Dave & Deb from The PlanetD, Dan & Audrey from Uncornered market, Erica Hargreave from Romancing and then also the next year invited to speak in Alexandria and got in contact with Laura Hubber who talked about E-branding Egypt!

While traveling a lot around the globe for business, From Nairobi in Kenya to Tampa Florida in the US, I was always keen to share the experience over social networks, get in contact with locals, attend meetups and understand more about every place I visit.

Starting first trails

In December 2013 I was mentoring Startup weekend in the amazing city of Aswan & it was my first time to go there. Being amazed by this city I decided to go back few weeks ago with my family for a vacation, but on the other hand since the city was really fascinating I decided to start practicing sharing the experience in a professional way and here is what I did:

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Spices Colors in Nubia went viral over instagram

  • Location marketing (Foursquare) I made sure to check-in every location I visited and leave at least one tip, its like paving the way to others and with every check-in & tip I added a photo and shared that to Facebook/twitter. Finally I compiled everything in an interesting Foursquare list
  • Content creation (photos & videos) I had my camera always around at every moment, you never know when the best shot is coming and tried to shot as many photos as I could, then filter & edit them.
  • Story telling (Instagram, Pinterest & Facebook) Instagram is really a magical tool for visual story telling and sharing the experience, all you need is a smart phone. When also combined with Facebook sharing, you get the best of the two worlds. A pinterest board is also a massive tool, its your panorama to the world. Here’s mine about Aswan!
  • Joining conversations (Twitter) By doing quick searches & picking the right hashtags I could align the content I am sharing with interesting relevant topics to achieve more reach. Popular travel hashtags include #ttot #IP & #hotels, just to name very few.
  • Reviews, reviews, reviews (Tripadvisor) Whenever I visit any city, Tripadvisor is a must do step checking out the hotels & places I would visit. The point is share as much as possible honest & true experience with positives & also negatives!
  • The blog Finally comes a blog post that summarized the story.

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Quick lessons learned

Well, though its fun all the time but travel blogging is not easy as anyone (including) myself would think! Here are few things to be taken into consideration

  • Talk to People Talk to local people as much as you can, hear their stories and understand more about the place. For example in Aswan, Nubian people are extremely decent, humble and friendly.
  • Watch for Power Always have your camera, mobile and all devices well charged and also consider getting a couple of battery banks. Worst experience was running out of camera charing in the middle of the Nile with amazing shots to be taken, missed!
  • Watch for Connectivity Make sure you have a good 3G package from your operator. You don’t want to be always striving for connectivity & bandwidth as I did on the last day as my package ended.
  • Ensure Wifi Hotel wifi is crucial as well. Though Movenpick is on an amazing location on the Elephantine island and it is one of the best hotels in Aswan, wifi was only in the public areas.
  • Create Content A photo is always worth a thousand words, try to generate interesting visuals. Moreover with instagram video & vine you got also to share mini-videos.
  • Promote content While writing a blog, tools like our own Wordlift that would enrich your blog post giving it better exposure and ranking over search engines can play magic, its a must have for every blogger. Our Italian team headed by Andrea & David had an interesting hackathon developing the product roadmap few weeks ago.
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Colored homes in Nubia achieving several retweets on twitter with proper hashtags

The results

As mentioned I was just entering the world of travel blogging (or at least lets call it professional experience sharing) and I challenged myself how far could I promote Aswan. I was really glad to answer several times calls asking me questions about best places there and average prices, sometimes over Facebook chat!

aswan lead

English: Hi Fady, I want to goto Aswan with family

 

An open call for travel blogging

The goal behind these lines you are reading is to share experience so we look forward your feedback as well. We are very keen to support the travel industry, especially in Egypt, promoting its values online through our innovative solutions & services. We look forward to your comments here to keep an ongoing conversation 🙂

 

Starting today … Always Startup!

This is the story of our new brand, InsideOut Today!

It has been a very interesting journey since our company was born in 2009, launched by Andrea Volpini who initiated the setup for the company beginning of the year then myself, Fady Ramzy, joined as the country manager in June to start the journey of Interact Egypt bringing online innovations from the European market to Egypt and the Middle East. Interact Egypt, started as the regional office for Interact SpA to strengthen the footprint in Middle East and North Africa, especially in the Telecommunications market. We started building the team and we were (and we still are) very focused to get the best calibers in town in terms of technical skills as well as personal entrepreneurship & enthusiastic spirit! The very first team members were Remon Magdy, the brilliant Service Delivery Manager, Ahmed Atef as support engineer & Jasmine Alladin our energetic online marketer.

Andrea's birthday in Cairo 2009

Celebrating Andrea’s birthday in Cairo 2009, with an exciting gift from the team: A Shisha 🙂

And we moved forward …..

Now we were closer and more local to our Egyptian as well as regional customers in Egypt, Tunis, Algeria and others, even including Pakistan. We started our journey by having all the R&D operations done in Cairo as well as the regional support operations. Lastly was the business development to grow our own regional footprint and it was interesting to expand our customer base to Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Ghana and others in the MENA region. We were also proud to have a network of worldclass technology partners, like RealNetworks where we launched their Helix 13 platform in 2009 in Cairo in an interesting event inviting partners, customers and telco/media key players. Since then, we have been their regional partner for next generation streaming technologies. We were always committed share our experience to the local community through lots of public events we did as online marketing consultants, also with giant partners like Al-Ahram (in media & publishing sector, check the photo set) and Ministry of Communications & Information Technology (in Government sector, check the photo set), Google (in ICT sector, check the photo sets & session video) and IOETI (In travel & tourism sector, check the photo set) and also Markedu and Afritech (in the sector of online marketing, check the BBC interview and photo-sets: Markedu & Afritech). Based also on our commitment to local startup eco-system, we believe that we did the very first web-seminar about E-marketing for Entrepreneurs in Arabic! http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DMG9hR_hG20

The Egyptian Revolution

A major milestone for Interact Egypt, as well as the whole Egypt, was the Jan 25th revolution in 2011 where young Egyptian generation wanted to create a new Egypt that’s more dynamic and enthusitic going away from 30 years old stagnant political regiem & scene. This revolution was ignited over social media, and we had to summarize the whole story for those days before, during and after the revolution in a summary slide-deck that went viral and a public photo set. Egypt, written using logos

Andrea makes another entrepreneurial move!

Few months later, as a serial entrepreneur, Andrea decided to make a major entrepreneurial move by moving out of Interact SpA and creating his own startup with David Riccitelli Insideout10 SRL to bring a step forward their own restless dedication towards online innovations, and with special focus on another major passion the semantic web – where the web is about things not strings! It is the next generation web where computers understand the needs of human beings and makes the online journey looking for content and services easier and richer discovering more facts and exposing more values. At this moment, the very first version of our first semantic web product, Wordlift, took place. Wordlift started basically as WordPress Plugin that provides an easy-to-use method to enrich user-created text (a blog post, article or web page) with HTML Microdata, and evolved across different versions to be the tool to help bloggers, publishers & content creators to organize their posts and pages using “concepts” like we do in the real world. Accordingly, Interact Egypt was reborn again, instead of being the regional office for Interact SpA, it was the sister company for the new startup, Insideout10 S.R.L having an amazing team back in Rome including Maurizio Sarlo, Francesco Scavelli and Kim Renberg as first believers of this new path. This move was a major change to our team, where for the first time we had to become a startup ourselves since we were not relying anymore about the Italian mother company. We grew our own footprint unleashing the potential in Africa where we started building online music and online advertising platforms. Moving the the Gulf (GCC) region, where internet speeds were even booming, our streaming platform was the exact solution for Telco operators who wanted to provide streaming services to their customers, starting by Saudi Arabia and Kuwait. Meeting @RealNetworks office in London

Tough times, that generated more success

Moving forward to the next years after the revolution, namely 2012 & 2013, it was challenging & tough time for us due to the overall situation in Egypt. The elections for a new president, was a unique experience that many Egyptians had not witnessed for the previous 30 years, or (if age is less than 30) then it was a first-time experience. We had our contribution here too: Our social media monitoring report about presidential candidates went viral & trending over slideshare and also received the attention of international media like BBC, CNN and Wamda https://twitter.com/slideshare/status/214366046247845890 https://twitter.com/samuelcnn/status/214326101504311296 Back to our core business, Enterprise Content Management Systems (ECMS) and media delivery, the year 2012 was major year for technology advancements on both fronts. In digital media, the new MPEG-DASH (Dynamic Adaptive Streaming over HTTP) technology started to evolve, we witness that clearly during our visit to IBC in Amsterdam, where we celebrated the launch of our second major product (after wordlift) which is then code named HelixCloud. HelixCloud is basically a middleware that provides a management framework and an intuitive Web UI on top of Helix Universal Server to help ISPs, Telco Operators or large enterprises to take control of their streaming platform. This product has changed the way our customers do streaming business. For example in A1, Austria’s leading telco operator providing them with a scalable and robust future TV platform that boosted their revenues through ingesting advertising in video playlists as well as lowering operational costs. It was a busy year though in 2012, between launching new versions of the mobile portal for Tunisiana (our telco customer in Tunisia), Augmented Reality for Enel (energy customer in Italy), upgrading the streaming platform of FastTelco (Telco customer in Kuwait), boosting back travel industry in Egypt through events & trainings and also launching social media contest for Savoy Group (travel customer in Egypt, a leading hotel complex in Sharm el Sheikh). Good news also was that, again our products like wordlift were getting media attention. This is also beside lots of work also on the Italian side, summarized in the next leaderboard video. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eOyW8LrK_Dc

The Group

Moving forward in 2013, the new spin-off called Redlink became finally a reality, providing semantic technologies to news & media, and changing the way computers work for people! This was the year of linked open data for us, where we started heavily focusing on these technologies and providing it to our customers like the linked open data for Enel project, and other projects across Europe as well. The InsideOut Group now started to taking shape between the three companies, with a startup spirit! Having said so, back to Cairo, the major trend was the uprising tech startup eco-system that was really booming, with lots momentum going on, and we were actively there on several fronts like providing guidance to Entrepreneurs, speaking at and supporting events like Riseup Summit , launching Egypt’s first Augmented Reality meetup, and lots more. Although political scene was quite tough in Egypt those days, we managed to deliver our best quality of services and also expanded our services and footprint to South Africa, crafting a solution for democratizing the radio programing there! Rise Up Egypt Summit Another major milestone for 2013, towards end of year, was the start of MICO (Media in Context) project, a European Union part-funded research project to provide cross-media analysis solutions for online multimedia producers. The 3 companies of the group are working harmonically on that project while our role, here in Cairo, is providing interesting use cases for this research project.

InsideOut Today!

Finally today, in July 2014, we are proud to make this long awaited announcement of our rebranding where our new brand is InsideOut Today. It is a new concept more than a brand, it is dynamic, open and community driven! Even our new logo is an open source algorithm that you can play with it yourself! Our team is growing, not only more geeks, but in several fronts also boosting every day our energy and focus. We work hard and play also hard 🙂 !

Iftar party 2014

InsideOut Today team at the Iftar party, Ramadan (July) 2014.