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, we’re 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 a population over 100 million, where half this number are connected users with annual growth of 41%, the opportunities for the 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, it’s 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 that 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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Reimagining the Video Player with the help of MICO – Part 1

How more context can help us revamp HelixWare’s Video player to boost user engagement on news sites.

originally posted on http://www.mico-project.eu/reimagining-the-video-player/

Our use case in MICO is focused on news and media organisations willing to offer more context and better navigation to users who visit their news outlets. A well-known (in the media industry at least) report from Cisco that came out this last February predicts that nearly three-fourths (75 percent) of the world’s mobile data traffic will be attributed to video by 2020.

The latest video content meetup - organized in Cairo this March with the Helixware's team at Injaz. (Images courtesy of Insideout Today)

The latest video content meetup – organized in Cairo this March with the Helixware’s team at Injaz. (Images courtesy of Insideout Today)

While working with our fellow bloggers and editorial teams we’ve been studying how these news organizations, particularly those with text at their core, can be helped in crafting their stories with high-quality videos.

More over, the question we want to answer is: can videos become a pathway to deeper engagement?

With the help of MICO’s media extractors we can add semantic annotations to videos on demand . These annotations are in the form of media fragments that can be used as input for both the embeddable video player of HelixWare and the video thumbnails created by HelixWare WordPress plugin. Media fragments, in our showcase, are generated from the face detection extractor and are both temporal (there is a face at this time in the video) and spatial (the face within these frames is located at xywh).

The new HelixWare video player that we’re developing as part of our effort in MICO aims at creating an immersive experience for the end-users. The validation of both video player and video thumbnail will be done using A/B testing against a set of metrics our publishers are focused on: time per session, numbers of videos played per session, number of shares of the videos over social media (content virality).

Now let’s review the design assumptions we’ve worked on so far to reimagine the video player and in the next post we will present the first results.

1. Use faces to connect with users

Thumbnails, when done right, are generally key to ensuring a high level of engagement on web pages. This seems to be particularly true when thumbnails feature human faces that are considered “powerful channels of non-verbal communication in social networks. With MICO we can now offer to the editor a better tool to engage audiences by integrating a new set of UI elements that use human faces in the video thumbnail.  The study documenting this point is “Faces Engage Us: Photos with Faces Attract More Likes and Comments on Instagram” and has been authored by S Bakhshi, D. A. Shamma, E. Gilber in ‎2014.   

2. Increase the saturation by 20%-30% to boost engagement

Another interesting finding backing up our work is that filtered photos are 21% more likely  to  be  viewed and 45% more likely to be commented on by consumers of photographs. Specifically, filters that increase warmth, exposure and contrast boost engagement the most.

3. Repeat text elements

As seen in most of the custom thumbnail tutorials for YouTube available on-line adding some elements of the title or the entire title using a bold font over a clear background can make the video more compelling and accordingly to some, significantly increase the click-through-rate.  One of the goals of the demo will be to provide a simple and appealing UI where text and image cooperate to offer a more engaging user experience removing any external informations that could distract the viewer.

4. Always keep the editor in full control

We firmly believe machines will help journalists and bloggers focus on what matters most – writing stories that people want to read. This means that whatever workflow we plan to implement there shall always be a human (the editor himself) behind the scene validating the content produced by technologies such as MICO.

This is particularly true when dealing with sensitive materials such as human faces depicted in videos. There might be obvious privacy concerns for which an editor might choose to use a landscape rather than a face for his video thumbnail and we shall make sure this option always remains available.

We will continue documenting this work in the next blog post and as usual we look forward to hearing your thoughts and ideas – please email us anytime.