Arab Blogging 2005!

Susannah asked a question and I thought I would start this year by answering it here. She said:

It was good to hear you on World Have Your Say. However, presumably for reasons of time (or possible coughing?, although the interview asked the other two interviewees about the growth in the blogospheres in their part of the global woods during the past year, and their predictions for further growth in the coming year, you were not asked this particular question. Would it be possible for you to give some thoughts, and estimates, on the growth of the Arab blogosphere and its constituents over the past year? Are there any figures on the number of Arab blogs, whether in English, Arabic, French etc? It seems to me that a lot of blogs have been set up in the past two or three months of this year alone. Any other observations you would have made on the programme had there been time?

Thanks.

The question is impossible to answer in quantifying terms, but I think year 2006 will continue to surprise us with new great blogs on daily bases.

Talking about the Arab world in general, it is not easy to even guess the existing number of blogs. However, I think with so many new blogger-like projects coming up (like Jeeran and Al Bawaba, etc..) the boost will be bigger than 2005. Specially that Arabic language is supported by most of the tools now.

On the other hand, I’m seeing new blogs coming up on daily bases from all around the Arab world; however, the most notable blogspheres in the last year were the Jordanian, Iraqi and the Egyptian. The reasons are many, but most important are Media attention, and (un)fortunately, the troubles that rocked these countries might be the mean reason that made the media (local and international) give them attention, which resulted in (re)discovering new blogs (existing and old, and new ones), beside motivating new blogs to show up, for all reason and topics.

I said this during our last GVO meeting last month in London, the media has been neglecting the blogsphere of the Arab world in general when comparing to American, for example. Or, if I want to be more specific, then I should say confidently that majority of Arab media don’t know what is blogging or never heard of it yet. Therefore, I don’t blame the western media, after all that is not their job to watch Arab blogs, but blaming our media and our journalists. In fact, if we search the Internet, we will find that apart from two or three Arab media corporation mentioned bloggers a couple of time, its been only the western media which went around meeting Arab bloggers and linking to their blogs and posts, even rewarding some.

Some Jordanian bloggers did a great job in approaching the media in Jordan and I guess the results are great, same goes to Egypt, and something like this is cooking now in Bahrain. But after all, I still think that unless and until our ‘electronic media corporation’ is developed to follow new standards, and until our journalist get to have their own blogs so that they can feel and talk and spread the word, and until they discover what ‘citizen media‘ means, we will still have a long road to go.

On the other hand, what really matter for me in year 2006 is not the number of new blogs (although this will remain a big issue), but what matters more for me this year is the number of ‘blogs readers.’ After all, all those who have blogs are writing and sharing their opinion for others to read and discuss, therefore reflecting what and who Arab (Muslims and Christian) are.

I can see that the number of readers has increased beyond anyone’s estimation, although this might not be evident if you look at the number of comments a post has (it never was), but I heard this from so many bloggers around the Arab world, as well witnessed this on my own blog. In fact, if I take this blog as an example, the number of unique visitors increased from Jan 2005 to Dec 2005 by 1000%, yes, that is one thousand percent. In fact I had to move my blog mid of last year to new host and later on 2005 to a dedicated server, to cater for the daily increasing number of readers.

Why number of readers matter, and why I conceder it more important? Well, it means that Arab bloggers are getting more attention from targeted (or untargeted) readers and they are finding something interesting to follow, and this makes the difference. One of my loyal reads when he first came here, he sent me an email to apologize. Following his apology to explain why by saying the he feels that he is ‘under siege of CNN media and blogs alike,’ and now he can see the other side of the moon! This made a difference for me…

Having said all that, I prefer that the Arab blogsphere do not increase rapidly and just to have new few bloggers who can make a difference than having a million new Arab bloggers and get lost between them trying to find a word worth reading and following between millions of post and bloggers talking about what they eat for lunch and what they saw on TV last night. Not that that ‘life journals‘ are bad, but floods will cover opinionated voices worth reading. Unless someone comes up with a new idea in the blogsphere to segregate the ‘life journals’ from ‘opinionated blogs‘. For at the end of the day, each has its ‘customers‘.

Anyway, Susannah, if you like to read more about Arab blogsphere and my opinion on that, please read the Spanish and Italian media interviews I had last year.