With Egyptian Style Parody, Video Magazine Disalata Goes Viral in Egypt

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Sometimes all it takes is one great hit to secure a content startup’s viability. 

Video magazine Disalata  – which means “it is a salad” in Arabic – made it big this fall by writing and releasing Egyptian Style,” a 5 minute Egyptian version of the international hit “Gagnam Style” (see the video below). Within days, the video garnered almost a million views, boosting their fan base and subscribers to several thousand, proving that they have what it takes to please the crowd.

Producing a comedic song like Egyptian Style is just one of the various approaches that Disalata takes when building the first online video “magazine” in Egypt. In its first 8-show season on March 2012, the platform offered political sarcasm, easy cooking recipes, movie reviews, fashion and designer stories, cultural music and poetry, city guides, and travel advice for Egypt.

Yet watching the two monthly episodes per show, you will realize that Disalata is not just about mere entertainment; it expands awareness, encourages innovation, and connects people through shared interests.

“The idea came after the revolution of talent that occurred with Jan 25th revolution,” says Mohamed El Bassiouni, the platform’s co-founder and managing director. The boom of social media in Egypt also inspired both Bassiouni and Magdi Omar, the founder and head of production, to launch the startup and take it to the next level, moving past the trend of sets of videos on YouTube in favor of a magazine format.

The Disalata presenters are simply talented people discussing what they love; Bassiouni brought them on board, by giving them an opportunity to present shows about what each of them is passionate about. “What makes Disalata special is that it’s not a one man show,” he says. “It’s a team effort and we trust each other.”

Their presenters believe in the project so much that they have actually agreed not to get paid until the self-funded platform makes revenues. The team is currently in negotiations with sponsors and advertisers, but it’s an attractive enough opportunity that Techno Wireless Digital Ads (TWDA) became interested.

One of their challenges has been developing low budget videos that also have high production quality. “If you do not have consistency in your content and quality, you’re going to lose people,” Bassiouni said.

Disalata is not the first online show in Egypt. El Gomhoreya TV, for one, launched in mid-2011 as the first online TV channel in Egypt. As a viewer I thought both were quite similar, but Magdi insists upon the difference. “This is not TV, it’s online video. We wanted to get away from the idea of TV.” The founders think that El Gomhoreya tends more to be political, while Disalata has a more diverse focus, including articles and blog posts related to the videos, making it more interactive than a TV show.

Throughout Disalata season 1 episodes, you can notice the evolution of the content, and the team’s process of trial and error, as they used viewer feedback to iterate their product. The target was to remain low profile until the shows received reasonable feedback. Social media has been their main marketing tool so far, along with the first couple of videos from season one that have gone viral.

After launching season 2 this September with “Egyptian Style,” the team promises that the rest of the season will be as engaging and interactive, with something for every viewer. With their outstanding spirit and innovation, they have me looking forward to season 3 already!

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