Arageek: the reader comes first, even at our expense

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‘Arabic content worth reading’ is the motto many Arabic content platforms hold to against the rise of poor online Arabic content.

Arageek  is one of those individual attempts that may not be able to rescue the Arabic content, but is trying to provide a different model and good quality content.

According to one of its founders, Malaz Madani, their content targets “millennials aged between 16 and 22 years.”

Madani is a young Syrian who moved to London in 2006, and studied marketing at the Chartered Institute of Marketing, where he met his friend, Emad Shams. In November 2011, they started Arageek together.

“Enriching Arabic content, filling the gap of good content, educating the reader, and providing a different type of content,” are some of the reasons he shared with Wamda.

Content bringing people together

Madani believes Arabic content tends to be used as a weapon to create religious, sectarian, and political discrimination in regional crises.

This has driven the Arageek team to provide a content that brings people together instead. Non-trivial content, focusing on technology, art, and education, which interest Arab youth was adopted.

Strict policies, basic journalism standards, and credible sources are key in the content creating process, in addition to focusing on suggestions and ideas brought by the team.

The platform managed to reach a large audience, including 1.6 million unique visitors/month, and 1.7 million social media followers.

Even if journalists believe Arabs prefer visual content over long articles, Arageek’s content has rather a long form.

Photo caption: Malaz Madani receiving the prize for best blog in 2016 from Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum at the Arab Social Media Influencers Summit. (Image via Arageek)

Getting readers, not money

According to Madani, their marketing knowledge and SEO experience helped them expand their reach, in addition to social media influencers and loyal followers.  

On another level, Arageek is self-funded and has not received any funding to date. The platform is making money just to pay the writers and to get by, Madani said, through revenues generated from discrete page banners and sponsored content.

However, and similar to other platforms that are impartial both political and advertising wise, Arageek is not managing to make much revenues even if it has higher viewership rates than those ventures that are actually funded.

The only beacon of hope for Madani and the team was naming Arageek for the ‘Best Arabic Blog in 2016’ at the Arab Social Media Influencers Summit.

No clear business models

Zahraa Mortada, editor in chief of Raseef 22, said the last few years witnessed a surge in online Arabic content platforms. However, these channels lack clear business models to generate sustainable revenues.

“There will be a time when funding will stop and the same sites will be searching for appropriate business models,” she added.

She explained that ads will remain the fundamental source of income for these platforms. However, entering this market is hard. First, it is saturated, and new platforms might find it difficult to find their place. Second, it is dangerous, especially that advertisers might have control over the published content.

Photo caption: Zahraa Mortada. (Image by Mortada via photographer Melinda Troshu)

“As a content platform, you should increase your visitors’ number through good content. That way, you will access the ad market confidently and the advertiser will be searching out for you, without risking any content control attempt from his side,” she added.

Publishing ‘attractive’ but meaningless content or ‘shocking’ headlines, will attract visitors for some time but would not eventually generate an audience, she said.

The reader is ‘King’

Respecting the reader has been a key concern to Arageek. Madani said they do not  deal with their audience as consumers or as a source of clicks or money. They are rather seen as humans.

Not bothering users with many ads, staying away from empty content, and showing the unbiased nature of the team’s work, are mediums they adopted to respect the readers, he said.

“What I say may sound romantic and unrealistic, but when you love something, you want to protect it more than anything. I love Arageek and its readers, and don’t want to distort it in any way,” Madani concluded.

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