scales into video and AI

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In January 2017, reached 33 million views which made it the most popular website in the Gulf according to a report released by Effective Measure.

Despite its high ranking, the company which was established in 2012 and is now profitable, seems to be aspiring for more.

In addition to its monthly 5000 articles, the company has started releasing 500 videos a month. It is also tapping into the AI and big data sectors.

Mawdoo3 raised $1.5 million in series A funding in 2015 from Equi Trust.

The website offers two kinds of informative content, the first is based on the Wikipedia model, the second follows eHow, in which articles are written in the format of answers. Mohammad Jaber founder of Mawdoo3 believes that his website is an alternative to the wide spread Arabic forums that are usually unfit for the web.

Wamda: Why did you decide to scale into video production?

Jaber: In addition to diversifying our content, the future of advertising lies in videos, and so we are trying to make use of this trend to add a new revenue channel, especially that the cost of a video add is almost ten times more than the cost of a web ad.

We started off by outsourcing the production, but that costed a lot and so we decided to establish our own studio which now hosts 12 employees out of the total 40.

Mohammad Jaber.

Wamda: What are your future plans?

Jaber: We are currently working on producing the Arabic version of Amazon Alexa which uses voice recognition to converse with the user. We decided to tap into this market because we firmly believe that the online search culture will shift from writing/reading to speaking/listening since the latter is the easier and faster method. We are also releasing a Q&A application with a voice recognition feature, very soon.

In addition to our AI interests, we are working on producing Mawdoo3 Premium Insights, which is a service that provides big data to corporations that can make use of our company’s insights for their own marketing.

Wamda: Since you solely depend on advertising for profit, how do you see the sector changing and how does that affect content producers?

Jaber: The online user is fed up with traditional ads and has found ways to get rid of them through Ad Blocker and its likes. This of course creates a huge problem to the advertising sector which is aware of the severity of the situation.

Therefore, the most viable solution is to integrate the ads within the content itself in a way that does not annoy the reader or affect the website’s brand. This is what we call Native Ads, and it comprises 40 percent of our profit, and it mostly comes from the Gulf.

The ads are integrated by producing indirect content that is related to the product, for example we write about the importance of milk as part of our collaboration with Al Marai, but we also produce content that directly features the product itself (sponsored content).

To make sure the reader is not misled, we add the company’s name next to the article.

Wamda: Although social media is often used to target a larger audience, you only use it to attract 1 percent of your users, while 70 percent comes through organic search. How do you explain this?

Jaber: Since we are considered an encyclopedia, the content we offer is not social, it does not offer the short and quick content consumed on those sites. Therefore we heavily depend on search engines, especially that they are still unsaturated. We specified a team that keeps testing our SEO and developing new tools exclusive to Mawdoo3.

I would personally advise content producers to dedicate 50-70 percent of their marketing budget towards improving SEO; organic search is much more sustainable than social media.

Wamda: How do you choose your topics?

Jaber: We rely on an automated system that keeps record of all the keywords that the users enter into our search engine but fail to find content on. The system sends a list of those words to the 300 freelance writers who work for us, and they in turn choose the topics from that list.

Wamda: What are factors that affect readership?

Jaber: The content itself is the most important component of our work; coherent articles written in a simple and structured language do very well on Mawdoo3. Aside from the content, other technical features including the interface, and speed are important as well.

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