The popular messaging app is increasingly being used for a myriad of purposes including public health messaging and interactions between businesses and their consumers

Image via Getty and

In February 2020, Facebook announced that the Whatsapp messaging service — which they acquired in 2014 — now had more than 2 billion users worldwide.[1]

Research published in late-December 2019 by Northwestern University in Qatar found that three-quarters (75%) of nationals surveyed in seven nations across the region (Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Tunisia and UAE) used the service. Since 2017, their data has consistently found WhatsApp to have the highest reach of any social platform in the region.[2]

Usage during the COVID pandemic

71% of Middle East respondents in a 500 person survey run by PwC reported their usage of WhatsApp and other…

Content partnerships, efforts to help businesses embrace digital, and plans to boost internet connectivity were all major trends in the past year

A computer screen displaying the ‘Facebook” icon on December 22, 2020 [Esra Hacioğlu/Anadolu Agencyy] via Middle East Monitor

Social networkers in the MENA region are among the most active in the world. Here are the key trends brands and content creators need to know.

This is an extract from “How The Middle East used Social Media in 2020,” written by Damian Radcliffe and Hadil Abuhmaid in partnership with the New Media Academy.

This report is free to download and available in English: and Arabic:

Over the coming weeks, I’ll be posting each chapter from the report as a standalone article here on Medium. To start, check out the Executive Summary and the headlines from 2020.

Chapter 1. Market Context

Social Networks are powerful platforms in the Middle East, as they are around the world, shaping — and influencing — a wide range of online and offline…

Ten startups from seven countries participated in the Techstars accelerator programme this year. They tell ZDNet why the MENA region is ripe for FinTech innovation — and what comes next.

Founded in 2006, Techstars has invested in more than 2,200 companies in 15 years. In the process, the startup accelerator has supported entrepreneurs in over 150 countries, more recently expanding into the Middle East.

With a current market cap of $27 billion, the network began with three basic ideas: “entrepreneurs create the future, collaboration drives innovation, and great ideas can come from anywhere.”

Techstars launched its first accelerator in MENA — Techstars Dubai — in 2018, with a similar initiative following a year later in Abu Dhabi. …

Audience habits and opportunities for newsrooms

The Digital News Report, the latest edition of which was published at the end of June, is a must read for anyone who wants to understand the behaviors of online news consumers.

Now in its tenth year, the annual study from the Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism (RISJ) now features insights from 46 different countries and 92,000 respondents.

As in previous years, the report offers analysis at a country and continental level, as well as cross-cutting issues such as paying for news, gateways to content and trust in media.

Clocking in at 164 pages, and accompanied by a…

11 emerging findings from a forthcoming report for the Tow Center for Digital Journalism (Columbia Journalism School)

In late summer 2020, Tow Fellow Damian Radcliffe and research assistant Ryan Wallace conducted an online survey capturing the experience of life at local newspapers during COVID-19.

The work builds on Radcliffe’s previous Tow Center fellowship in 2016–17, where he and Dr. Christopher Ali undertook a similar survey, as well as a wide ranging landscape study, both of which explored the health of small market newspapers. Combined, the research offered strategies to preserve and enhance local news, as well as an in-depth analysis of life in a sector that comprises around 97% of the total newspapers published in the U.S.

Proven tactics to monetize audio and make money from podcasts

As advertising reliance becomes an increasingly redundant, risky and outdated strategy, it is incumbent on publishers large and small to implement strategies which generate revenue from multiple sources.

This need is recognized by many industry leaders. A recent survey of media executives by the Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism at Oxford University revealed “publishers say that, on average, four different revenue streams will be important or very important this year.”

There are lots of potential ideas to choose from. Last summer, I identified 231 ways to make media pay. …

The Middle East is seeing a flurry of startup activity that, when combined with large-scale government investment, could deliver transformative economic, environmental and human benefits.

Image via Utilities Middle East

The Middle East has already been the birthplace of a number of tech-led transport unicorns. Waze, a traffic and navigation app co-created in Israel, was acquired by Google in 2013 for over $1.1 billion. More recently, Uber purchased Careem, a regional ride-hailing app, for $3.1 billion.

But alongside these high-profile efforts, a quieter transport revolution is taking shape.

Analysis from MAGNiTT found that $121m was invested across 45 investment deals in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) delivery and transport sector in 2019. …

Alumni from the Thomson Reuters Foundation offer their suggestions on how to best support them and their work

Image via UN CC:Learn

For many people, the global impact of COVID-19 — and the uncertainty it has unleashed — makes it perhaps the most significant life-changing event in living memory.

That context underpins this research report and is the reason why hearing directly from journalists about their experiences — as we do throughout this report — is so valuable.

In this final section, we summarise the key recommendations provided by 25 Thomson Reuters Foundation (TRF) alumni in the emerging economies and the Global South, specifically related to strengthening journalism and supporting journalists during the pandemic.

These suggestions are primarily pragmatic and focused on…

Partnerships, new formats and traditional reporting techniques helped to shine a light on the impact of the pandemic

Image via Council of Europe

Through their work, the news media has attempted to hold governments to account and translate public health information into a format that audiences can make sense of and apply to their daily lives.

As further waves take hold around much of the world, this presents an opportunity to take stock of earlier reporting and showcase some of the fresh approaches newsrooms have used in covering COVID-19.

With the pandemic moving into its next phase, I hope that these examples offer inspiration and affirmation for journalists, as they continue to explore new ways to cover this crisis.

New products and approaches

Many news media outlets saw record levels of traffic and engagement in the early stages of the outbreak. Large audiences were hungry for information about this rapidly-changing situation.

As the World Association of Newspapers and News Publishers…

Damian Radcliffe

Chambers Professor in Journalism @uoregon | Fellow @TowCenter @CardiffJomec @theRSAorg | Write @wnip @ZDNet | Host Demystifying Media podcast

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