shereen shabnam

Wadih Al Najjar, Shereen Mitwali and Mostafa Kamel at the roundtable I attended.

There are very few people I give my time to in Dubai so when I heard two of the friendliest faces in Dubai (Wadih and Shereen) last week got selected as the faces of Arabia.com, I was delighted for them and went for the roundtable that announced their appointment. I have known Wadih Al Najjar for over eight years and Shereen Mitwali for about two years and both their positive energies always rubs off on me each time I meet with them. They are certainly the perfect choice to be in the forefront for Arabia.com.

Both Shereen and Wadih were presented officially by Mostafa Kamel, Managing Director of LINKonLINE. Below are snippets of his speech from the event:

I would like to welcome you all to the Arabia.com Press Conference to share with you our latest activities and achievements, particularly since we revamped our pages and restructured our website, as well as imminent plans in early 2014.

Arabia went through major changes throughout 2013, as I’m sure you’ve all noticed. We rebranded, redesigned our site, and refocused our attentions.

As part of always offering the latest and the best, Arabia.com reinvented itself to give you more of the things you’ve always loved about it in a better package. With the re-launch of Arabia.com as a touch friendly, highly socially integrated page, there’s more to the whole experience and the new look and feel comes with a host of additional features we’re sure our visitors will love.

Since the revamp, our numbers have shot up: from an average of 5 million page views a month in the first quarter of 2013 to an average of over 12 million in the second quarter, increasing substantially every month. With almost 1 million unique visitors monthly, increasing at an average of almost 20% a month, and with a bounce rate of lower than -5%, we’re on the right track, socially and regionally.

We were the first in the region to launch a new gamification-based loyalty program, where users can win gifts by simply being on our website. This gave our users more incentive to engage with our content, participate in competitions, and spend time on the website, also building stronger relationships with them, with continuous connectivity between us.

We also came up with a brand new initiative you will not find on any other website in the region, for our users to see what is happening around us. Galleries and photographs are a huge slice of what Internet users browse in their free time. For the longest time, our main gallery images were collated and compiled by us, but we found that we could give our users a system that was more real-time, more personal, and more diverse. So we came up with something completely different: we decided to let the people you wanted to see tell you what they’re doing instead.

We created a system that wraps around your favourite people’s Instagram accounts, with hashtag search abilities, as well as user accounts. This brings the greatest bits of leisurely entertainment right to every page of Arabia.com, since we have made Arabia Now accessible holistically, and therefore you’re always in touch with what’s happening, with real-time updates, comprehensive diversity, and a very personal insight into what’s happening and where.

We didn’t just bring the celebrities’ Instagrams to our pages, we brought some of the celebrities too: we asked highly renowned icon Shereen Mitwali and celebrity photographer and socialite Wadih El Najjar to join us and give us their take on the world through our Faces of Arabia section. Both Shereen and Wadih have a remarkable track record of being closely in tune with the heartbeat of Arab society, so they will not only be the faces but the voices and minds of Arabia.

They will bring the very best of the Arab world to the rest of the globe, while helping our regional audience to discover fascinating gems of our ever-evolving lifestyles. As a highly proactive and responsive portal, the contributors will regularly respond to readers’ feedback while creating eye-opening and mind-opening articles that inspire the Arab world to see itself with new eyes. They’re more than just a face, to us: they’re part of our family and we came together with them to help improve the work we do in terms of our content.

Basically, we’ve redesigned based on what we know matters to our users.

This personal engagement has clearly been the right thing to do. Our Facebook fans attest to it. Over a short period of time, we’ve built a large online following of users in the region, reaching close to 600,000 fans, we’ve created a talking and meeting point out of our blue and white page.

With 450,000 likes from the GCC alone ranking it as one of the pages with the largest concentration of regional users, Arabia.com is a fast growing presence on Facebook. These users share and interact with our content, giving it a reach of almost 4 million users in the GCC countries. Arabia.com’s Facebook page is ranked in the top ten in the region. This degree of social interaction is unprecedented in our region, and we work hard to maintain the relationships we build with our readers: we pay attention to what they say, and we act on it.

From over 100 million Google searches per day in the region, 54% of them are in Arabic, so there clearly is a huge market out there that is looking for content in their native language. It is our job to provide them with this material and ensure that we design for an Arabic readership, not with the Arabic readership as an afterthought.

From the gamification systems that we’ve put into place to the various touch points and the refreshed design, and especially our social integration, we plan on branching out to give our visitors access to everything they need and truly become their news and information portal online.

We’ll be doing even more in 2014: developing our Sports channel, especially with the upcoming World Cup; growing our Women channel, giving entertainment, fashion, beauty, and lifestyle more depth and richness than ever before; remaking our Automotive channel, from the ground up, not just cosmetically; building on our Travel channel, to add more usability, flexibility, and deals to it all.

Last year was big. This year is even bigger….

We certainly know that Wadih and Shereen will add loads of additional value to an already successful Arabia.com.

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