The second day of ArabNet was more professional orientated with no long speeches but pure panels with fancy titles: Online Advertising, Social Media, Gaming, Mobile and Content.
The online panel looked promising, but ended up being a blamestorming session between agencies complaining that they don’t have enough budget to be creative from one side. And media complaining that agencies have done nothing creative and out of this world that’s worth advertising for or coming up with ‘smart media buys’ for it. And when the topic changed it turned to blaming the bandwidth of the country for lack of rich media.
The social media panel was the best by far. Not because I moderated it – well, partly because I moderated it – but because the panelists were very knowledgeable of the region and the trends and gave tons of stats. Patrick Atallah from 90:10 Group, Timothy Bataillie from Netlog, Ghassan Haddad from Facebook and Ahmad Humeid from Tootcorp were very helpful and shared lots of interesting figures and trends, most of which, though public, were news to a lot of the audience. I highly recommend you check the #ArabNetME on Twitter for more insight on that, and on how great we were! I get to be biased, I’m writing!
Next up, the gaming panel. Moderated by George Akiki from Cisco (insert confused smiley). With local panelists from the gaming community. Discussion went around achievements for far too long, but then gave some interesting insight about the importance of platforms, with online being the easiest to develop for and monetization with advertising and subscription being the two common methods.
The mobile panel, well-moderated by Marc Freed-Finnegan from Google discussed the issues that we’re facing and the limitations in pricing, availability, technology and infrastructure that are crippling the region. Issues revolved around how Apple still blocks access to their app store from certain Middle Eastern countries. Zain seems to be launching their own app store next month, with no details on supported platforms or devices. There seems to be enough encouragement in terms of communicating platform operating systems to developers, but not much interest in developing these apps due to lack of monetization and profitability.
The content panel did raise some interesting questions and issues. Arabic content seems to exist, only offline. Censorship seems to be one of the main factors contributing to the lack of content (see freedom of speech!) and there were some debates related to educational content that would be beneficial for mothers and families.
All in all, it was a good event. First of its kind in Beirut, and well-needed. Networking was good, food was plenty but timing was a bit off: don’t blame it on the organizers, it’s part of being Lebanese!
Thanks to everyone who participated, we look forward to covering it next year and to meet more tech enthusiasts in Beirut!