To start off with, we need to understand some basic realities and how they play out in Qatar’s online media landscape. Most publications in countries around the world have a more or less firm grip on their domestic audiences. For example in Lebanon, UK and India the residents of those countries mostly flock to their native media when they want to consume news online. Qatar, alongside most of the GCC stands in stark contrast to that.

The content of this blog post is a part of Priya DSouza Communications Qatar Media Guide. An in-depth report delving into Qatar’s media landscape, which also comes with practical tips and most importantly a Contacts Database of Journalists in Qatar. For more information, you can contact us at contact@priyadsouza.com

That means that online users in Qatar do not necessarily consume news that is provided by Qatar based publications. This stems from the fact that almost 90% of the population are expats, who bring their news consumption habits with them when they move from other countries to Qatar.

An analysis of most visited websites in Qatar, with the data coming from Alexa (the top industry provider for estimates on online readership), reveals that out of TOP 10 news websites that are visited by Qatar based users, only 2 focus on Qatar related coverage – and qatarliving.com isn’t primarily a news portal to be precise.

While for example in Lebanon, UK and India all the TOP 10 news websites most frequently visited by the users of those countries, in fact both originate and focus on news related to those individual countries.

This of course presents a problem both for advertising and PR related activities, when trying to reach the residents of Qatar.

The audience further scatters due to the fact that Qatar’s media landscape is linguistically divided into Arabic and English language publications.

Another reason for the weak performance and reach of Qatar’s online publications is the fact they don’t last long. Many websites sprout up and shutdown in a span of a few years, if they fail to quickly gain both traffic (readers) and on-board advertisers. There are numerous such examples: Glam, Just Here, Qatar Scoop, Qatar Happening and the Edge to name several that went under in recent years.

They often go hand in hand with the demise of their print editions. A good sign of a magazine or a newspaper spiraling down is usually its not up to date website, showing signs of neglect – as is or at this point was bq-magazine.com for example.

The main issue is of course advertising revenue. Ads delivered by the Google Adsense platform are simply not a viable source of income nowadays for websites without a considerable amount of page views.

In regards to direct advertising, the advertisers do not show much interest and most new online publications close down, before they are able to attract any significant amount of readers.

Many operate with losses and most of the ones that survive for a longer period of time are either owned by businesses that have other streams of income and thus tolerate the losses, as they see the platform advancing their other goals, or are set up with a minimum cost model, that relies on collating news, publishing press releases and in many cases resort to outright plagiarism.

This in combination with limited media freedoms (a reality shared across the entire media spectrum) leads to mostly a tame journalistic output (to put it mildly), which while perhaps not the best thing for a society, is on the other hand a great opportunity for companies who have little to fear from Qatar’s media.

QATAR FOCUSED ONLINE MEDIA

In general, media websites in Qatar can be divided into traditional media outlets, which are focused on publishing news from various sectors and on the other hand outlets that have news as an add on to their website.

Some examples of traditional media outlets would be Gulf Times, Al Raya, The Peninsula and the like. Basically newspapers and magazines you can find in print, also have a similar set up online – focusing on their topics, be it business, sports, lifestyle, food and so on.

The other category is the ones that have added news to their existing offer, which is mostly the same throughout: events, listings, classifieds, forums, country guides and reviews. Some examples of these kinds of websites are Qatar Living (the most popular website in Qatar), I Love Qatar and Qatar Day to name some of the more successful ones.

You need to keep them in mind when working on your media outreach campaigns, as they can have a considerably bigger audience than many of their traditional peers.

Unlike in most countries around the world, Qatar’s TV stations have not capitalized on their existing content development capabilities to breakthrough online and carve a space for themselves. This acts as one of the biggest reasons why news video content is practically completely absent from Qatar’s online media landscape. I Love Qatar however does create quite a lot of video content, making it an exception.

English language media prevails, but Arabic newspapers are usually the ones that carry more in depth stories and also occasionally don’t shy away from being critical.

REGIONAL & OTHER WEBSITES

As mentioned before, Qatar’s population mainly consists of expats, who bring their online content consumption habits with them when they move to Qatar, hence the reason why Qatar focused publications are having an issue with audience penetration.

While there have been no publicly known studies done on the topic, the list of top Alexa websites indicates Indians read Indian online publications, Egyptians read Egyptian online publications and so on.

Many of the news websites that are very popular among Qatar’s residents do not focus on Qatar at all. They might have a feature here or there, but that’s about it. This creates a problem, since they cannot be used to reach the targeted audiences via PR activities.

Of course advertisers can still decide to reach out to these media and display ads to website visitors from Qatar only, which any website with a properly set up ad display system will be able to offer.

Further on in the past the vastly more advanced UAE based publishers capitalized on Qatar’s poor state of media and hence make inroads into the market, which mostly applied to print publications, but can also be observed online.

The Qatar crisis has thus far not resulted in any of the involved countries’ websites being blocked in Qatar.

The best known case of online media censorship has been the blocking of dohanews.co. The website was among TOP 3 most popular news websites in Qatar and widely seen as the only objective outlet in the country. Although it had a number of critics as well.

The censorship that started in December 2016 has culminated in the founders finally succumbing to financial pressure selling the website to an obscure media company from India. The journalistic standards after that took an immediate nosedive and the website soon became inactive.

ONLINE MEASUREMENT

As is the rule across all media segments in Qatar, there is no objective 3rd party measurements involved when it comes to evaluating and measuring websites’ traffic. Meaning no body exists that would independently and objectively measure the “reach” of websites in Qatar.

Because of that, nobody can tell you just how many unique visitors, page views, etc… a certain website (like qatarliving.com, iloveqatar.com, peninsulaqatar.com,…) gets.

Some websites will have that info in their media packs, but bear in mind those figures are practically always inflated, since there is no 3rd party verification. In addition media monitoring companies do provide their clients with traffic data for some of the news portals, however unless they derive those numbers from having their own traffic measurement implemented on all these news portals, that data is again non verified by an independent third party.

The reality of this situation makes it impossible to know the exact order of most popular websites in the country or have many visitors those websites attract.

There are however certain tools available, which let you get the feel for how popular the website is and these have been used in
our estimations that can be found in our Qatar Media Contacts Database (a pay for product).

The following tools and methods can all be used to ascertain the websites you might be interested in including in your campaign.

A.) Alexa.com
Alexa ranks websites by traffic. Enables users to see TOP500 websites per country and a select number of statistics like website visitors per country, bounce rate, daily pageviews per visitor, daily time on site, etc… Most of the statistics are approximations and not direct measurements.

B.) Moz.com
While this website has many useful tools on offer, the Link Explorer is the best one for our needs.

The tool scours the web for backlinks to a certain website you might be interested in and based on those assigns the website a Domain Authority score.

This indicator, when boiled down to basics, means a website will receive a higher Domain Authority, the more other websites with high Domain Authority link to it.

In Google’s eyes these links mean the website in question is trustworthy and deemed valuable by other websites, hence it has to mean it provides valuable content.

In general it takes time for websites to attain high Domain Authority scores, meaning longevity represents value.

The scoring goes from 0-100, where a website that was just launched and has no back links at all stands at 0 and a website of the calibre such as BBC receives a 97, due to the vast amount of quality links pointed at its domain.

C.) Social Media
Another way to get a bit better feel for websites and the amount of readers they attract is by taking a look at their social media channels.

Naturally the higher amount of followers they have, the more it should imply the website would have a higher amount of traffic, although this is extremely difficult to directly correlate.

Engagement rate is further useful to ascertain how successful the social media channel is in getting through to the audience.

D.) View Counts
Some websites like qatarday.com, al-watan.com and alarab.qa among others include information on the number of views individual articles receive.

This number displays how many times a page was loaded and while it doesn’t let you know the overall reach, it’s a good way to see how many views articles receive on average and what you actually achieved by having your content placed there.

The content of this blog post is a part of Priya DSouza Communications Qatar Media Guide. An in-depth report delving into Qatar’s media landscape, which also comes with extensive practical tips and most importantly a Contacts Database of Journalists in Qatar. For more information, you can contact us at contact@priyadsouza.com