The Middle East's Arab Population: Choosing Facebook over Newspapers

America isn't the only place print publications are in trouble, and online news organizations aren't the only one threatening them. To find evidence of this abroad, one must look no further than Facebook...in the Middle East.

Neal Ungerleider takes note of a PR firm tallying up Facebook's continuing growth among Arabic-speaking Facebook users from the Middle East, which is reaching 15 million, from which the BBC then noted is one million more people than there are newspaper readers in countries where Arabic is a primary language. He reasons that it's because - among other causes - Arabic newspapers suck:

Newspapers in Arab countries are overwhelmingly heavily censored and mind-bogglingly dull. With rare exceptions such as the expat-oriented Daily Star (Lebanon) and Dubai's The National, the place for discourse in this part of the world skews towards the internet, satellite news networks like al-Jazeera and al-Arabiyya and foreign Arabic newspapers such as Britain's al-Quds al-Arabi.

Besides which, Ungerleider also notes, it's now becoming a news source, where people can control their own messages. He uses Egyptian Presidential hopeful Mohammed el-Baradei's increasing use of Facebook over disseminating messages through traditional press outlets, which gives Americans cause to be thankful: If American media outlets didn't force Sarah Palin to actively engage them, we might be a heartbeat away from a president who could likely get away with recusing herself from knocking BP over for an exciting game of Mafia Wars with her constituency, or something. With that in mind, one could ultimately note all of these developments as a bad, bad thing. Which - even without fully trending westward - it already is. One can only hope that candidates running for American office couldn't stonewall the press with Facebook quite so easily.

[fkamer@villagevoice.com]


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