Campaign ME newsletter 7th August, 2005

It’s lucky the slow summer months mean we are fortnightly at present. There’s no way I’d have been able to get the magazine out last week with the amount of time I spent surfing Middle East blogs.

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By  Tim Burrowes Published  August 7, 2005

Bloggers are helping to push back the boundaries|~||~||~|It’s lucky the slow summer months mean we are fortnightly at present. There’s no way I’d have been able to get the magazine out last week with the amount of time I spent surfing Middle East blogs. Yes, this is a great job — one where, in the name of research, I can spend my time on activities like that. Blogs make the focus of our Live Issue on page 13 this week. Although the trigger was the temporary blocking of access to Secret Dubai Diary, the bigger issue for marketers is how the growth of blogging in the region will affect their brands. A quick surf of the net reveals blogs attacking global brands like McDonald’s, Nike and VW. And more locally, Etisalat is certainly not the most popular of services if the bloggers are to be believed. But the issue currently most hotly debated by the bloggers of the region — and particularly of the UAE — is the question of just how far can they safely go when talking about local social and political issues. Some of these guys are offering excellent blogs full of interesting, topical and relevant stuff. They often criticise local media — something they have a right to do, as much of their own content is far better written, far more intelligently argued and far more entertaining. They occasionally tweak the noses of more powerful targets too. But, at present, they are nervous that they’ve gone too far. The talk is of self-censorship, which is a real shame as their most interesting work comes when they push at the boundaries. Like all of the region’s media, their problem is they don’t quite know where the boundary is until they find it. If they are finding things a little warm at present, it is worth sticking with it. Over time, the media environment has undoubtedly become easier. Despite recent upheavals, it is important not to confuse the height of the waves with the direction of the tide, which does appear to be running the right way. And for everyone involved in marketing, it’s worth bookmarking the local blogs now. For marketing directors you need to know what the consumers think of you; for PRs you need to be managing your clients’ reputations; for agencies you need to understand how the brand is perceived and, for media owners, you need to know what your future competition is up to. And for me, it’s going to be a great way to pass these slow summer weeks. ||**||

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