Just two years ago, there were no daily online newspapers to produce news content and compete with other local media in Oman.
But because of a collaborative effort by a group of journalists, the first online news outlet in Oman debuted in May 2012. It’s called Al Balad.
Al Balad arrived as a result of a change that took place in Omani society: People switched from traditional media to reading news online, which included getting headlines and stories from Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.
What we cover
Since it was launched, Al Balad has covered different news than traditional print or broadcast media. Al Balad also attracted a larger audience from a younger generation by using social media. We created interactive services to enable readers to share their stories and ideas via our Send News and Readers' Journalism sections.
Al Balad produces multimedia content to gives us an edge over traditional newspapers and, thus, to attract a larger audience. Our team is using infographics and videos to maintain an attractive and interactive website.
Financing the site
However, improvements to the website, like the design and speed, are future goals dependent on money. One of the major challenges we’ve faced while launching Al Balad was funding. The project started with only US$1,000.
Building upon the initial budget also proved difficult. We began Al Balad during a time when advertisers still relied on posting advertisements in traditional media outlets. At the time, 90 percent of advertisements were posted in newspapers, according to the Arab Media Outlook report. Only 10 percent of advertisements appeared on television, radio, social media and search engines.
Despite this, Al Balad managed to offer advertisement and marketing services through its web page. We are now competitive with electronic magazines, which have been in business longer.
Al Balad made use of youth volunteers with journalistic experience as well. They worked hard to keep this newspaper running and helped us earn a place in Omani media.
In addition to youth partnerships, Al Balad created a joint project with local radio station halaFM in Oman. "Hiwar Al Balad" – which means "Town's Dialogue” – was broadcast live for a month. The audio content was converted into video and distributed later. The program is expected to resume [in January 2015].
Turki Albalushi is a journalist based in Oman, and a participant in IJNet Arabic's Mentoring Center for digital startups and news outlets in the Middle East and North Africa, which pairs entrepreneurial journalists in need of business sustainability or digital advice with mentors that can help their media projects thrive. Throughout the process, the mentees will be sharing lessons learned and tips with IJNet readers.
This story was originally published in Arabic and translated by Shereen Karadsheh.