By Chip Rossetti
Today’s Gulf News — the English-language daily based in Dubai — has an interesting piece on entrepreneurs in Lebanon who are using social media to build their businesses on the web. The first profiled is a comics-blogger-turned-author, Maya Zankoul, who ended up self-publishing her book, Amalgam, because no local publisher would take it on: even with a tiny print run, it became a top-seller at Virgin Megastore in Beirut, and she is on her way to publishing a sequel. The blog-to-book phenomenon has been a common route for would-be authors in the Arab world in the last few years, with popular blogs like Ghada Abdel Aal’s single-girl’s lament Ayza Itgawiz (I Want to Get Married) [Link: http://wanna-b-a-bride.blogspot.com/ ] finding success in print. The indispensable blog Arabic Literature (in English) had a piece on this phenomenon in Egypt last month.
Another entrepreneur cited in the piece is Samer Karam, founder of the Blogging Beirut “citizen’s journalism” site, who got his start in social media entrepreneurship by starting “the first cookie-order service on Twitter in the Arab world.” Social media like Facebook and Twitter have been embraced in the Middle East, partly because other outlets, for either economic or political reasons, are often unavailable to young entrepreneurs. Maybe OpenSky should look into expanding its presence in the Arab world?