Michel Kanbour, Founder and General Manager of LebanonDebate.com talks to ArabAd about his view of the on/off line dissemination of news and the advantages as well as disadvantages both offer.
Do you believe the saying “Print Is Dead” to be an actual fact considering you opted for a digital version and would you consider a print edition to complement your website?
PRINT IS NOT DEAD at all! What we are facing today is the death of creativity and imagination in the print industry. In other words, what died is the old concept due to the emergence of the Internet. However, I still believe that printed media has a role to play, and with a little bit of creativity, management could easily create a new market to accommodate a specific need calling for well-crafted articles. Unfortunately, such content will work better in print form rather than digital. For that very reason, I would consider publishing a weekly printed version of Lebanon Debate since I then can target a niche audience looking for analytical articles written from different points of view.
What distinguishes your news site from similar sites and do you aggregate news or do you have a full editorial team creating original content?
Lebanon Debate is the only political news site in Lebanon that is not affiliated with any political party or political figure be it directly or otherwise. This constitutes a tremendous advantage, which we have been working hard on maintaining. The reader is overwhelmed by thousands of stories from different sources, which defeats the original purpose of staying in the know. To counteract that effect, Lebanon Debate offers its readers content specific to their interests. Furthermore, two years from now, we no longer will aggregate news stories, because by then, we would have a full editorial team capable of producing all the required content in-house.
Some believe that once you have the audience then advertising will follow, yet unlike publishers, advertisers have been slow in moving online. How are you capitalising on your online audience and what are the advertising formats that are paying off the most?
It is true that you have to build the audience to get advertising. However, the online news industry is facing a big a challenge because around 60 percent of the market share is going to Facebook and Google. As a result, we will have to wait for another couple of years for the online industry to take a shape before we can build an effective revenue strategy. Advertisers are constantly looking to post ads of their brands on websites that provide original content. To achieve this faster, these very same websites will need to develop video content to attract advertisers looking for a rich media platform.
Has the mushrooming of news sites killed the journalism profession, especially since most of them have no interest in creating content, rather recycle other people’s work?
Whenever any industry starts to mushroom, the competition in the market will drive out the unqualified competitors. I also believe that we are at the very end of this "mushrooming" phase since running a website is becoming demanding in terms of investment and time. In addition, and at the end of the day, users will opt for websites that offer more original content. Keep in mind that the online news industry is still in its infancy, which is why it would be unfair to judge just yet. However, to gain an advantage, we decided to create all of our content and have therefore been investing in this matter. After all, the main role of a news portal is to create public opinion, not focus on the number of visitors to the site.