Newsletter No 9 06 December 2005
Online Publishing: to Start Charging

The electronic edition of the Arab-language Lebanese newspaper Al Anwar, which claims to be the oldest Arab newspaper on the internet, will start charging for its services in six months. APN spoke to Zeena Trad, Head of Al Anwar’s internet edition.

“We will start offering a paid-for electronic newspaper to make money. Right now we do not lose but we do not gain either,” she says. “We thought about it years ago, but we would have been the only ones to do it, with the damage that one can imagine. Nowadays, newspapers all over the world are starting to charge or are planning to do so, including in our region. Moreover, readers have become loyal to and we hope they will not leave us. Therefore, the context is good for the change.” was launched in September 1995 to reach the large Lebanese community abroad. The website’s audience comes mainly from the USA, Europe, the Gulf countries and Australia. “The problem was that in some of those places, the paper arrived a day after its publication. That is why we decided to start publishing on the internet when nobody here was doing it,” says Trad.

The internet edition’s readers are mostly young and bilingual. “They are very interested in local Lebanese issues,” says Trad. “As a result, has the same content as the printed paper with additional news on Lebanese politics.”

The site has 12,000 unique visitors per day and the paper expects to keep 60% as subscribers. To make the transition successful it is important for Al Anwar to better understand its readers, so it conducts weekly polls.

“Polls are a way to make readers participate and also to know more about them. We want to have a good database about our readers for various purposes: offering them what they are looking for and providing advertisers with concrete targets,” says Trad.

The paper also features the “Abu Khalil” section where readers can ask a columnist about any topic and get an answer within 48 hours. It represents a first step toward interactivity between the readers and the newspaper.

“Interactivity is really important because it leads to loyalty and it also allows us to learn a lot about our readers while looking for future personalized services. ‘Abu Khalil’ is a first and traditional step, but we intend to amplify tailored services once we will have the financial means for it. Another early measure to make readers participate will be a section where they can publish not only their letters but also their own stories,” says Trad.

Getting to know the readers is also important to offer a bigger impact for ads. The newspaper supplies advertisers with detailed traffic reports on clicks and page impressions.

“Making them aware of who are they targeting and who visits the site helps attracting advertisers,” Trad says. “We also offer them lower rates than in the printed paper as well as the possibility of advertising in other web sites of the group. When it comes to companies and agencies using the paper edition, we give them the opportunity of trying the electronic edition at very special rates.” Furthermore, can help them in the design of banners and ads.

“We have a lot of advertising,” Trad says. “Because of the international reach of the paper, at the beginning we had mostly foreign ad buyers. Lebanese advertising has, however, increased with time. Our major advertisers are companies selling national products to the Lebanese abroad and international companies such as Western Union.”

Facts about Al Anwar and
Both are published by the Dar Assayyad group. The first issue of the printed-paper was published in 1959. The newspaper declares an average circulation of over 43,000 copies of which about 20,000 are distributed outside Lebanon. It is a full color tabloid newspaper read mostly by males over age 30 with at least secondary studies.

In addition to Zeena Trad, the website employs five persons and is updated daily. It began in 1995 in PDF format and moved to html in 1997. In 2004 it changed to PHP. “This brought more speed, more accurate data and an easier management,” says Trad.

Its electronic archives go to 1994, but the company is working to include all the content of the paper edition since its foundation before it starts charging for subscriptions. It also offers classified ads, chats and forums.