Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 14 November 2018

Blog site with new slant on news

In the US the news blog site The Huffington Post has become part of the media institution, now a new site in the Middle East aims to do the same.
James Mullan is a co-founder of MideastPosts.com, which launched in October. Jaime Puebla / The National
James Mullan is a co-founder of MideastPosts.com, which launched in October. Jaime Puebla / The National

A blogs website that bills itself as a Middle Eastern take on the US news site The Huffington Post aims to provide an alternative voice in the regional media, its founders say.

MideastPosts.com, which launched in Dubai in October, comprises hundreds of posts written by dozens of local bloggers.

It aims to provide a "unique" Middle Eastern take on current affairs.

The Huffington Post, co-founded by the millionaire Arianna Huffington, was "the inspiration" behind MideastPosts, according to James Mullan, the site's co-founder.

"Arianna Huffington started with the same idea," said Mr Mullan, who, along with his unnamed co-founder, is financing the site personally. "She had a lot more money than us," he said.

MideastPosts aggregates blogs published elsewhere, along with a handful of original works. Contributing bloggers are not paid for their work, but receive a link back to their own blog site.

Mr Mullan said most contributors did not seek payment for their work. "The vast majority of bloggers blog because they love to write - they're a very different breed to journalists," he said. "These guys just have a genuine love of getting their ideas out there."

So far, about 30 bloggers from across the region have agreed for their work to be used on the site, with more being approached this year. Other writers have contacted the site individually, Mr Mullan said. Between 30 and 40 articles are uploaded each week, attracting about 1,000 visits to the site a day.

Mr Mullan says that what sets the site apart is that, with a few notable exceptions such as The National, many of the region's newspapers are dominated by syndicated "newswire" articles, which are not written with a local audience in mind.

The site does not yet carry advertising, but a long-term goal is to seek revenue.

"It's got to grow organically," said Mr Mullan. "If we stuck in loads of adverts now, it would just put people off."

"[Monetisation] doesn't have to be advertising, it could be in terms of people wanting to support the site by making donations. It could be in any number of ways," he said.

The site is currently published only in English, but an Arabic version is planned to follow in the next few months, he said.

Unlike The Huffington Post, which has a liberal slant on the news, Mr Mullan said MideastPosts had no political agenda. "[Bloggers] can be on any side of the fence, we don't mind. As long as they are reasoned and people can follow what they are saying," he said.