05/29/2019, 11.52
ASIA - ISLAM
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The Middle East’s Ramadan: millions of hours more spent on Facebook and YouTube

For analysts and experts the holy month of Islam is also a propitious moment for advertisers. People are awake longer and have more free time at meal times. To precisely define consumer habits, Mountain View has identified six categories of users. But the consumerist drift does not please all the faithful.

Beirut (AsiaNews) - Ramadan, a holy month of fasting and prayer for Muslims, with its long days of abstinence and prayer to bring the faithful closer to God and keep them away from daily distractions, is changing shape due to modern technology. In fact, several research shows that the citizens of the Middle East spend a total of around 58 million more hours on Facebook and watch more videos on YouTube - from beauty tips to recipes, sports and TV series – than any other time of the year.

Ramadan has therefore become the most important month not only for Muslims, but at the same time the best time for advertisers.

Analysts and experts explain that for Facebook, also owner of Instagram, and Google, which owns YouTube, is a real push for business in the region. "Consumption and time spent on our platforms increases," confirms Ramez Shehadi, director for the Middle East and North Africa of the most famous social media in the world. People stay awake much longer at night during Ramadan and have much more free time, especially before the Iftar, the evening meal that breaks the fast, and for the "suboor", when people gather to eat before the start of the day. Others still have more time because state agencies and public offices reduce working hours. All this translates into 5% more time spent on Facebook in the Middle East, equal to 58 million hours which, explains Shehadi, correspond to about two hours a day. According to Google, Ramadan is also the seasonal peak for advertising because TV series, soap operas and other programs broadcast on YouTube record a 151% growth in views. Such a loose market that Mountain View has launched "The Lantern Award" to celebrate the most creative and attractive advertisements of the month.

However, Ramadan is not just abstaining from food and drinking - even water - all day long. The sacred month also involves moving away from the vain distractions of everyday life to focus on meditation, introspection, goodness, charity and the tension towards God. This is why the increase in commercials and an incentive to consumption might seem a contradiction.

Google does not want to reveal the total time spent by Internet users on YouTube, while confirming that Egypt, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates see a growth in sports videos of 22%, those of travel by 30% and those of action from 10 to 20% . The views of religious contents on the platform also grows, with an overall increase of around 27% during Ramadan.

Mountain View has identified six categories of users to better define consumer habits: dedicated viewers, devotees of fasting, foodies, hairdressers, travelers and consumers. Moreover, the social platforms have created special icons and applications to facilitate connections between the approximately 180 million users scattered around the Middle East. Haitham el-Ghoneim, Jordanian in the United Arab Emirates, explains that he uses social media to connect with relatives and friends during Ramadan; however, he is convinced that the time spent on games, entertainment and advertising "is not spent in a useful way" but only "for things that are not of benefit".

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