Marketing

Are nasty comments distorting reality?

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The online landscape in Pakistan is not unlike the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) at its current scale. There are almost no laws that govern this space. For better or worse, individuals and groups online act with near impunity, with only the slightest fear of heavy-handed retribution from a largely disinterested, clueless government and its associated agencies.

In this space exists the potential – both good and bad – for the shaping of public perception, particularly on many thorny issues that traditional media dare not touch. It is also here that the greatest potential exists for measurably changing a person’s opinion or perception of reality because of the social nature of the internet.

Despite all the hoopla to the contrary, humans generally trust other humans, and nowhere is this more statistically provable than in the online space.

As a Nielsen study uncovered in 2009, recommendations from personal acquaintances or strangers online are the most trusted forms of advertising. It turned out, 90% of those surveyed said they trusted recommendations from people they know, while 70% trusted opinions posted online by unknown users.

It is this strong bond humans feel in often weak online ties (such as someone you have not met in real life) that drives social networks like Facebook and Twitter.

This phenomenon of online trust has generally been hailed as great news, but it also brings to light a rather troubling reality for reporters, editors, columnists and bloggers alike: comments posted on an article published online can shape public perception of the content, often drastically.

Anyone who reads online regularly has felt the psychological pull of the comments section and wondered about the extent to which comments on an article are having an impact, and now a 2013 study in The Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication has given us the answer.

In the study, over 1,000 participants were asked to read an article on a fictitious blog explaining the risks and benefits of a new technology product. Half of the participants were exposed to civil reader comments below the article, and the other half to rude comments.

The result?

Uncivil comments not only polarised the readers, they often changed a participant’s interpretation of the story. Those exposed to rude comments ended up with a very polarised understanding of the risks connected with the technology mentioned in the article.

This effect was so pronounced that the researchers later stated,

“Comments from some readers…can significantly distort what other readers think was reported in the first place.”

In short, all the editorial control exercised by an individual blogger, journalist or an entire media group’s staff may have little impact online once those nasty comments start pouring in to reshape perception of the original article.

The added fear for media groups is of comments sections being hijacked in a perception shaping war by those who are highly motivated, those who can pay for it, and those who feel it serves the ‘national interest’, and that extends beyond just Pakistan.

It is well documented that the Israeli Foreign Ministry and the United States Central Command among others have manipulated comments sections on websites in the past to shape online debate to suit their agendas.

As more and more media groups come online, and as internet penetration grows in Pakistan, the issue of losing editorial control and credibility due to the social nature of content published on the web will become a pressing concern.

The option of shutting down comments on some or all stories and videos is always available, but given that a social layer is now integral to an online presence, this would be suicide, or at least a sure step towards online irrelevance.

Alternately, comment moderation is a costly, time consuming solution with human error and individual biases almost as big a problem as the original issue it set out to solve.

It would be safe to say at this stage we can expect a tumultuous ride as online content creators try to forge a working relationship with their comment empowered readers.

A clear cut solution is definitely not at hand.

Published in Tribune Blogs.

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Pakistan internet ad spend: 2009-2012 analysis

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Source: Aurora Magazine 2012 year-ender
Source: Aurora Magazine 2012 year-ender

It’s a tiny part of the market. A mini-playing field taking baby steps.

It’s small, small, small but the fact that Aurora Magazine’s year-ender for 2012 titled “The Great Digital Debate” had the following excerpt on its cover should perhaps get those involved in the online space to sit up and take notice:

“The evidence is conclusive: get digital or pack up and go home.”

If ad agencies and their clients are finally going digital, those companies (and individuals) who have invested in their online presence can breathe a sigh of relief and hope to earn back some of that hard earned cash that was spent in setting up their ventures on the web.

The added hope here is that with a growing monetary incentive, Pakistan’s online space will mature in terms of content, function, design and overall value for the estimated 20-29 million locals online.

Let’s take a look at some stats (all figures in Rs billions).

2008-09 2009-10 2010-11 2011-12
Total ad spend 24.63 27 31.98 38.38
Internet ad spend 0.38 (1.5%) 0.418 (1.3%) 0.566 (2%) 1.01 (3%)

According to the chart above (all stats from Aurora’s own data in Aurora Magazine) total ad spend in Pakistan has been growing steadily, increasing by 20% in 2011-2012, and by 18% in 2010-2011. In comparison, internet ad spend grew by a whopping 79% in 2011-2012, a big jump from growth of only 15% in 2010-2011.

Let’s look at the breakdown of earnings by the top websites in Pakistan. I’ve only included local websites to indicate what local content is attracting advertising. The only exception I’ve left in is Google because it is still the largest earner in our online space  (all figures in Rs billions).

2008-09 2009-10 2010-11 2011-12
Google 0.2 (53%) 0.2 (48%) 0.2 (35%) 0.25 (25%)
Jang 0.033 (9%) 0.030 (7%) 0.035 (6%) 0.080 (8%)
Geo 0.017 (4%) 0.020 (5%) 0.042 (7%) 0.050 (5%)
Dawn 0.015 (4%) 0.015 (4%) 0.031 (6%) 0.040 (4%)
Business Recorder 0.008 (1%) 0.020 (2%)
Express Tribune 0.008 (1%) 0.018 (2%)
Daily Express 0.022 (2%)
Hamariweb 0.015 (1%)
Rozee.pk 0.010 (1%)

Yes, news is number one. It is hard to speculate whether this is because Pakistanis are news-obsessed, or because large media groups were the only players willing to strategize and invest (without monetary gain) in the fledgling online space. The answer is probably a bit of both.

Jang, Geo and Dawn dominated for a number of years, but as new online entities emerge, the share of the overall internet ad spend for the big three is at best staying at status quo (though bear in mind, overall earnings have gone up). The good news (for local portals) is that Google’s share of local ad spend has tapered off significantly from more than half of overall earnings in 2008-2009 to just 25% of total internet spend in 2011-2012.

Some other points of interest brought up in Aurora Magazine’s 2012 year-ender:

The share of classified advertising has improved slightly from 16% in 2010-2011 to 17% in 2011-2012. This is after seeing a year of stagnation, before which it declined 4% every year for three years. The increase in classified advertising is interesting considering several free online classified sites have entered the market in 2011-2012. This will be an important category to watch over the next few years.

If you look at the top sites in Pakistan (Alexa) the number one local website is no longer Jang, but free online classifieds site OLX Pakistan. Yes, buying and selling online is going to be huge in Pakistan over the coming years thanks to some breakthroughs in terms of payment options (pay cash on delivery) and sites that allow peer-to-peer transactions and exchanges.

The share of mobile/telecommunications declined from 7% in 2010-2011 to 4% in 2011-2012. One of the reasons for this decline could be that many telcos are shifting budgets from print advertising to digital and especially social media.

Take a look at Pakistan’s top Facebook pages (SocialBakers). Nokia, Ufone, Zong, OLX and the odd one out – the US Embassy in Pakistan – all dominate, with Telenor and Mobilink coming up strong as well. That is not organic growth. That is paid growth in terms of buying engagement, running Facebook ad campaigns and investing in social media teams.

And it’s not just the telcos.

Local media and a swathe of other brands are not far behind on the Facebook/Twitter front either.

Given the success of these pages, and the hard stats that prove that success, expect the media mix to tilt further and further towards social media and away from print, and yes, TV too.

This growing change should be exciting, as old ideas give way for new ways of thinking, working and conducting business – and best of all, when it comes to the internet, it will all be measurable and genuinely consumer driven!

Who tops Pakistan news on social media? (II)

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More Facebook pages and better engagement on existing ones seem to be the key trends among Pakistan’s media groups as they battle it out for social media supremacy.

While the need to grow in terms of sheer numbers of followers on Facebook and Twitter is still a primary goal, almost all the online media groups have been trying (with varying degrees of success) to increase engagement, particularly on Facebook via visual web rules:

  • Share photos instead of links. Images have better engagement levels.
  • Take a message (or news story) and make it visual.

Now that a number of the media groups are reaching followers upwards of 100,000, the issue of how to best share the huge amounts of information being generated online is also becoming paramount. Just to give you an example, The Express Tribune website publishes close to 120-140 stories per day, excluding blogs, slideshows and videos!

Some groups are trying out the ‘share everything as it’s published on the one page’ approach on Facebook. Personal opinion: bombarding people with 10+ posts in an hour is intrusive and annoying.

Some are diversifying their social network presence by offering multiple Facebook pages and Twitter accounts for their various desks/brands, and having those accounts share content specific to their desk/brand. Personal opinion: its early days but this is the way to go.

As the Pakistani user base on social media grows (and it’s growing fast), more people will want more options in terms of content, and niche pages and Twitter accounts will begin to gain traction, perhaps forming smaller, stronger communities as compared to the larger accounts for the mainstream news brands.

Anyway, enough talk about trends! Let’s see how the various media groups are doing online as compared to the report I did six months ago.

Jang Group

In the last six months, the Geo English page has grown from 116,465 followers to 135,689 followers as of November 4. That is an increase of 19,224 followers. Its ‘Talking about this’ metric (a measure of how much conversation/stories are being generated by a page in a one week span) was a low 2,779 in May, and is now a similarly low 4,844.

The Geo Urdu page has grown from 132,114 followers to a whopping 224,147 followers. That is an increase of 92,033 followers! Was it advertising on Facebook that paid off? Is it the fact that the page is doing posts in the Urdu language? Is it the promotion of the page being carried out on TV that is paying off? Either way, this is the second largest increase of any Facebook page in the last six months (See Samaa TV below). The Urdu page’s talking about this metric has grown from 6,192 to 26,088, suggesting this page is doing something right.

The Daily Jang page has grown from 63,518 followers to 121,655 and increased its talking about this metric from 3,520 to 18,490 (again, doing something right). The English daily, The News has lagged behind however, growing from 33,919 followers to 48,436 and from 1,033 talking about this to a still low 2,224.

The Geo News English Twitter account had 16,678 followers in May, and now boasts 25,225 followers. That is a decent growth of 8,547 followers. The account’s Klout score (Klout is an online analytics company that measures an account’s social influence by using Twitter data) has grown from 52 to a high 77.

Express Media Group

The Express News page has grown from 108,057 followers with 2,687 talking about this to 138,860 followers and a low 3,630 talking about this. That is a gain of 30,803 followers.

The Express Tribune page has grown from 109,241 followers with 4,546 talking about this to 138,053 likes and a significantly better 11,052 talking about this. The page gained 28,812 followers.

Express News’ Twitter account climbed from 13,509 followers with a Klout of 46 to 22,946 followers with a Klout of 68.

The Express Tribune Twitter account grew from 20,016 followers with a Klout of 64 to 32,793 followers with a Klout of 84.

Dawn Media Group

The Dawn.com Facebook page has grown from 58,842 followers with 894 talking about this to 91,638 followers and a low 2,371 talking about this. That is a gain of 32,796 followers in six months.

The Dawn News Facebook page currently has 135,152 likes and 3,901 talking about this.

The Dawn.com Twitter account has grown from 9,725 followers with a Klout of 61, to 26,645 followers with a Klout of 67.

The Dawn News Twitter account has grown from 13,164 followers with a Klout of 42, to 18,929 followers with a Klout of 45.

MAY STATS NOV STATS
Samaa TV 

Facebook likes: 92,524

Talking about this: 9,806

Twitter followers: 4,427

Klout: 41

Samaa TV 

Facebook likes: 232,186

Talking about this: 18,607

Twitter followers: 5,747

Klout: 50

Aaj TV 

Facebook likes: 69,264

Talking about this: 2,131

Twitter followers: 4,043

Klout: 45

Aaj TV 

Facebook likes: 96,204

Talking about this: 3,817

Twitter followers: 8,599

Klout: 51

Dunya TV 

Facebook likes: 30,685

Talking about this: 2,412

Twitter followers: 3,215

Klout:  28

Dunya TV 

Facebook likes: 61,826

Talking about this: 11,526

Twitter followers: 5,490

Klout: 54

Pakistan Today 

Facebook likes: 17,609

Talking about this: 1,492

Twitter followers: 1,155

Klout: 36

Pakistan Today 

Facebook likes: 30,027

Talking about this: 1,287

Twitter followers: 1,902

Klout: 49

The Nation 

Facebook likes: 17,805

Talking about this: 801

Twitter followers: 3,493

Klout: 49

The Nation 

Facebook likes: 27,592T

alking about this: 867

Twitter followers: 4,489

Klout: 50

Published in Tribune Blogs.

Who tops Pakistan news on social media?

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The need to be ‘social’ online is shaping up to be a new rat race for clicks, comments and user engagement among local news media outlets.

With an estimated 20 million Pakistanis online and over six million on Facebook, the ability to convert these numbers into tangible, easy-to-measure consumers of news content is, even at this early stage, a new measure of success.

Currently media groups are focused on growth and expansion of their user bases (via their sites or social media channels), experimenting with forms of content and content sharing mechanisms and for some, the first phases of trying to monetise their online presence – all of which is impacted by social media.

The local news media groups dominating on Facebook include the Jang GroupExpress and Dawn, with Samaa close behind.

Note: All stats collected from Facebook and Twitter cited in the article refer to available data as of April 30, 2012.

Jang Group

The Jang group has established separate pages for each of their news brands, and segmented based on language as well. Their flagship brand Geo has separate English and Urdu pages.

The English page has 116,465 followers, while the Urdu page has 132,114 followers. Interestingly, the Geo English group’s ‘Talking about this’ metric (a measure of how much conversation/stories are being generated by a page in a one week span) was lower (2,779) as compared to the Urdu page (6,192).

The Daily Jang is also on Facebook with 63,518 followers and 3,520 talking about this. The English daily, The News has 33,919 followers and 1,033 talking about this.

Geo News English also operates a Twitter account which has 16,678 followers. The account’s Klout score (Klout is an online analytics company that measures an account’s social influence by using Twitter data) is 52.

Express Media Group

The Express Media group has two of its brands, the flagship Express News and The Express Tribune on Facebook, though their Urdu daily newspaper, the Roznama Express is missing. The Express News page has 108,057 followers with 2,687 talking about this, while The Express Tribune page has 109,241 followers with 4,546 talking about this.

Express News’ Twitter account has 13,509 followers with a Klout of 46, while The Express Tribune account has 20,016 followers with a Klout of 64.

Dawn Media Group

Dawn also has two separate Facebook pages; one for their website Dawn.com, and another for the Dawn News TV channel. TheDawn.com page has 58,842 followers with 894 talking about this, while the Dawn News page has 85,639 with 1,700 talking about this.

Dawn maintains two Twitter accounts for its news brands. The Dawn.com account has 9,725 followers with a Klout of 61, while the Dawn News account has 13,164 followers with a Klout of 42.

Other local News groups on social media

Samaa TV

Facebook likes: 92,524

Talking about this: 9,806

Twitter followers: 4,427

Klout: 41

Aaj TV

Facebook likes: 69,264

Talking about this: 2,131

Twitter followers: 4,043

Klout: 45

Dunya TV

Facebook likes: 30,685

Talking about this: 2,412

Twitter followers: 3,215

Klout:  28

Pakistan Today

Facebook likes: 17,609

Talking about this: 1,492

Twitter followers: 1,155

Klout: 36

The Nation

Facebook likes: 17,805

Talking about this: 801

Twitter followers: 3,493

Klout: 49

Business Recorder

Facebook likes: 5,559

Talking about this: 87

Twitter followers: 560

Klout: 28

Converse, converge, capitalise

In an online world increasingly dominated by dynamic communities such as those on Facebook and Twitter, media groups (and individual journalists) can now be part of the public conversation.

The plus side?

Instant feedback and measurable results.

The downside?

It’s public, so media will be held accountable for its mistakes, and as in all good conversations, if the media group or individual is too slow in responding or too clunky and out of touch in their responses and content, they will die as quick a death.

They key to this new social media venture by local media groups will therefore be one of assimilation with their existing media models and existing business models i.e. monetisation of their online followers and fans.

In terms of assimilation, print and TV will both have to work on converging their online entities with their existing entities, ending the era of web operating as a separate unit. Newsrooms will have to be restructured to account for this change, and this will necessitate training staff to use and understand the value of online and weeding out those that do not and cannot change.

Additionally, programs and articles will have to rely on and refer to their online entities more (from the most basic “Join our Facebook page” to the more advanced “watch the behind the scenes edition of our show online”).

Finally, editorial direction will almost necessarily be dictated to some extent by the internet, the one medium where the most two-way exchange of ideas between content creator and consumer occurs. It is likely that in a few years time, social media trends and responses to online articles and TV shows available on YouTube will shape traditional media content significantly.

Following just behind that will be the monetisation models, whether that is in the form of pay walls for specific online content or new forms of advertising and promotion, because eventually brands will want to leverage the news media’s online clout.

Published in Tribune Blogs.

The media — in the near future

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Welcome to 2015. Pakistan has 3G and 4G mobile services active, with millions of subscribers ranging from the elite, all the way down to the lower classes, since now, cheap Chinese manufactured smart phones and tablets have flooded the local market. With mobile penetration climbing beyond the massive 60 per cent as seen in 2011, the media boom the country saw in the 2000s has now entered, kicking and screaming, into its second great transition — convergence between new media and old.

The force of global technological progress and consumer demand led to this new world; one in which breaking news is now spread faster — through Twitter and Facebook — than any local media group could manage on its own. Television still does breaking news, but fewer and fewer people turn to their TV sets to watch the news, as online streaming on the go is a more convenient access point. Newspapers still exist, but their print circulation is now a show piece — a rubber stamp of legitimacy to what have essentially become online entities. This shift, however, has proven to be a blessing, as suddenly, online newspaper outlets find themselves to be just as relevant as their broadcast competition, and audiences do not differentiate where the breaking news comes from in the online world.

Advertisers have wisened up and have finally learnt that return on investment should be based on actual, measurable results — something the internet provides in abundance and something that TV and print both could not offer. Even worse for the media moguls, their lies about ratings, reach and print circulation numbers, now lie exposed in the dynamic online space, where actual reader/viewer interest is visible. With the shift in advertising (strategy and spend) many newspapers and TV channels have shut down, or are in the process of closure, unable to respond to the demands of the new media landscape. The only media groups left are those who had diversified enough, moved to integrate with the internet enough and had at their core, a real dedication to journalism.

The big question facing the local media moguls now is how to maintain high quality journalism on the economics of a largely online business model. Set up pay walls? Create new forms of online goods related to news? Convince advertisers to increase internet ad spend? Earn through mobile apps? Many are looking abroad for answers, hoping to apply the lessons learnt by global media. Things look grim for the media moguls, yet at the same time, the democratising effect of the internet has also resulted in something beautiful; the number of media outlets have reduced, but the content has tightened up and delivers what people actually want to see and read.

While in 2012, there was a real fear that tailoring content to match the (very measurable) desire of the online public would result in a massive, degenerative groupthink that would reduce journalism to a cheap carnival, the reality in 2015 illustrates the diversity of communities and demand for content, even in Pakistan. Yes, there are cheap tricks being used to draw in audiences, but unlike TV or print, there is no lack of space, so all forms of content can exist in parallel without competing. Additionally, there are niche audiences out there for all forms of specialised information and, thankfully, it is these niche segments who are more than willing to pay for the information with their credit cards, or PayPal, which was allowed to operate in Pakistan sometime in 2013.

What lies ahead? Perhaps a cutting edge telco experiment with making mobile phone credit a currency for purchasing content online? Perhaps, an ambitious media group collaborates with a local IT firm to create its own low-cost tablet for sharing its content. Whatever the case, these are both troubling and exciting times to be in the news business.

Published in The Express Tribune, February 22nd, 2012.

Don’t blame Ali Azmat, blame marketing

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If you’ve worked in broadcast media, chances are high that you have been part of the manic decision making process which goes into determining what story or issue should run as headline news or lead in a program. The journalistic credo to cover issues in a timely, responsible manner is the driving force behind this high-tension coordination, but the marketing aim to gather the maximum number of eyeballs and maintain their interest is always at the back of every broadcast journalist’s mind.

Which story will sell? What would the audience buy? The ‘business’ of reporting the news is built into the very words used, and there is always the temptation to find nay, create the next big angle to an issue by resorting to sensationalism, of which there are many forms.

Over time, Pakistanis have become quite astute to the more blatant forms of hard news manipulation but even the best of us are still fooled by the distortion of an issue by juxtaposing unlikely elements of the story with each other to form a unique selling point.

Case in point: musician Ali Azmat was recently invited onto DawnNews’ Bolna Zaroori Hai to lay down his views on a recent report about religiosity in Pakistani society. Azmat, ever ready to take on a challenge proceeded to expound to the best of his abilities, citing media conspiracies, the need for an Islamic caliphate, slamming the West and other such viewswhich does not need to be repeated.

I can envisage the decision making process which must have led to this bizarre but very sellable show.

Producer: Well, we’ve improved our ratings by switching over to Urdu, but we need to step it up a notch. What issue is making the rounds these days?

Studious intern one: Sir! What about the latest report by the Institute of Peace Studies which cites that the people of Pakistan have turned increasingly religious over the years?

Producer: That’s genius lad! Let’s run with it at prime time with Wusatullah Khan. Now, who should be the guests?

Studious intern one: How about an expert who can speak well on the issue? How about a Professor from Quaid-e-Azam University?

Producer: Uh. Okay. But what’s going to make the show sell? We have viewers out there who simply won’t hang around to listen to an unknown professor talking sense. We went down that route for a couple of years and look where that got us.

Silence.

Eager intern two: Zaid Hamid?

Producer: No no, Zaid Hamid lost his shelf life a good six months ago, but I like where you’re going with that. Let’s toy with the idea. What we need is a new Zaid Hamid. Someone catchy with the kids and sure to draw in a crowd.

Eager intern two: Ali Azmat sir!

Producer: Yes! He’s the perfect straw man! Massively popular, chock full of Zaid Hamid’s ideas yet a fresh face!

Studious intern one: But sir! Won’t people notice that we’ve juxtaposed a rock star with a professor? It’s completely absurd!

Producer: Young man you really need to catch up to your friend here. People won’t notice because half our audience will lap up what Ali Azmat dishes out, while the other half will spend so much time bashing him they won’t even notice the whole show is our marketing team’s dream come true!

Unfortunately or fortunately (depending on how you look at it), yet another local talk show has gone down that slippery slope of trading sensible content for eyeballs. This is the ground reality, and it is not just the story of one media group, but that of all media groups and persons in Pakistan. Viewers must become aware of the inner workings of our craft, and realize that we are fallible, often weak, and there is tremendous pressure to deliver the goods in terms of ‘selling’ the news. Citizen’s need to apply critical thinking not only to the issues highlighted by the media, but also to the methods behind the message.

So, if Ali Azmat is called up to talk on religion and an increasingly conservative society, be critical of the man, but know your real enemy: marketing.

Published in Tribune Blogs.

A new Facebook for Muslims?

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Jahanzaib Haque/Shaheryar Popalzai

KARACHI: The ongoing ban of Facebook in Pakistan has prompted some entrepreneurs to jump at the opportunity with the creation of an alternative social networking site, Pakfacebook.com.

Launched on May 19, the ‘kosher’ alternative to Facebook has become the 488th most active site in Pakistan according to search analytics website Alexa.

Controversy has surrounded the newly launched website however, as SMS messages being forwarded in Pakistan have warned users that the site is hosted in Canada and has been set up by a US citizen to, “take advantage of you, and earn money that they are losing from the original site”.

The site has also been plagued by downtime for most of Sunday, possibly due to the sudden load of traffic to its servers.

Alternatives are being sought by Pakistanis online:

“This situation is a golden opportunity for any Pakistani web developers to design a web like Facebook and if their site serves like Facebook, it will become a huge success for that developer, Muslims and Pakistan” said Hasham in an online comment to The Express Tribune.

“Marketing people are advised ‘go where the crowds are’. Guys Paki crowd is not on FB anymore. So go where they are going now. FB is not the only place for crowds, a new one can be created. I like the idea of Hasham, developers should come up quickly with something like a desi Facebook alternate. Our friends abroad can join in and we can have a cleaner social networking platform of our own. Hope somebody comes forward with it,” said Anis in a continuation of the online discussion.

So what are the options?

Some alternatives to Facebook do currently exist on the internet. Among the most popular of these is Muslim social networking site, Salam which offers many of Facebook’s features such as photo sharing, events, groups and videos. The site also adheres to the concept of modesty as indicated in its Community Guidance section.

Weblog TechMambo also provides a list of the Top 10 Facebook clones available online.

The Lahore High Court Bar Association (LHCBA) on Tuesday inaugurated the ‘Millat Facebook’ website as an alternative to the banned social networking site. Read the full reporthere.

Privacy first:

Facebook has also seen competition crop up due to the ongoing controversy surrounding its privacy settings. The New York Times ran a recent report on four students who have set upDiaspora*, a social networking alternate to Facebook with personalised privacy settings for users.

As they describe it, the Diaspora software will let users set up their own personal servers, called seeds, create their own hubs and fully control the information they share. Mr Sofaer says that centralized networks like Facebook are not necessary. “In our real lives, we talk to each other,” he said. “We don’t need to hand our messages to a hub. What Facebook gives you as a user isn’t all that hard to do. All the little games, the little walls, the little chat, aren’t really rare things. The technology already exists.”

Originally published in The Express Tribune.