Mohammed Jaradat is an Amman-based Jordanian entrepreneur. Despite being a high school dropout, he went on to become a pioneer in video production, TV programming and compèring. After establishing his credentials in the entertainment industry, Mohammed Jaradat, also known as Neo, turned his attention to online video blogging and coined the Arabic term “Vadwen” which means “video web log.” Mohammad’s aim is to reshape the Arabian media landscape by linking mainstream media with new media through various innovative projects. Arabian Gazette’s Moign Khawaja had the following conversation with the charismatic Arab entrepreneur:
Your twitter account intro reveals that you’ve quite an interesting background – from comedian to tv presenter and from obsession with music to online video content producer. How did you manage to do all that?
I am a serial entrepreneur and I went through different phases and gained these experiences and titles. My current life/career changing step is to have all of that at my own convenience.
Tell us a bit about Vadwen? When was this born and how?
The idea came to me early 2010 (even though I used to make video blogs two years earlier) but I believe Vadwen was officially born in December 2010 when I shared my idea of the Arabic term of Vlog and its derivations infront of a star-studded cast of mainstream media and new media experts. Here is the link to the video of that event: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wpmZ1Iu8K9U
What inspired you to become a trend setter in the Arab world by pushing the idea of video blogging?
I’m not sure if someone chooses to become a trend setter in any field. Anyhow, it was the case with me for few years now. Regarding video blogging, I chose to step up to the challenge and set sail in uncharted waters (at least in Arabia’s internet sphere). The inspiration came to me when I started video blogging in both languages Arabic and English through two different websites; Ikbis.com and Youtube.com.
I met people from different parts of the world and soon we became a group of Vloggers. We started having online activities and that was the moment when the ideas started to overflow and the inspiration was triggered. I asked myself: “Why isn’t there anything of this kind in the Arabian Internet sphere?” It was then when I felt a bit patriotic and decided to implement my ideas as my innovational duty towards Arabia.
More on being a trend setter, I think it comes from the rebellious entrepreneurial gene that every entrepreneur in the world is born with. I don’t like to follow rules, I create them. I believe that all entrepreneurs feel the same…
You started pushing your initiatives that coincided with the beginnings of Arab Spring. Do you see any connection between video blogging and the Arab Spring?
The timing of my initiative has nothing to do with the Arab spring at all. It is not even a coincidence. I had the idea in mid 2010 before the Arab Spring. Having said that, I do believe that video blogging ignited and fuelled the Arab Spring. Most people say it was Facebook and Twitter but the strongest form was through videos mainly on Youtube. Do you know that the spark of the Egyptian revolution was a video blog by the activist Asmaa Mahfouz?? http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hKgN6A0UWCU
And this is according to all internet users Twitter Retweeters, Facebook sharers, And most importantly Youtube re-uploaders see examples: البنت التى فجرت ثورة مصر رسالة أسماء محفوظ للمصريين يوم 18 يناير 2011
Here is one of the many claims that Asmaa with her video sparked the Egyptian revolution.
More on this subject, I’ve studied the effect that video blogging had on the Arab Spring and from my point of view, I feel that it is the main form of media to cover wars and happenings putting professional TV journalists in the passenger seat. Let’s take Syria for example, TV journalists cannot be in three different cities at the same time where clashes are taking place and may not have the best video shots. That is why they depend on videos made by civilians and rebels to feed their news report.
You’ve got many firsts to yourself – first online comedy show; first online daily show etc. Tell us a bit about it.
Well, I think I should give credit to my friends at Ikbis.com whom I worked with. Ikbis.com were looking for content creators, and we contacted them. And while we were in the making a thought came to my mind that Ground Zero could be the first Arabian online show so we tried to think of any predecessor and couldn’t find any. As for Combo 4, Arabia’s first online daily show, it was a decision from a guy at ikbis.com to have a daily show. I was asked to create one and luckily claimed the title. Honestly it just happened, it’s inevitable.
How has the concept of video blogging been received in the Arab world so far? How would you compare it with the rest of the world?
I believe that the concept needs few more months to be received properly, and we believe that Vadwen is helping both video blog creators and viewers in several different ways. In comparison with the rest of the world, I believe that it is a bit premature but we have plans for Vadwen to turn Arabian Video blogging to something universally unique and redefine ‘vlogging’ to the world.
Do you think the revolution of smartphones, especially that of Apple’s iPhone and its FaceTime feature, is helping your efforts?
Most definitely yes. I mean two years ago I had a dream of having a simple video editor on my smartphone to edit my own vlogs that I used to shoot with my device. But now, the technology is providing a lot of great features for vloggers. And we are designing our own applications according to our community members’ needs.
Give us some vital stats about Vadwen. How many users/subscribers? What’s the daily traffic inflow? How many videos uploaded daily?
Our achievements at the moment are mostly offline working on the brand. While online we are focusing on the Facebook page where we have more than 2,000 real supporters who believe in our project. We are still developing a better website and a mobile application.Only then we would worry about the stats and numbers.
One thing to mention here is that Vadwen is not just a website; it is a community and a culture.
Some social media critics say that Vadwen’s Arabic-only platform is excluding the large expat community in the Middle East. Do you intend to introduce English features as well in the future?
We at Vadwen believe in enriching the Arabic content and our decision to make it an Arabic-only platform is only temporary. So yes, we do intend to include English and other languages in the circle but this may take a while.
How can Vadwen be helpful to the masses, especially the disaffected youth in the Middle East which feels that its voice is not being heard?
We at Vadwen have plans to amplify youth’s voices by taking their content and redistribute it to various media.
If you’re to create a platform where you’ll be giving voice to the voiceless, how would you react to censorship efforts taken by governments of the region?
As a community we will work together to claim our rights and protect them. Governments should always be up to date with emerging trends and make changes for the benefit of the public.
Tell us a bit about Batata Media.
Batata for media ‘destruction’ is a side project which is bootstrapped to Vadwen. It is making money by providing media production/destruction services.
Your twitter profile says that you’re the 2nd most experienced Arab in online video content. Who’s the first and foremost?
That’s up to me to know and up to you to find out
You’re quite a video fan. What was your first video experience?
I did my first political comedy video dubbing dialogues on one of the scenes of the Matrix Reloaded
Where do you see yourself in the next 2 years? How do you see Vadwen growing?
Vadwen will hopefully spread across the region and will also have community members from all over the world. We’ll have a complete team which will cover all kinds of media. We will be launching a national vlogging multimedia contest in partnership with a huge TV network. Our aim is to start exporting Arabian culture to the world.
Monetising from a news website or social media network has been an issue. What initiatives have you taken or considering to take in terms of addressing this crucial issue?
I am considering and working on value-added services for starters, and then adding more revenue streams one by one.
What’s your message to young entrepreneurs and startups of the Middle East and North Africa region, especially the ones that are having a tough time establishing themselves?
These times are tougher than you can imagine – not just on the financial level but on all levels and the region is going through a drastic change of historical proportions. So, if you believe in your project, don’t focus on the financial part and keep on building your business no matter how slow it will be with little money even if you had to go back to the corporate life and get a job. Be patient and never give up. Make a name and develop your brand.
To find out more about Arabia’s growing video blogging community, visit http://www.vadwen.com
Also, check out their Facebook page to ‘Like’ what Vadwen is doing!