Opinion makers

Some emerging voices – often not aligned with any political group – have recently created a space with blogs and online social networking tools forming a growing community of online activists. These people might exert some influence in the socio-political and cultural realms, especially among the youngest generations, but they still have to compete with the power of traditional media.

At the same time, social activism has benefited from digitisation. As the report entitled Mapping Digital Media by Open Society points out, the first draft of a comprehensive animal rights law, the banning of the honour crime code from the law, the protection of 170 historic buildings slated for demolition and greater media coverage of issues concerning migrant/domestic workers were all achieved through digital activism. These organisations’ official websites and Facebook pages and groups are the most commonly used digital tools, and have the greatest impact.

Despite a number of disadvantages (i.e. poor Internet speed, lack of specific regulations, censorship and scarce government support) activists broadly agree that overall digitisation has positively affected their online activities and their impact.

According to the website Feedspot, which ranks blogs using several parameters, including Alexa Web Traffic Rank, the top ten Lebanese blogs in May 2020 were: The961, BlogBaladi, Lebanese Recipes, Executive Magazine, Patricia Issa Lifestyle Blog, BelleBeirut, A Separate State of Mind, Gino’s Blog, Plus961, Newsroom Nomad. This list reveals a dominance of blogs about current events, lifestyle and food. Considered the increased access to Internet and mobile connection among the Lebanese population, the penetration of blogs became more efficient through the use of social media, especially on Facebook and Instagram. In many cases, thanks to the extensive presence on several platforms and the increasing number of followers, a blog’s owner eventually becomes an influencer on the main treated topics.

In comparison to the past, there has been a proliferation of influencers covering several areas of interest (politics, culture, lifestyle, economy, etc.) with different references and points of view. Comparing different sources, the list of the most relevant influencers would change accordingly to the parameters and the topics taken into consideration, showing that there is not an overall prevalence of a single influencer.

In 2020, the ten most followed Twitter accounts in Lebanon belong mostly to singers or to stars of the entertainment world. The first, Elissa, enjoys more than 14m followers, reaching a wide audience way beyond the national borders. In the past years, also journalists like Rima Makatabi, an award winning and TV presenter at Al-Arabiyya TV. The shift might suggest a change within the public that could derive from an alteration of digital demographic distribution or from a change of general interests. Other important personalities that are particularly followed from the media sector are mainly TV political talk show hosts such as Marcel Ghanem (LBC) and Imad Marmal (Al-Manar), as well as Ghassan Ben Jiddo, the director of Al-Mayadin, and Gisèle Khoury (former LBC and Al-Arabiya, now BBC Arabic). Among influent opinion makers there are newspapers columnists, such as Ghassan Charbil and Jihad Khazen from the pan-Arab newspaper Al-Hayat; Michel Hajj Georgeou, writing for the French speaking L’Orient-Le Jour; Ibrahim al Amin, co-founder and editor in chief of Al-Akhbar.

The top ten most followed Instagram accounts in Lebanon reflect consistently the list of Twitter accounts. Beside celebrities, the majority of influencers’ accounts covers lifestyle, food and fashion. Photography, arts and nature are trend topics as well: one of the most prominent influencers in Lebanon, according to Right Service for Digital Marketing is Abbas Sibai, president and co-founder of LiveLoveBeirut. The project, launched in 2012, is part of an international network aimed to implement community building projects taking into consideration the environmental, social and cultural features.