Middle Eastern Digital Media Awards winners honoured in Dubai

The winners of WAN-IFRA’s Middle Eastern Digital Media Awards for 2018 were recognised during a ceremony at the close of the first day of the 13th annual Middle East Conference, which is taking place at The Westin Dubai Mina Seyahi Beach Resort & Marina from 28 February through 1 March.

by WAN-IFRA External Contributor | March 1, 2018

WAN-IFRA’s Digital Media Awards are held throughout the year in every major region in the world. They are the most prestigious recognition of best practice innovation in digital publishing. The winners of the Middle Eastern Awards competition are automatically eligible for WAN-IFRA’s World Digital Media Awards, which recognize the very best digital initiatives globally.

The winners

Best News Website or Mobile Service 2018
Winner: Al Bilad EST, Saudi Arabia

Competition in a general news category is always fierce due to the sheer number of candidates and the quality of news sites in the region. To help the judges make such a tough call, they gave points for a number of criteria, including excellent content, but also UX (user experience), innovative design, and apropriate use of multiple media to better tell the story.

Since heavy multimedia and interface design can also take their toll on bandwidth, load speeds and added value from the user perspective were also part of the mix. With care being taken to keep the awards grounded in commercial reality, the site’s contribution to revenue goals was also taken into consideration.

Bearing in mind all these factors the winner is a true all-rounder, so congratulations to Saudi Arabia’s Al Bilad EST, a Smart Newspaper project, which one jury member summed up as follows: “great synergy of technology, content and design, creating an engaging user experience.”

Best in Lifestyle, Sports, Entertainment Website or Mobile Services 2018
Hia Magazine, UAE

Lifestyle, Sports, and Entertainment lend themselves most naturally to the multimedia approach, which made for a rich line-up in this category.

The winner, Hia Magazine from the UAE, not only dazzled visually and in terms of interaction but notably impressed the judges on the issue of growing the audience and generating more revenue. As one judge put it, “The presentation gives a good account of the strategy for making this magazine more successful – and from the figures supplied, it certainly seems to be working with the target market.”

Best Use of Online Video 2018
Winner: The National, UAE

The National from the UAE won this award with video that was not only carefully chosen and shot for aesthetic and emotional impact, but also well thought-out for use across different platforms in social media and mobile.

Some of the judges’ comments:

  • “Solid and engaging.”
  • ”Well shot, and nicely edited.”
  • “Lots of interesting footage – especially the Beirut artist… this is great.”
  • “The National is doing world-class video here.”

As important as the aesthetics are, the entries were judged firmly within the context of their value to both viewers and the publisher, and here as well The National stood out, with one judge commenting, “Taking a lead from Facebook video trailblazers like AJ+ and NowThis, this is a well-executed video strategy with clever selection of content with relevance to an international audience.”

Best Data Visualisation 2018
Winner: Khaleej Times, UAE

Data visualisation is as much an art as a science, with the outstanding performers using infographics that bring visual impact to information which might easily otherwise be glossed over.

The Khaleej Times won this category with a VAT calculator that the judges felt transformed a story about a new VAT rate into a workable tool for users and a great point of engagement for the publisher.

Best Innovation to Engage Youth Audience 2018
Winner: Khaleej Times, UAE

A second win for the Khaleej Times, and another well-deserved one for its boldness in engaging with a younger audience, in this case around a subject that might not be expected from the Dubai-based publisher. As one judge noted, “’The Harley Ladies of Dubai’ was a surprising departure – and might be more of the tone the magazine should be aiming at for its young readers – tackling gender stereotypes.”

Best in Social Media Engagement 2018
Winner: Rudaw Media Network, Iraq

Key to success in this category were measurable growth in user engagement, effective use of the chosen social media platform(s), and remaining faithful to the tone and voice of the parent news brand across the new platform.

The Rudaw 100 Million Users project did all that, in the process earning the judges’ plaudits. “This is a stunning entry and deserves to win. Great content and real journalism have been tailored impressively for different social media platforms,” one judge commented.

Best Digital News Start-up 2018
Winner: Sayidaty Magazine, UAE

Since the industry lives off new approaches, Sayidaty Magazine is a welcome addition to the publisher’s stable with its new web portal for Saudi women. About Her ( impressed one of the judges as being “an innovative and interesting site. The tone of the writing is relentlessly positive.”

Best Digital Marketing Campaign 2018
Winner: Hia Magazine, UAE

Hia Magazine joined the Khaleej Times as the second double winner for a joint project between and Tiffany & Co. Clear messaging, an effective social media dimension, brand voice and demonstrably efficient targeting were the key factors in its success.

Best Branded Content Project 2018
Ethos Interactive, Saudi Arabia

With the growing importance of native/content advertising, this category is set to grow in importance with judges looking for joint projects that demonstrate strong branding and generate effective engagment.

Saudi Arabia-based Ethos Interactive won for its McDonald’s Taskita Menu, which a jury member found to be a “very effective and entertaining way to engage the viewer while establishing emotional connection to the product.”

WAN-IFRA External Contributor

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