It is often said amongst Cairo residents that the best way to promote an event is simply through word-of-mouth. Rarely does one see a poster or advertisement around town announcing a concert before first hearing the news from a friend.
Gossip too is often the main source of news, and distinguishing fact from fiction can oftentimes be frustrating.
Facebook has of course helped make news more available as people have become more technologically savvy, taking advantage of the social networking site to promote their personal news.
Recently, a blog in the form of a Facebook profile run by a group of anonymous users has allowed a select group of Egypt’s socialites to keep track of parties, concerts and activities in Egypt. Dubbed “Cairo Gossip,” the blog also has an Arabic moniker: “Kalam El Qahairah” reminding users that Cairo residents gossip quite a lot, but this time, with not malicious intent.
What’s interesting about the blog is how in a short span of time, it has established itself as a reliable source of news on events, parties, concerts and a forum for discussing local current events.
Unlike other gossip and news blogs based in Egypt, Cairo Gossip has refused to be bought out or move to a domain, which would allow advertisers and sponsors to be present on the website.
Those allowed to be privy to the blog were initially hand selected by the people behind Cairo Gossip on the premise of their activities, their social contacts, popularity and presence on Cairo’s social scene. Now, Cairo Gossip receives tens of friend requests a day, though most are rejected.
Speaking to Daily News Egypt through an email exchange, the people of Cairo Gossip explained the workings of their blog.
Daily News Egypt: Why did you decide to set up Cairo Gossip (CG)?
Cairo Gossip: In a way, the aim of CG when it first started was that it wanted to be a gossip blog, talk about gossip more than [new] venues and stuff, but as it started maturing or the thought of it started growing, [we] discovered, that’s not such a great idea, as nothing good comes out of pure gossip.
The other thing is the free flow of information; we always believed that there was a sort of a lack of free flow of the information. We created an access of a database, where I can make the information [regarding parties and events] shared easily and quickly among more different circles of people, that gives them all a chance to go out, and it also helps us people who are part of the scene in seeing new and different faces.
How do you go about finding all the information you post? Are there any sponsorships or deals? Not monetary but otherwise?
There are no deals or sponsorships or money or anything of that sort involved in CG. I find out most of the information through Facebook, which could be a very powerful tool, if you know how to use it right. When you are part of all the FB groups and FB fan pages, you eventually get notifications on everything, and at the same time when you get to see peoples’ status updates or pictures going up, you can feel something happened somewhere or something is going to happen somewhere.
But on the other hand I get my information by mostly just chatting with people, or Facebook messaging them.
How has it developed over the past year? Why a Facebook profile versus a blog like Scene-and- Heard.com?
Over the past year it grew pretty well. Now we have almost 1,300 friends on the CG profile so I think that’s a good growth rate considering we reject like 10 friend requests a day, and maybe accept only two or four. A lot of people are interested in getting on to CG now in order to know what’s happening around Cairo in terms of the party scene.
With regards to why a Facebook profile, well usually for a dot.com you care for advertisers, etc and we don’t care to generate revenue so we don’t care much for advertisers, and it just seemed the quickest way to reach people is Facebook. Lets face it, we are lazy and we just want things delivered to us, and since FB is integrated with Blackberries and other smart phones, users are always connected with CG.
What has surprised you about it as it developed? Any feedback received from users and friends?
I guess what surprised me the most is people flirting with me on chat, both guys and girls, our gender and identity being unknown, people would assume one of us online are a certain gender, and just have their conviction and go ahead and flirt.
My friends, well because they are my friends, always say great stuff about it, and from the users, well I feel they sometimes would like a bit more in term of gossip that is more personal and dirty, which I can’t provide because it goes against our personal ethics. But more or less I got a lot of praise from the users.
Why the secrecy? What do you feel you gain from being anonymous?
If everyone knows that you are CG people will just walk up to you or maybe organizers will try to sweet talk you into giving them a good review which are two things I hate — I wasn’t doing this for recognition or money… I just felt like it would be a nice project to do and to see it through, and I am a person who is a bit private and don’t like too much attention [directed] on me.