The idea behind the blog 2famous.TV is to become Famous in the Middle East, and to help NGO’s spread awareness of their work with social related problems.
Well, we came across famousbloggers in our comment field. It simply said:
“Really funny video guys, nice introduction too 🙂 It happen that I run the famous blog, come by and give me a visit anytime!”
It’s one of the very few links that we actually checked out, and as we were reading the topics on this blog, it grabbed our attention, and we realized that we had come across a blogger that knew his stuff. So we decided to contribute by telling how we are penetrating the world of fame in the Middle East – as two Norwegian bloggers.
First of all, we knew nothing about blogging before December last year. We read all these tips and tricks, but, really, there are some seriously complicated terms out there… How could we have known that we needed to ping optimize our blog, to deal with FaceBook open Graph, DNS, FTP, PHP, CSS, MySql, jQuery, etc. A few weeks ago we got into Search Engine Optimizing, a term we feared a lot, that turned out to be quite fun to play with (and we discovered that this was the “SEO” that everybody was talking about, we didn’t even know).
Being in Lebanon we also have to deal with three hours of no electricity every day. And, here comes a little secret: we don’t even have our own internet at home. Can’t afford it, so we’ve found ourselves a little spot right next to our toilet where we get some juice from one of our neighbors. Shhh!
We had a long way to come, and we are still far from being where we want to be. But it somehow works out pretty well.
Walk of Causes
We are two Norwegian men living in Beirut, Lebanon. Jørgen is an artist, while Matias is a documentary filmmaker. We met in Beirut, and wanted to work together. So we brought our cameras and walked across Lebanon, an epic journey that many people told us was impossible or dangerous to do. The result was an adventure web series of 14 episodes of five minutes that we needed to distribute, so we started a blog.
The series was called Walk of Causes, and the concept was simple: Each episode was dedicated to a cause dealing with local social problems in Lebanon, such as land mine fields, orphans, refugees, etc. Then we asked sponsors for money to make each episode, where half of the donations would go to an NGO working with the social problem that we address in the specific episodes. We were asking for $2200 pr. episode, but we only got 5 out of 14 episodes covered.
Still, we went on and published two episodes every week. We got decent (not good) publicity in Lebanon. Of course, we know that we are facing quite a challenge producing web TV in a country that has among the slowest internet speeds in the world. (When we started it was the second slowest, after Burkina Faso.) But this also gives us the opportunity to be among the first real video blogs to appear in the country. The internet speed is slowly picking up here, but we still deal with an average of 14.2 seconds loading time on our pages – not to mention the YouTube downloading time! (It can take us a full day to upload a 4 minute video!)
With Walk of Causes we had already established a base of faithful followers, and we would like to continue to make videos that in one way or another can bring good to the world. So we decided to go onto a social experiment where the goal is to become famous in Lebanon. Because if you are famous, you can get people to donate money to anything you want.
So we renamed our blog to 2famous.TV
The first thing we did was to present ourselves as actors. Yes, we know how to act. We believe good acting comes from talent, training and self-confidence, and we knew that we could pull it off. With acting, you can fake it till you make it. So, a bit inspired by the HBO TV-series Entourage and Ricky Gervais’ Extras, we entered the hopeless world of being broke actors going from audition to audition. In this way we got to show real footage of the lives of two European foreigners in an Arabic society, interacting with a culture very different from their own in a funny way. There is not much footage like that out there. (Here you can see what it looks like when we are Vikings in a Kuwaiti TV-commercial.)
Every Saturday we volunteer in one of the Palestinian refugee camps in Beirut, and hence we are able to show fun and entertaining videos of a place that usually only gets exposure when bad things are happening. Because of this, a lot of people have contacted the NGO that we are working for.
Poking the famous people
After having blogged for a bit, mostly about ourselves, we decided to grab a list of 700 Lebanese blogs, run them through a ranking system, and write a personal review of the 40 most visited blogs from Lebanon. The list of the bloggers was already there, but no one had ever ranked them before. The ranking system we used was alexa.com, which is not the most accurate tool out there, but we are no experts. Perhaps because of this, we created controversy – and got a lot of traffic. It started a good debate, and gave us a lot of feedback.
We triggered something in Lebanon, and the next list will be much tighter.
The second move was to do the same thing with the 30 most influential people on Twitter in Lebanon. This was way easier than ranking the blogs, as we just typed “Lebanon” into tweet.grader.com, and the website told us who the most influential people on Twitter in Lebanon are. So we took the top 30 of them, and made a list with a funny personal review on all of them.
This resulted in tons of traffic as we got Tweeted by all the big pop-stars, TV-producers, authors, and actors in the country. Suddenly, there was a Norwegian trend on Twitter in Lebanon! It was called 2famous.TV
The 3rd most influential person on Twitter in Lebanon is a TV-producer and host. He is pretty famous, and he liked our style, so he invited us for dinner. Now he’s going to put us on his TV show. Bling!
Hitting the big news
We just recently started putting posts that are not directly related to us, and the first one out was a post that we made about Israeli BigBrother. Now you have to remember that Israel and Lebanon are arch enemies, and just by touching the subject, you become politically charged. This might not be such a good idea for us, as we do not want to get any enemies.
But this post was different. The contestant in the BigBrother house was a radical left wing, whose agenda was to put the topic of the Israeli occupation of Palestine on prime time TV to create a debate on a topic that is most often hushed in the Israeli media. It was somehow a scoop as we were among the first ones outside of Israel to pick it up. And since we are located in Lebanon, people found interest in it. It became a hit.
The Guardian gave us a reference and sweet link in the first paragraph of their article on the subject. Then Norman Finkelstein, a famous academic and author dealing with the Israel / Palestine conflict, reposted our blog entry. We became a reference point to a news story.
That gave us great amounts of traffic! And it sparked off a heated, but very beautiful debate between an Isreali and an Arab reader (don’t know where from), that ends with the following comment:
“Meeting ppl like you is the power that motivate me. Talking with ppl like you gives me hope.”
What made it possible?
It must be mentioned that the Lebanese people, and the Arabs in general, are extremely hospitable. They are also curious to see what these strange foreigners are doing in their country. At the end of the day we can thank our Lebanese followers and co-bloggers for our relative success. The patience they have put into loading our videos touches us. And the comments they leave, well, they are quite hard to reply to sometimes. They make it all worth blogging. Here are some examples:
“Hello there ! i just checked out all your work guys,and all i can say is amazing-running for perfection ! I really appreciate what your guys are doing …. i hope one day as a social worker i could do the half of you guys are doing … It would be my honor to meet you guys and learn from you …Peace”
“too bad you had to end such an awesome series of videos with a shot of you burning your pubic hair! yucky! All in all, I loved the web series, it was great to see you filming the REAL Lebanon! Thanks and keep up the great work.”
“i am in canada and i really enjoy these videos and so glad to see such videos like that that shows the REAL lebanon that western media does not show at all… thanks a lot guys”
“Thank you guys for your hard work! You showed that Lebanon is not scary to travel to. Lebanon will have a very difficult time getting rid of its scary war image. I hope that more people watch your videos and see that there is much more to this little country than war. I am sad that your series has ended though 🙂 I absolutely loved all of the episodes! I’m checking out your website for the extra footage…Thank you again :)”
We are still rookies in the game. What do you think about our site? How can we improve it? Do you have any thoughts? Any feedback is extremely valuable to us.
We are grateful for receiving any tips on topics to write about, and we are looking for people to write for us as well.