DUBAI: Earlier this year, in October, YouTube relaunched YouTube Batala, a YouTube channel in the Middle East and North Africa region dedicated to spotlighting the next generation of Arabic-speaking women designers.
YouTube Batala serves better as a hub than a channel itself made up of over 250 female-run channels from across the region. It offers a collection of playlists, categorized by genre, with each playlist containing different creators.
Playlists cover genres ranging from beauty and fashion to music and games. In fact, gaming has been one of the most significant genres in terms of growth among female audiences as well as content creation.
In 2016-2017, when YouTube first launched Project Batala and other women-focused events and initiatives, there were only five female-run channels with over one million subscribers. Today, there are over 150 female-run channels, with over one million subscribers in the MENA region.
Arab News spoke with Hala Ajil, Partner Manager at YouTube MENA to learn more about Batala’s relaunch and the growth of female content creators on the platform.
Why was Batala dropped and relaunched?
The Batala program started in 2017 but has never been interrupted. Since 2017, we’ve been hosting Creator Events to help educate, empower and inspire Arabic-speaking content creators around the world. Earlier this year, I was proud to see us relaunch the central arm of the program, which is actually a YouTube channel that serves as an index for all of the great creative women who are a part of the program.
(Batala was first launched in 2017 when YouTube hosted the very first women’s event in Saudi Arabia and launched the Batala hub, dedicated to showcasing the diversity of female talent in the region.)
Can you tell us about YouTube initiatives to empower women creators?
Over the years, Batala has undergone several form changes. We held two #AnaBatala workshops: in 2018 we held one in Dubai based on #IamRemarkable with the aim of empowering under-represented groups, helping them focus on what made them ‘remarkable’ and a another in 2019 in Cairo during our YouTube pop. until the event. COVID-19 prevented us from running in-person workshops in 2020 and 2021, so we decided to revamp Batala and run a three-week Batala virtual workshop and relaunch the hub (this year).
Can you give us an overview of male and female designers on the platform?
Female content is not easy to find in general, and while there is still a significant gap between male and female content creators on the platform, we are seeing huge growth in female content. We are working on several initiatives – Batala being the main one – to help close this gap.
How have the creators of the region evolved on the platform?
Certain nuances in the region may appeal to women on the platform, and prevent them from creating content, but this is how passion projects are born. Today, the female designer community is incredibly diverse, with women leading channels in all kinds of genres, from lifestyle and fashion to horror stories and book reviews. One of the things we’re most proud of is the passion of these women, and that’s one of the main reasons we launched Batala: to celebrate and grow this vibrant community of creative storytellers.
What are the content trends that you see among women creators?
Female-led content was typically the content you would find on most social platforms, such as “beauty” and “lifestyle” content. However, over the years, we have seen their content mature and develop; now we see women diving into the world of vlogging, where they create challenges and pranks, travel the world and collaborate with other creators. We have recently seen them start to focus on “game” content; more and more women are becoming players or at least playing side by side.
How do women designers in the region differ from those in Western markets?
The creators of the MENA region are incredibly passionate. They want to be heard and they will work hard to make sure they are. These women come from different backgrounds and subcultures; some are still students, others are mothers, and most have to juggle several jobs at the same time.
That doesn’t stop them from doing what they love and sharing their world with their audience because their channels are a window to their world.
What do brands need to know to work with designers?
Content creators are essentially storytellers; their ability to connect with audiences through the opinions, ideas and events they are passionate about is what makes them such a powerful force that brands can harness.
The most successful brand and designer collaborations are often those where the designer tests the product first and ends up genuinely falling in love with it. This way, product placement can fit seamlessly into the creator’s channel without looking like an advertisement.
A good example is the collaboration of Azza Zarour with Lancôme. Lancôme wanted to promote its range of skincare products. Instead of just creating a video about the products, Azza worked with Lancôme to make a video with her husband, where he chooses his skincare (a common trend on YouTube). The video was genuine and looked similar to the rest of the videos on his channel, which made it a hit.