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Arab Detroit: A Digital Powerplayer in the Arab-American Community

posted on: Mar 30, 2011

Arab Detroit online was created four years ago, says Warren David, its creator, because of the need by the large concentration on Arab-Americans in Detroit, Michigan, a city viewed by many in the US as the hub of Arab-Americans.

The success of his online paper has been overwhelming, so much so that David is now going to expand…. Not to cover the entire state of Michigan, but rather the entire United States.

He had two objectives when he launched the online paper, David told Arab News in a telephone interview: “The first is that we wanted to unite the Arab-American community here, as Arab-Americans are a very diverse community with many subgroups, both religiously and ethically,

“Our community got news from their churches, their mosques and others who represent them. We wanted to empower the Arab-American community by having a place where they could all learn about each other, and unite the community.”

David, a third generation Arab-American of Syrian-Lebanese descent who is married to a Palestinian, said the strategy worked.

“I’m happy to report that we have established an inclusive website where everybody, it doesn’t’ matter what their ethnicity or religion, can learn about each other. And the result is that it has united the community.”

His second objective was to use the website as “a resource site, where non-Arab Americans could learn about Arabs and Arab-Americans.”

David says about 30% of the website’s traffic is American – “they are students, teachers, and every type of American who are interested in learning more about Arabs.”

He’s used a lot of clever “hooks” to draw people of all interests to the site. “We have a feature on our website called ‘Arabic word of the day’ where a person can learn a new Arabic word daily.

“We also have an ‘Arab-Bit,’ a bit of information about the Arab world. Every day it changes on a daily basis, talks about the contributions that came from the Arab world to the West.”

There is also a 24/7 digital internet radio station, offering a variety of Arabic music with no commercials. David said it’s so popular that people from all over the world listen to it. “It’s all digital, high quality; some people even use it when they have a house party or barbeques.”

For those looking for a good recipe to try, Arab Detroit has Sahtain, with a new recipe online daily – from the Levant to the Maghreb.

Not in the mood to cook? David says Arab Detroit also has a database called that lists about 800 or 900 Arab restaurants throughout the country.

Lastly, but perhaps most important, said David, “The online newspaper lists all the events in the Arab-American community in the Detroit area.”

“We list all the organizations in the Arab-American communities, including churches and mosques; we try to be as inclusive as we can.”

One of his secrets may be the news section, which doesn’t cover the news or even the headlines. According the David, the coverage goes beyond the headlines, and focuses more on cultural stories, or specific interests of the Arab-American community.

“It’s kind of a culmination of different things that are of importance to Arab-Americans,” he said. “The spin is a little bit different because it targets the Arab American market, which is different from the Middle East market. The news reflects the interests of the Arab-American community.”

And yes, there is also a business section, called Marketplace, which offers a directory of Arab-American and American businesses interested in targeting the market.

“From lawyers and accountants to restaurants and beauty salons,” says David.

ArabDetroit also publishes a weekly e-news letter called ‘Arab Detroit e-news’ which comes out every Wednesday morning, noon, and highlights the week’s events. David says this roundup has proved very successful, as tens of thousands have subscribed to it.

David, whose wife and two daughters all have Communication degrees; said his daughters also ensure that Arab Detroit is available on Facebook and Twitter, where they have “huge” followings on both sites.

“There are a lot of organizations that have websites, such as Arab-American groups. But they’re more supplementary to the organizations, which is the main emphasis. Arab Detroit is a digital business, and that’s all we do. Because of that, we’ve become a leading provider of digital media to Arab-Americans.”

Which is the reason why David decided to launch the site nationally.

“Right now Arab Detroit is a local site, but is nationally read. Like the Washington Post or the New York Times, the Arab Detroit brand is read throughout the US by Arab-Americans.”

So Arab Detroit will migrate to Arab, which David said will be launched within the next couple of months, “around the time of our fourth anniversary.”

There pan-Arab-American site will have four regional markets: Washington DC, New York (including New Jersey), Chicago and Los Angeles. “By launching this, we’ll be able to offer events and news directed at these cities and markets,” said David.

“When you go to Arab, you’ll be able to click a button that will take you to that specific region. When it clicks in, then that whole page will be geared to that particular market.”

The sites unprecedented growth, said David, drew in advertisers interested in targeting or gaining access to the Arab-American community through the website.

It was David’s passion to ensure that the Arab heritage and culture is accurately portrayed in the US that led him to create his website. “There is such a misaligned image of Arabs and Muslims here, I wanted to show our great culture and to humanize Arab-Americans, something that you rarely see here in the US in the media or in cinema.

“I want to empower our community and also leave a legacy for our children and children’s children to feel proud of their ethnic heritage, of being Arab and Arab-Americans. That’s what really drove me to do this, it’s not making money, I felt that I really had to do this. It’s been a real labor of love.”

Barbara Ferguson
Arab News