Lovin. 7 years. $14m in revenue. 6 million followers. 15 Middle Eastern Cities.

The following was shared an as internal email to Augustus Media employees on the 1st of September 2022. 

On the 1st of September 2015, in the Media One hotel with about 10 people present, with a small push of a button to take a holding page live on a website, Lovin Dubai went live. 

We had offered a job to an editor, who the night before, emailed to say he couldn’t join, as his former employer was threatening him with a non-compete. So we didn’t even have a team in place. It took more than two months to get the business license finalized at DMCC. 

We had: 

  • No page views
  • Zero followers or brand recognition
  • One full time staff member 
  • No fanfare

Since then..

  • Over 60 employees, 
  • Lovin live in 15 cities
  • Offices in Riyadh, Dubai, Cairo, 
  • Custom build 12,000 sq ft studios in Dubai Production City
  • One person in each of Bahrain, Doha, Abu Dhabi
  • A business partner in Pakistan and Sudan
  • Smashi – a business streaming service
  • Live local sports broadcasting in UAE
  • Forecasted to do $5.2m revenue this year
  • Over 1 billion video views in 2021
  • Over 6 million social media followers

From the very beginning the brand, this company, overcame hurdles and seemed destined to survive and thrive. 

What did we learn over the last 7 years? The changing face of the City continued, documenting and celebrating every moment along the way. New members of the Royal Family, the sad passings, to new accomplishments, new World Records to new residences and achievements. From the Dubai Expo 2020 build-up, to broadcasting live every day during the dark days of the pandemic, sharing the stories of people joining together on their balconies to celebrate the front liners to live translating the official government health updates. Setting ourselves a clear mission, has helped us navigate decision-making, created milestones and provided clarity in times of uncertainty.  

How did Lovin Dubai become an official media company? At the start, we didn’t know whether we were allowed to use the Lovin Dubai name under our license. From a commercial services and marketing license through Astrolabs in DMCC (The support we received by DMCC and its Chairman to this day has been immense), to the welcome we received by TECOM has led to our move in Dubai Production City with even more media licenses. How the Government Of Dubai Media Office supported us with collaborations, invited us to the most prestigious of gatherings and attended our event. In 2018, we won the award for SME of the Year at the MENA Effies. 

There were legal run-ins, and moments we didn’t think the business would survive. 

When 7 of our team members were interrogated at a police station over a legal suit a resident took against us, that resulted in an 18-month legal case. There have been many threats, DMs and online slurs. All overshadowed by the overwhelming response we have seen over the years from the reaction we get at events, in office building receptions, to the “thank you’s” for the community stories we cover, with almost 1 billion video views in 2021, almost 3 million social media followers, and 10’s of millions of page views. 

What about the competition? Are they entertainment companies? News channels? Legacy media – print? TV? Radio?, PR agencies, influencers, other modern media companies? After blocking us to hire an editor, what will our competitors do? Some blocked us from advertisers, some slandered our service in the market without grounds, some blocked employees from interacting with us, yet not with other media companies. Digital has disrupted media and made business challenging, it’s made audience attention harder to get and retain. However, competition is healthy, and it is also fluid, it comes and goes in different forms. We are grateful for a vibrant and diverse media sector. It helps us define our own media lens, audience and journey. 

We might have wondered how the political landscape impacts a millennial-focused media brand. What we found was a City that is embracing media, and striving to be the media capital of the region. We were the first fully foreign-owned media company in Saudi Arabia in 2017. Since then Lovin Saudia has grown, and we have 4 more websites there as well; 

  • Lovin Saudi
  • Lovin Sharqiya
  • Lovin Neom
  • Lovin Riyadh
  • Lovin Jeddah

When the Qatar Blockade happened on June 5th 2017, how would that affect our future plans for Lovin Doha? Now, Lovin Doha is live and kicking! Do we really believe that Lovin can be the defining local news and entertainment channel for the digital age, across the diverse Middle East, from Tunis to Tehran and back again? Lovin Doha started as a franchise, would we ever own it? In 2019, we got a chance to buy it outright, securing the deal two months before the global pandemic in January 2020, and that has allowed us to expand the brand further in the region. 

In Pakistan, we have Lovin Isloo, Lovin Lahore, and Lovin Karachi. In Sudan, we have Lovin Khartoum, and we are excited to have launched Lovin Bahrain, Lovin Doha and Lovin Cairo this year with many more cities to come. 

What about Augustus Media, is there a need for it or is Lovin Dubai enough? We had a board of directors who were investors in Lovin Dubai only, they needed to be brought on the Augustus Media journey, each market entry, new brand launch, and acquisition attempt – of us and by us. We decided to create a streaming service from scratch, a media brand for business, tech, sports in Smashi TV, that led to broadcast local UAE federation sports live for the coming season. Creating the most watched Snapchat Shows in Arabic in the world (Meen Mkassir Social Media?). In this time, legacy media has continued to crumble: first print – we bought the social media assets of 7DAYS UAE when it shut down. Then the rest are evolving – we launched the Lovin Dubai Show – a digital tv offering, and podcasts – digital radio. Media has always fragmented, with the onset of a new technology, this will happen again. Media professionals need an ecosystem, and companies need to be commercially savvy enough to provide them with jobs to do their work.

And do what next? We are embracing the future of Dubai, the future of media, the future of the Middle East, and the future of our small company. We are still striving to achieve the mission we wrote down 7 years ago, to ‘become the modern media company of choice in the region, that users will choose our content, that media personalities will choose to work with us, and that brands will choose to partner with us. The hurdles, and challenges will keep coming. We invite and encourage anyone to join us on the journey in any capacity. In the meantime, do let us know your feedback on Lovin Dubai, so we can continue to serve the local communities.

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