Where is the Arab publishing industry heading?

This year’s Arab Media Forum, themed “The future of media starts today”, was held under the patronage of His Highness Sheikh Mohammad bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai.

Among the panel discussions during the forum, one of the discussion in particular was interesting:

Traditional newspapers in UAE to become ‘insignificant’ in the upcoming years:

A renowned researcher and futurist said that newspapers will likely have a longer shelf life than in many countries around the world. The Arab world is considered faster in adopting new media and the UAE in particular continues to be ranked above a number of developed countries given the opportunity to become a media evolution city testimonial.

On a national level, major factors play a key role in affecting the newspaper extinction timeline:

a)    Technology uptake: mobile bandwidth availability, smartphone and e-readers’ penetration. According to the Arab knowledge report 2014, the Arab World to has more than 197 million internet users by 2017.

b)    Consumer behaviors: Media Channel preferences, consumers’ willingness to pay for news, relative interest in global and local news.

c)     Demographics: Degree of urbanization which everyone agrees is ongoing in this country, along with the increase of literacy. The UAE, is one of the major Arab countries heading towards a knowledge based economy by improving their education sector through the adoption of new technologies, investment in the Information and Communications Technology (ICT) infrastructure, building firm research and development programs, and improvement in the overall business environment.

d)    Government: Dubai has entered into another phase with the recent launch of Dubai, a smart city. Not to forget the e-governance programs that were launched across some of the GCC countries. Also, UAE and KSA are playing major roles in hosting e-governance forums attracting business and welcoming speakers from all over the globe. The UAE was ranked second in government usage pillar, government success in ICT, impact of ICTs on access to basic services and ICT use and government efficiency.

e)    Industry Structure: Newspapers distribution structure has even changed, and people prefer digital appearance to engage more users and increase their social media presence. The financial structure of leading newspapers is supported by local government to keep them up to date with technology trends.

f)     Social Media: Social media is considered in the UAE as highly used as a source of news. Also, social media is letting users share live updates, photos and videos from big events, scenes, major incidents allowing reporters to extend their reach and track news quicker to filter what is relevant to the local readers. It is a major game-changer.

Hence, among all the reasons mentioned above, social media is considered as the main element due to the fact that it is constantly dominating people’s lives and therefore, changing the media landscape globally. Despite these changes, audiences have different tastes; some prefer traditional media, others go digital, while few consider social media as added value.

Can you imagine us bidding farewell to all UAE print papers? Only time will tell…