Shift­ing Per­cep­tions


In an ex­clu­sive se­ries of in­ter­views con­ducted in Egypt, Arabad talked to a num­ber of ac­tive me­dia fig­ures to learn more about the coun­try’s cur­rent print sec­tor, which, ac­cord­ing to those in the know, has been in a slump for quite some time. The main rea­son is at­trib­uted to ex­ist­ing tech­nolo­gies as well as the de­sire to max­imise reach while min­imis­ing over­heads. This has driven some of the most re­puted news­pa­pers to change their ex­ist­ing struc­tures to cope with the threat the cur­rent dig­i­tal wave has in­tro­duced.

Ac­cord­ing to Mo­ham­mad Fathy of Al Borsa news­pa­per, “The main prob­lem is cred­i­bil­ity of in­de­pen­dent dig­i­tal news por­tals. An­other is speedy re­port­ing, which cur­rent print me­dia out­lets can­not com­pete with. Worse still, dig­i­tal me­dia out­lets of­fer most of their news for free driv­ing the ques­tion of value re­lated to the re­ported sto­ries.”

An­other prob­lem­atic mat­ter re­lates to peo­ple’s life­styles, which have be­come in­creas­ingly more hec­tic, leav­ing them with lit­tle time to read an en­tire news­pa­per as op­posed to scan­ning the ma­jor head­lines while on the go. As a re­sult, the tra­di­tional printed ver­sion of a news­pa­per there­fore can no longer com­pete. Worse still, some are start­ing to con­sider them a waste of time. Also, the era of great writ­ers and colum­nists has ended sim­ply be­cause their points of view no longer are im­por­tant to the younger read­ers. What is worse, is that this gen­er­a­tion, if af­forded ex­tra time, would rather watch the news on TV or a talk show rather than read a news­pa­per to stay cur­rent.

This has driven the ques­tion of whether the cur­rent news­pa­per business model is in ter­mi­nal de­cline or some­thing could still be done. Com­ment­ing on the sub­ject, Iman Hasheesh of Al Mal news­pa­per ex­plained: “All Egyp­tian news­pa­pers are fac­ing a huge de­cline in cir­cu­la­tion in­clud­ing the coun­try’s big­gest, Al Ahram. The paper used to sell 3.5 mil­lion daily copies filled with im­por­tant news sto­ries. Sadly, the most rel­e­vant is­sue to­day has be­come the Fri­day edi­tion be­cause it pri­mar­ily is filled with real es­tate, food and au­to­mo­tive ads. And, in a bid to en­cour­age sub­scribers to buy the paper, read­ers have been af­forded the op­por­tu­nity of ei­ther choos­ing a monthly sub­scrip­tion, or only the one is­sued on Fri­days.”

Ce­ment­ing the fact of the inevitable, Mah­moud Fouad, owner of The Mid­dle East Ob­server re­marked, “News­pa­pers can never sur­vive the old way con­sid­er­ing that there al­most are no ad­ver­tise­ments in many news­pa­pers. One so­lu­tion would be to cre­ate a news por­tal and get con­trib­u­tors (free­lancers) to cre­ate up-to-the-minute con­tent and of­fer ad­ver­tis­ers space at much lower rates. This may be one way to cut over­heads and in turn, sur­vive.”

When prompted to ex­plain the pos­i­tive ef­fect news­pa­per ad­ver­tise­ments have, Mai Monir, me­dia man­ager at As­pect Me­dia House said, “They do, but there are many ex­cep­tions to the rule. In the case of Al Ahram, the strat­egy works but only on Fri­days as this is the only day that most Egyp­tians buy the printed edi­tion since it has forty pages of ads about: jobs, real es­tate, au­to­mo­tive, and su­per­mar­ket of­fers. In­sert­ing ads in a news­pa­per on any other day has be­come a waste of money".

While some main­tain that print is def­i­nitely dead, oth­ers be­lieve that re­al­ity not to be a ‘bad’ thing as some papers cre­ated their own cus­tomis­able mo­bile app and ad­ver­tis­ers seem to be open to the idea of plac­ing ads on the dig­i­tal ver­sion.

Ac­cord­ing to a com­monly shared view, what is pay­ing off in dig­i­tal ads is spon­sor­ing a web por­tal on a monthly, quar­terly and yearly ba­sis. A good web por­tal (bet­ter if it is spe­cialised) could get enough spon­sor­ship con­tracts to make it prof­itable with al­most no over­head. An­other method avail­able to ad­ver­tis­ers is pro­duc­ing TV com­mer­cials and air­ing them on Youtube since it not only is af­ford­able, but if these are wellplanned, then large au­di­ences will be guar­an­teed based on real-time sta­tis­tics.

Hoda Kamel, com­mer­cial direc­tor of a real es­tate com­pany ex­plained, de­spite the mer­its dig­i­tal of­fers, “We still spend on brochures and place news­pa­per ads, but this prac­tice is de­clin­ing ev­ery year. How­ever, when it comes to choos­ing whether to place an ad in a printed pub­li­ca­tion or online, the driv­ing force seems to be real es­tate and news­pa­pers the driv­ing force for clients. The rea­sons are cul­tural as well as gen­er­a­tional in that the peo­ple with real pur­chas­ing power be­long to the older gen­er­a­tion".

Thus far, plac­ing an ad in a re­puted news­pa­per is still the most ef­fec­tive way to get the mes­sage through, that is, at least for now. As for what is to come, guess you’ll just have to stay tuned!

Iman Hasheesh

Mai Monir

Mo­ham­mad Fathy

Hoda Kamel

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