The end of the line for print?
2016 was not a good year for print media in the UAE. Hardly a week went by it seemed without casualties being added to an ever-expanding list of closures and redundancies. For those working within the industry it was both depressing and stressful, but far from unexpected.
Print advertising spend has been falling for years, with predictions of further drops in 2017. In 2016 alone Zenith predicted newspaper adspend would fall by a third, but magazines are equally as pressured. Recession, the allconsuming behemoth that is the mobile internet, changing media consumption habits and a cluttered market have all contributed to print’s dire year. But none more so, perhaps, than mobile.
In June, Zenith’s Media Consumption Forecasts predicted that the amount of time people devote to using mobile internet globally would increase by 27.7 per cent in 2016, driving a 1.4 per cent increase in overall media consumption. The consumption of all other media – including desktop internet – would decline by 3.4 per cent in total, it said, although television would continue to dominate global media consumption.
The closure of 7Days, the loss of up to 30 jobs at Khaleej Times, redundancies at ITP, earlier cutbacks at Gulf News, and the loss of magazine titles such as Viva have only helped to confirm the predicament that much of the print industry finds itself in: how to remain viable in a digital world?
“Last year was particularly painful for print advertising revenues in the UAE
January 2017 and the years before were harder on other GCC markets,” says executive vice president of group trading and commercial managing director at Publicis Media Middle East. “Print sales have steadily plunged year-on-year and advertisers have followed readers online.
“It’s easy to understand why; today’s generation is more inclined to check the latest headlines on their mobile phones rather than picking up a newspaper, while a big number of elders read an online newspaper each day. But reports of the expiry of the print industry may be premature in our region. It is true that [a] few titles are closing and others are downsizing, but this is normal in a downturn economy, which the entire world is witnessing. It is about time we adapt to the new era of single-digit growth in the media industry and acknowledge that poor performing media will close their doors. But that doesn’t mean that well established and great performing publishing houses will surrender to this situation in the near future.”
Amer El Hajj,
Our news feeds were filled with stories of closures and redundancies at publishing houses across the UAE in 2016. Can publishers halt the decline in revenues and find a way to make their digital operations profitable?