Campaign Middle East - - MEDIA -

or the past two months, much of the talk on our pages has been cen­tred on the pres­sures and tur­moil in a not-tood­is­tant but still-far-enough-away fu­ture. Yet what seems to have slipped un­der the radar is that, for some, the bot­tom has and is al­ready fall­ing out within the Middle East and North Africa’s print in­dus­try.

Cam­paign has learnt that around 50 jobs have been cut at Gulf News and GN broad­cast­ing ra­dio sta­tions; th­ese are un­der­stood to have hit the edi­to­rial depart­ment, though in the lat­ter se­nior man­agers and pro­gram­ming are among the worst hit. At ITP, sources have quoted var­i­ous re­dun­dancy fig­ures, with the com­pany’s sub­sidiary APP and its con­sumer ti­tles un­der­stood to be those hit the hard­est. Both de­clined to give of­fi­cial com­ment when ap­proached by Cam­paign.

So are th­ese signs the me­dia in­dus­try – in par­tic­u­lar print – has hit cri­sis point?

Ac­cord­ing to Dina Med­hat, me­dia di­rec­tor at Ini­tia­tive, this has been a long time com­ing. “Print me­dia has wit­nessed a se­vere de­cline dur­ing the past five years,” she says. “The de­crease in con­sumer spend on mag­a­zines has led to a num­ber of pub­li­ca­tions ei­ther shut­ting down en­tirely or switch­ing to a dig­i­tal for­mat. News­pa­pers are strug­gling with their cir­cu­la­tion fig­ures be­cause news by its na­ture is in­her­ently dy­namic. With the print for­mat a static one, read­ers in the dig­i­tal age are less-and-less in­clined to wait for the next day’s pub­li­ca­tion to keep up with events. As 60 per cent of the pop­u­la­tion is un­der the age of 30 and dig­i­tally-savvy, the print for­mat will con­tinue to de­cline.”

How­ever, it’s not all doom and gloom ac­cord­ing to Lama Al Khawaja, as­so­ciate me­dia di­rec­tor at Me­di­avest. She says: “Print is still heav­ily con­sumed; it’s just con­sumed dif­fer­ently than other me­dia. It of­fers a dif­fer­ent ex­pe­ri­ence for read­ers and plays a dif­fer­ent role for brands. It is a tan­gi­ble medium, which is es­pe­cially im­por­tant in the MENA re­gion, as it pro­vides an el­e­ment of cred­i­bil­ity and le­git­i­macy, as well as in-depth, in­for­ma­tive con­tent, which not all me­dia of­fers. Re­cent stud­ies on lux­ury have shown that print con­tin­ues to rank among the top driv­ers of a brand’s aware­ness, par­tic­u­larly in Saudi Ara­bia.”

She adds: “Nev­er­the­less there is no doubt print will en­joy a lower share of ad spend with the growth in con­sumer time spent on­line.”

Ta­manna Moolchan­dani, busi­ness unit di­rec­tor at MEC, is only slightly op­ti­mistic, say­ing: “Due to the rise of the dig­i­tal age, as the mil­len­nial gen­er­a­tion like to re­fer to it, print me­dia is def­i­nitely suf­fer­ing, glob­ally and in the re­gion. With the up­surge of youth in the re­gion and sub­se­quently, smart­phones, they’re the source of in­stant news at your fin­ger­tips. None­the­less, there will al­ways be an older more re­cep­tive au­di­ence to print. The baby boomers swear by it and it wouldn’t do so with­out rea­son. So, as much as the rise of dig­i­tal me­dia is trend­ing, print me­dia will al­ways have its charm to the slightly more ma­ture au­di­ence.”

Ta­manna Moolchan­dani,

busi­ness unit di­rec­tor at MEC

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