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Arab Spring spurs interest in ME media

Amanda Fisher
Filed on February 26, 2013

The ramifications of the Arab Spring on the media has put a spotlight on the region, with international interest in a Middle East newspaper conference being held this week.

The World Association of Newspapers (WAN-IFRA) and News Publishers Middle East director Mechthild Schimpf, said people from 24 countries around the world would attend the association’s two-day conference, which begins today and will be opened by Shaikh Maktoum bin Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Deputy Ruler of Dubai.

“I think the media, especially here in the Middle East, is changing quite a lot. Especially if you look at the Arab Spring, things are changing (in terms of media)...I think people are interested in the way the Arab Spring has changed things,” Schimpf said.

This year’s is the eighth such conference, with news rooms and the media changing “dramatically” in that period of time, she said.

“The main changes, of course, if you look at the media, it’s now a good mix. We talk about news and how to reach the customers, the customers are really in the focus and the media has to address them through different channels, both print and online.”

Companies were “still struggling” with how to adapt to include all those channels and be successful, she said.

The conference, which more than 300 people are expected to attend, will host 13 different addresses on a variety of topics focusing largely on the trends and future of media that aimed to help provide answers to some of those struggles: “Print is still thriving, but it will change. You have to adapt,” she said.

Pre-eminent designer and media consultant Mario Garcia, who has worked on more than 500 publications in his career, is the keynote speaker and will give addresses on both the road ahead for a — in places — “thriving” print industry and how to adapt to telling news stories in the “Age of the Tablet”.

The subheading of this conference is ‘The Sky is not the Limit’, which Schimpf said was a directive to the media to see further and not limit itself.

“You always think you have reached a certain level, but it’s still developing...there are no limitations, we still think there will be changes but also a lot of opportunities, so that’s really the message we have to embrace.” The attendees represented a mixture of people, “but it’s the top people from the media industry like the CEOs and (managing directors), but also editors. It’s a good mixture of people in the media”.

“We have a good number (of people) coming from Saudi Arabia, the UAE is represented very well, we have people from Jordan...Oman, from Bahrain, Lebanon, Kuwait, Egypt...and even the UK, US and Finland.”

The conference was an opportunity for a wide exchange of ideas, she said.

Other discussions at the Marriott Hotel conference, to be given by a range of speakers from countries including South Africa, Poland, Germany, England, the United States and Qatar, will focus on digital media, current trends, free content and pay walls.

amanda@khaleejtimes.com


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