UAE and Saudi Arabia in the forefront of digital content
Although statistical research predicts the demise of the print publication by 2028 in the UAE, researcher and self-proclaimed “futurist” Ross Dawson says newspaper organisations will not die with it.
Ross Dawson making a presentation on ‘The Future of Arab Media’ on the opening day of the 13th Arab Media Forum in Dubai on Tuesday. — KT photos by Rahul Gajjar
“To be frank, the extinction of paper print is not that important. The news is important, so whether it is on paper or not really doesn’t matter. It’s just about moving with the times.”
Presenting ‘The Future of Arab Media’ session at this year’s Arab Media Forum in Madinat Jumeirah, Dawson said digitalisation is the way forward as “we are living in an age where people are consuming media throughout the whole day”.
And with the global economy set to rise over the next 20-25 years, media will be at the heart of this growth, he said, before pointing out the seven driving forces behind creating a thriving media epicentre in the region.
“These seven elements will feed success: Increased media consumption, fragmentation, participation, personalisation, evolved revenue models, generational changes, and increased bandwidth.”
Dawson said the most fundamental shift in media of late has been fragmentation and although the media sector continues to grow as a whole, the introduction of new, online media channels means “the pie now is being sliced into smaller pieces”.
So at a time where paper is being binned in favour of technology, what does this mean for the future of Arab media?
According to Dawson, the UAE has become one of the frontrunners in a digitally dominated world, so to continue expanding its media footprint, it needs to continue shifting from old media channels to new.
“Focus needs to be steered towards global strategies. Local news organisations will focus on national and regional news, but there needs to be a focus of global news. Take Al Jazeera for example. It is creating content for a global audience and crowd interaction is breeding its success.”
With 95 per cent of the population logging on to social networking sites on average of 2.7 hours per day, the UAE is now noted as one of the world’s highest users of Twitter and Facebook, alongside Saudi Arabia. These figures keep the future of Arab media in good stead, according to Dawson, as news consumers are champing at the bit when it comes to mobile information.
“It will be interesting to see if other Arab nations follow in the footsteps of the UAE and Saudi Arabia as they develop. If so, the future of Arab media will look strong.”
With communities filtering, discussing and engaging in topical discussion, news has now become a community-assisted medium where audiences around the world collaborate and draw on insights together and Dawson said for any country to stay on board the media train, it needs to allow people to individualise content.
“Reporters cannot always be there when news breaks, so using social media the public can create the news and spread it quicker than anyone else,” he said, adding that there is massive value in timeliness.
“Getting the news first has huge impact on a story. Newspapers report news too late because of printing deadlines, so it is imperative to spread news across all interfaces.”
But for Dawson, one thing is key.
“Experimentation. That is the most important aspect here. I call myself a futurist but no one can predict the future. The key is to try things and figure out what does and doesn’t work.”
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