Dailies in region to be afternoon editions

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Dailies in region to be afternoon editions

One of the world’s leading newspaper trouble-shooters has predicted the evolution of the afternoon newspaper in the region.

By Amanda Fisher

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Published: Wed 27 Feb 2013, 8:43 AM

Last updated: Sat 4 Apr 2015, 9:24 AM

The newspaper of the future will be a weekend-only production, except in the Middle East where readers do not like to read on the weekend, Mario Garcia told Khaeej Times on the first day of the two-day eighth World Association of Newspapers and News Publishers (WAN-IFRA) Middle East conference.

The conference was opened by Deputy Ruler of Dubai Shaikh Maktoum bin Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, while the opening address was given by a bouyant WAN-IFRA president Jacob Mathew, who also presides over India’s Malayala Manorama with a circulation of 2.2 million.

Garcia, who has worked on the relaunch and redesign of more than 600 publications across the globe, said the paper of the future would be a “very robust weekend paper”.

“Monday through Friday, people want to get their news fast.”

But in the Middle East where weekends were chiefly reserved for prayer or family time, it was “a difficult market to do this”.

“I think it might not be in the weekend for these people, it may be in the afternoon.”

People in this region tended to leave work a bit earlier, and would be up-to-date through digital means during the day, turning to newspapers in the afternoon, Garcia said.

“Come six o’clock, you can do your lean back (reading).”

The GCC countries were at the moment “very much a print and newspaper readership”, though Dubai followed more international trends because of the high rate of expatriates living here.

Globally, print was still alive, but would have to adapt, Garcia said, criticising editors who kept expecting it to die.

“They come to work like a doctor in a hospice in the morning, you take the pulse of the patient to make sure he didn’t die overnight...I’m a firm believer that print is not going to die.”

The papers that would die were the ones that refused to accept “the new role of print”, which was to specialise in long-form journalism, analysis and feature articles, and contain a mixture of silly and serious stories.

“We are all interested in silly stories. The most intellectual person in the room is interested in the red carpet, whether they admit it or not.”

Print needed to stand out in the “media quartet” of newspapers, websites, tablets and mobile phones.

Garcia also said the biggest media platform growth would be the mobile phone.

“We don’t like to read a lot on a phone, but 12- and 13-year-olds...they will read on these phones, they will listen to music on these phones, and they will watch a video.”

Mobile phones appealed to both young people and advertisers, who could use GPS functions on phones to location advertise, with a notification for the nearest pizza store popping up alongside a news instalment, he said.

“Mobile phone has the elements of attracting the young audience, attracting the advertisers and providing a very portable platform.”

Garcia’s points were reiterated by WAN deputy director-general and business director Eamonn Byrne, who presented reams of data showing, after a shaky few recession-era years, print revenue was going up — with the exception of the north American market.

He contrasted that with the continued inability of digital advertising to produce revenue after more than a decade.

The United States newspaper industry had become consumed in converting the newspaper revenue model into digital and, despite an “extraordinary, diligent and persistent effort”, had failed.

“You have to ask yourself the question if they can’t do it, what makes you think you can?”

However, he sounded a note of optimism that online content — through paywalls — had started to become profitable over the past year or two.

“Despite the fact your colleagues will say ‘people won’t pay’...people are prepared to pay for content if you get that content right.”


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