A survey of news consumers in the GCC conducted in February 2011 shows that over three-quarters (76 per cent) of respondents with broadband access have decreased or stopped their consumption of print news, or plan to do so in the next two years.
The survey, conducted by Booz & Company, also revealed that about 89 per cent of respondents with mobile broadband access already read news using their mobile devices. Sounding alarm-bells for print publications in the region, Booz says that “a large-scale shift away from print is clearly coming”.
In a report titled ‘The Advent of Digital news in the GCC’, Booz said: “In the near future, print newspapers in the GCC region will reach an inflection point at which they will begin to lose significant share to digital media.”
The consultancy points out that “[t]he regional migration to digital thus far has been limited by several factors — specifically, a lack of rich digital content from traditional media companies; relatively low penetration of digital devices; and infrastructure issues such as low broadband capacity and download speeds on fixed networks in certain countries.”
But according to the global firm, such limitations are being fast eliminated. “However, these limitations will begin to disappear in the next couple of years,” it says adding that “maintaining the status quo is no longer an option for publishers.”
Booz says that while this may seem like bad news, it is an opportunity for publishers to take cues from the more developed digital markets and take actions today. “[N]ews publishers in the region should take comfort in one fact. They are fortunate that unlike their counterparts in mature markets, they will not be surprised by the advent of digital news. In fact, they have an opportunity to see what is coming and prepare accordingly, adopting and localising strategies from the lessons already learned by print publishers in other geographies,” the report says.
“Even more ominous,” says Booz, “74 per cent of respondents said they were not willing to pay for content. Just a small sliver (roughly 10 per cent) said they were willing to accept pay-as-you-go charges based on the amount of content they accessed, and a similar proportion of respondents said they would pay for exclusive content in categories such as breaking news and sports.”
Moreover, the Booz survey reveals that publishers will have to work harder in the digital domain as online reader-loyalty is vastly fickle compared with print readership. “[W]hen readers migrate to digital news, they prefer to get their information from multiple sources. A recent Booz & Company survey found that only 23 per cent of the audience for digital news went online specifically to find the site of their favourite print newspaper. In fact, in the digital marketplace, newspaper publishers must compete not only against other newspapers but against the digital assets of other news-gathering organizations,” it says.