Media experts believe that current financial crisis, in tandem with the fast changing demographics of the region will turn as much as 80 per cent of advertising to digital platforms such as internet and mobile phones.
Speaking at a conference at the Dubai Press Club, some of the leading voices in the media world conveyed that the current projections for ad spent on print media will hold on to a mere 20 per cent, while digital platforms will grab the rest in a few years' time.
The conference, titled "Coping with Change, Yes, We can", held by the Press Club in association with Knowledgeview, delved into the changing face of the media against the backdrop of technological advancements and financial crisis.
Echoing the findings of the latest edition of the Arab Media Outlook 2008–2012, some speakers said that broadband would make a strong impact on the media scene, bringing better efficiency and cost-effectiveness. "In an age when virtual communities are constantly formed on the basis of common caused and disbanded soon after the causes are no longer relevant, there will be a drift away from print toward the digital sphere," pointed out Richard Withey, former Global Media Director for Independent News and Media in Britain.
In fact, the new edition of the Arab Media Outlook, the ground-breaking media analysis recently brought out by Dubai Press Club in conjunction with PricewaterhouseCoopers, has revealed that demographic factors are among the principal reasons why the Arab World is most suitable for the growth of new forms of media, such as digital media and mobile TV.
The report based its conclusions on extensive research in 12 Arab countries, says that one common feature across all 12 markets is that young people make up a relatively high percentage of the population. "Over 50 per cent of the population in Yemen, Oman, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Morocco and Egypt are estimated to be currently less than 25 years old, while in the rest of the countries the under-25 'net generation' makes up around 35 per cent to 47 per cent of total population," said the report.
The speakers at the conference also had the same thrust with the opinion that primacy of the consumer in determining not only the forms and platforms of the media, but also the content and the delivery value chain. In a fast changing scenario, it is important for the media in the Middle East to prepare for the digital age, although traditional media are still an important factor because the old forms of the media will soon cease to be profitable and popular, they suggested.
The seminar, which saw a detailed discussion on rapid changes in the media industry and the challenges posed by the current financial meltdown, was addressed by Richard Withey, Dr Ali Al-Assam, Managing Director of KnowledgeView Ltd, Francis Matthew, Editor-at-large, Gulf News and Magdi Hannah, Press IT supervisor, Abu Dhabi Media company.
Holding that we are passing through a second industrial revolution currently, Dr Ali Al Assam said that the technologies available today facilitated incredible possibilities of integration across various media platforms. "This not only makes the running of media organisations more effective and cheap, but also more in line with the expectations of the consumer, who I would like to call the 'pubsumer'," he explained. The media outlook report also emphasised on the changing trends with growth in younger population and availability of new technology.
Since new technologies are often second nature to the youth and content delivery via online and mobile channels are probably their preferred methods, the report says that the net generation tends to behave in a very similar way when they are online, regardless of their geographic location or cultural background. "This unique demographic profile of the region presents exciting opportunities for online media owners, content developers, operators, and all parties along the media value chain," the report predicts.
Illustrating these observations through a case study on the success of maktoob.com, the Arabic web-based e-mail solutions, the report says the launch of the website constituted an important milestone in the region's internet development. With a user base of over 13 million, the portal has expanded from a mail program into a diverse community, creatively exploiting a wide range of Web 2.0 services including e-mail, discussion forums, news, blogs, instant messaging facilities, games, mobile services and content for women, Outlook points out.
Citing an audit conducted by UK-based ABC Electronic, the report says that maktoob.com received a total of 9.6 million unique users who visited over 224 million web pages in April 2008. This, according to the report, is evidence of even greater potential for the internet and its growing space within the Arab community.