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Research prompts trash-talk among Saudi papers

Saudi newspapers fight it out

Figures of newspaper readership by IPSOS doubted and criticised...

October 14, 2012 9:22 by

With many arguing that the print newspaper industry is, for lack of a better term, on its way out, those with a fighting chance cling on to any hope of domination of influence and readership.

After the results of a study released by IPSOS found the Al Jazirah to be the top daily in Saudi Arabia in terms of readership; the lower ranked papers weren’t entirely pleased. The study, conducted by the global market research company, ranks the readership of the top print newspapers in the Kingdom. Al Jazirah is by far, the only officially audited paper in Saudi Arabia.

Al Riyadh, dismayed to discover the results had placed it as being the fifth most read, began shooting accusatory arrows at both its rival newspaper as well as IPSOS’s findings. The global research agency was dubbed (by Al Riyadh) as a ‘statistics shop’, implying that their results can easily be ‘bought and manipulated’ and that Al Jazirah is merely ‘a customer for the sale of delusional studies and statistics’.

It also added that Al Jazirah’s desperation for growth in distribution has pushed them to distribute their copies to universities and government offices. Al Jazirah retaliated by saying that ‘we’d rather be distributed in universities than at shops in gas stations’.

With the absence of an official auditing body to frequently validate research concerning readership and distribution and with no upcoming initiative in sight, this could hardly be the last rumble of its kind.

“IPSOS accepts and welcomes constructive criticism that aims to improve but we reject any misleading or subjective criticism aimed solely at harming our reputation,” the company firmly stated in an email release, in response to ‘malicious’ accusations. “Our offices in Saudi Arabia are some of the largest in the region and we have been able to become the leader within the kingdom based on our integrity, reliability and ability to deliver world class information.”

Saudi residents took to Twitter to discuss the comments lunged from both ends. Funnily enough, they also dug up and revealed the ironic fact that Al Riyadh, despite its efforts to prove that the IPSOS results were manipulated, also uses the agency as a source for studies and statistics.

All in all, it does once again highlight the lack of transparency among print newspapers and advertisers in the Kingdom. Should there be more of an initiative to bring sufficient validity and clarity, or simply ignore it as the world turns away from papers and onto screens?

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