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Khaleej Times vs. Gulf News

Sporting a new design, Dubai daily Khaleej Times is hoping to beat its old competitor, Gulf News. Is it managing to succeed?

In the emirate next door, Abu Dhabi’s The National, with a bold branding camping and a slick design that seems stolen from the old Guardian, is taking the battle to the two dominant Dubai dailies, Khaleej Times and Gulf News.

“For years Gulf News and Khaleej Times were the established, must-read papers here,” Austyn Allison, the managing editor of Communicate magazine, told The National recently. “Now there’s this new competition from The National and other publications. Newspapers are having to change.”*

But how do these two bitter old rivals compare to one another? Here’s the scorecard, with each criteria scored on a scale of 10.

Khaleej Times
Design: 5. KT’s new design was clearly intended to boost the profile of the 30-year-old paper. It sure needed it, having a design that looked – well, that looked 30 years old. We’d have given it a score of 1 before.

The result? Better, but not good enough.

Yes, the shaded KT behind Khaleej Times is a nod toward what Pentagram, the design gurus brought in on short notice to handle the project, called “deliberately modern,”which beats looking accidentally out-of-date. The serif headline font is an improvement over the block letters of the past, which made the paper seem ridiculously unserious.

But there’s still something lacking here. Perhaps it’s the details, like the awkward abundance of white space, or capitalizing the first letter in each word in the headlines. (Yes, we know many American dailies do that, but somehow KT can’t pull it off.)

Perhaps it’s telling that that Pentagram mentioned in its blog that it only had 10 weeks to complete the redesign. Nice foresight, people.

5. The paper was known as a less serious alternative to Gulf News before. Now the paper is now known as a less serious alternative to Gulf News, which is known as a less serious alternative to The National.

Delivery: 3. We’re talking about whether the newspaper delivers on its promise, not whether the newspapers gets delivered.

Prior to the redesign, we’d have maybe given an 8 for delivery. Since the paper didn’t seem to promise much, there was little room to disappoint. Today, we’d give it a 3. The paper looks more like an actual newspaper – until you read the so-called “news.”

Reach: 5. KT claims a circulation of 90,000, but without an audit from BPA – its last auditor, Audit Bureau of Circulation, having pulled out of the region in 2006 – that number’s difficult to prove. The only thing we can say for certain is they’ve started delivering it free to our apartment in Jumeirah Beach Residence. They’re piling up in the hallway.

Relevance: 2. The paper has no unique selling proposition. Note to editors: We know that that you are part-owned by the government, but so is , like Emirates Business 24-7. That doesn’t mean readers really need to know which sheikhs recently sent letters of greeting to the president of Mali.

Gulf News
Design: 7. Say what you will about the UAE’s leading English daily – at least it looks smart.

Perception: 6. Launched in 1978, Gulf Snooze had traditionally been a bit too much like the campus paper that people love to hate. It would be far worse to have suffered the fate of indifference, which is what might happen now that The National is around.

Delivery: 8. The truth is, it was never that bad. GN has rarely pushed the boundaries of journalism, and its editorials are often groan-inducing, but the syndicated international content usually saves the day.

Reach: 9. It’s difficult to argue with over 100,000 audited readers.

Relevance: 7. The Gulf needs a general interest English daily, and for all its faults, the GN has played the role moderately well.

It also has a sinister stranglehold on the classifieds market, something of high relevance in a country filled with people often looking to unload a Corolla in a hurry.

We’d have given it an 8 for relevance, but for the competitive threat from The National. Once the dominance of print advertising in the region ends, which it inevitably will, it is unlikely the market will support two dailies of the size and stature of Gulf News and The National.


* Rounding out the “media echo chamber” effect, we should disclose that Austyn Allison works in the same newsroom as the Kipp Report, which is published by the same company as Communicate.



  1. Afsar Kirmani on March 5, 2010 12:51 am

    Dear Sir, I am interested to disclosed a very serious matter regarding an employee of Khaleej Times, Mr. [REDACTED]. He has a Pakistani passport, but actually he is an Indian National – he got passport illegal. He came from India with his family and after two months he and his family reported to the Commissioner Office that he was going back to India. But he and his family only traveled to Lahore, and from Lahore they came back to Karachi and after some years the family obtained identity cards and passports of Pakistan. He is also very active member of Islamia Student Organization. Last Muharam and Safar he gathered hundreds of men and women at his place organized Majalis on daily basis at his Dubai residence.

    He was employed in Karachi leading newspaper, but during his service he used to disclose secrets from the newspaper to some politician. When disclosed at the time by the chief of the newspaper, he was suspended of his service. He is very dangerous person. This is my duty and now up to you to Investigate with him.

    Afsar Kirmani

  2. beema on December 21, 2011 8:55 pm

    I have both I don’t how to figure which is the best

  3. Andrew on December 23, 2011 10:53 pm

    Surprised Afsar’s comment wasn’t libel, at best it’s outright libel.

  4. Plum Endemon on December 27, 2011 12:51 pm

    Am I missing something? What is Asfar Kirmani’s message doing on here and what has it got to do with which newspaper is best? Is someone having a laugh?


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