Leaving aside the question of profitability, how are the UAE’s newspapers responding to the demands of online? Are they yet equipped to deliver an online, 24/7 multimedia agenda?
July 6, 2010 4:51 by Rania Habib
This integration of content on news websites poses an interesting question, says Tuqan. “Who’s in charge? IT? Editorial? The Web team?” he asks. “It can be tricky to figure out who is really affecting change within the publication. But it’s all about how to get the maximum value out of the content newspapers produce.” Tuqan says reader engagement is “incredibly important,” because the more time people spend on a news website, the more the relationship between the news organization and the reader will deepen, fostering loyalty. Readers will also be exposed to more advertising, but websites should re-think their advertising models. “It’s not just new media that’s required, it’s new thinking,” he says. ”You can’t just stick banner advertising on a website.”
Ricky Ghai, executive director of digital media at the Abu Dhabi Media Company, the government-owned company that owns The National, says that with the revamp of the newspaper’s website will come more opportunities to experiment with online advertising. “We’ll have the ability to experiment with the standard use of mid-page units and banners,” says Ghai.
“We’re working very closely with The National to see how we can experiment with these models in innovative and creative ways, to entice advertisers to support their brands on our websites. The National has a premium perception and, two years on, that premium has become very established in the physical newspaper. So you won’t see a radical change in opening up our advertising inventory, but you will see a far more flexible and creative approach to how we challenge our business model.”
Tuqan says the region has been increasingly resistant to change when it comes to what he believes is the inevitable death of print. “But the reality is that it’s coming soon,” says Tuqan. “So magazines and newspapers have to embrace new media channels in order to succeed.”
It seems there is no better time for news websites to experiment. And experiment again. The region may have been resistant to change for a while, but the redesign of the UAE’s top three English-language newspaper websites, alongside Emirates Business 24-7’s online move, signals that the media is indeed experimenting.