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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
These are busy times in the online news industry, and not just globally. In the UAE, there have also been some serious online moves by the region’s English language news providers. The biggest was also the most recent – Emirates Business 24-7 has shut down its print operation and is gearing up for an online only re-launch at the end of this month.
And it could be a smart move, if Yousef Tuqan Tuqan, CEO of Dubai-based digital agency Flip Media, is right. He says newspapers in the UAE have to figure out “this Internet thing.”
“The Internet is going to kill your business, but at the same time it can save your business,” he says.
When Gulf News and Khaleej Times redesigned their websites earlier this year, they were met with varied reactions, from “love it” to “hate it.” But welcome or not, the re-launches signaled the newspapers’ desire to be relevant online, and to catch up with more advanced news websites. Abu Dhabi newspaper The National is currently revamping its offering, too.
Brian Buchanan, portal editor at Gulf News, joined the paper’s publisher, Al Nisr Publishing, after the website redesign, and says today’s site is a “huge jump” from what it used to be. “It’s a far better presentation, as the older one was all boxed in,” says Buchanan. “Now there are plenty of different ways to encourage people to get into the site, and it’s a lot easier to navigate. It’s a challenge to encourage people to get into the site and stick around, but we’ve found that the stickiness stats have improved.”
One of the tricks to get readers to “stick” to a news website is to display the content in a way that reflects the newspaper but doesn’t mimic the format exactly, says Ben Davies, assistant online editor at The National.
“The new website will reflect the clean design of the newspaper, but where it’s altering is that I don’t feel the need to be totally faithful to each individual section of the newspaper,” he says. “At the moment, we have sections of the paper that don’t necessarily have relevance with an audience that reads us online.” Davies also believes The National’s current website is not as user friendly as it should be, and that one of the goals his team hopes to achieve with the revamp is to create a community around the site.