Regional turbulence proves catalyst for change in the Middle East’s media landscape – study
Omnicom Media Group has release a comprehensive view of the shifting MENA media landscape during the time of regional turmoil. Emily Lucas reports.
June 21, 2011 1:15 by shafeer
The first quarter of 2011 witnessed political turbulence in the Middle East, and with that saw the region’s media consumption shift as viewers stayed glued to the TV and online became a facilitator for political revolution.
The average TV consumption in Saudi (six hours a day), for example, increased drastically during the highest peak of unrest in February, according to Omnicom Media Group research.
In addition, the UAE spent an average five hours a day watching TV, trying to keep updated on the events that were occurring. Across the Middle East, news channels, including Al Jazeera and Al Arabiya, became the most viewed genre while ratings for entertainment channels hit an all-time low.
Emiratis and Arab expatriates are shown to have stayed in tune with the news on a regular basis during the disorder, with UAE ratings for Arabic news sites Al Arabiya and Al Jazeera’s ratings almost doubling in February.
Western expats displayed concern as well, with a 78 percent growth on news channels, for instance, CNN and BBC World News. However, Asian expats indicated little interest with only a slight escalation of views for news channels.
SOCIAL MEDIA AND THE PRESS
Facebook and Twitter have been used to organise gatherings and demonstrations, leading to an increase of users during January to February. Egypt also saw the greatest growth with 2 million new users since 25th of January. The social network now has a high increase of daily visitors from Egypt with 80,000, Saudi with 70,000 and the UAE with 38,000.
Journalists and new corporations needed to find an innovative ways to spread the news. Al Jazeera got a head start by launching a Twitter dashboard: live streaming their news, live tweeting and following activists who shared news and comments on social media platforms.
During governmental internet black-outs, Google developed a “Twitter voice mail” allowing users with no internet access to record their statements to be “tweeted”.
ADVERTISING PLANS AND MEDIA SPEND DURING THE UNREST
What about advertisements? Well, marketers were unsure of whether or not to air ads during the crisis. The total expenditure dropped a startling $100 million in February. Deciding to cower away from the chaos, afraid of being bias, advertisements stopped. Meanwhile, multinational brands questioned if they should look elsewhere and when should they advertise.
The media expenditure, once at a lively 49 percent, is now suffering with only 28 percent. Slowly this began to rise towards the end of March.
THE FUTURE OF MEDIA
But how will this affect the MENA media in the long run? With over two million new Facebook users, the UAE, Saudi Arabia and Egypt are now becoming more reliant on websites rather than their local TV stations while a once successful Al Arabiya has now sunken in views. Were Al Jazeera’s actions (and those of its traditional media counterparts) in partaking within different media platforms helped in increasing of number loyal views? The next few months will reveal this.
Social media has opened up a new perspective of what having a voice means. Social networking sites are now seen to be a place for people who seek the freedom to express emotions and opinions. Time will tell whether traditional media will see this as a threat or welcome it as a new way of communication that they inevitably need to adopt.