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Time for a change
Saudi government officials say that change in the media industry is imminent, whether Saudis are ready for it or not.
May 20, 2009 1:56 by Dana El Baltaji
Listen to readers: This was the core message yesterday at the conclusion of a two-day international media conference, “Future of News Publishing,” which was held at the King Fahd Cultural Center in Riyadh.
Reiner Mittelbach, CEO of IFRA, the international research and service organization for the news publishing industry, said change in print media is long overdue. He added that newspapers should persist in evolving their tools.
Mittelbach said he does not feel digital media is a threat to the newspaper industry, but the new challenges facing the industry provide an opportunity for print media to evolve.
Abdul Aziz Al Mulhem, deputy minister of information for planning affairs and chairman of the conference organizing committee, expressed a more pessimistic view. “Change is coming whether we like it or not,” he said.
The threats posed by digital media were discussed from different angles, with some expressing optimism. Muhammad Al Hizan, associate professor at Imam Muhammad bin Saud University, said he believes print media would be affected. He, however, added that the industry would not cease to exist, but would take another form.
Sultan Al Bazie, CEO of Tariq Media, agreed with the pessimists. “Numbers indicate that conventional institutions should reconsider their techniques … readers are the best judges,” he said.
Al Bazie concluded that everyone should stop living in self-denial and face the fact that print media is soon to become extinct, something that he said would happen in one or two generations.
Mohammad Al Fal, managing director of Al Madinah Publishing and Printing, believes there is a great future for newspapers in the new media landscape. “We are still very conventional in our means and tools, especially when it comes to editing,” said Al Fal.
Publication and distribution of facts and figures, in Al Fal’s opinion, are not realistic and could often be false. Al Fal believes that listening to the reader is the real challenge.
“A real evaluation of the situation cannot be made except through studies and syndicated research, something that Saudi media lack,” Al Fal said.
Jamal Khashoggi, editor in chief of Al-Watan newspaper, talked about his newspaper’s experience in becoming a part of the new media world. “Technology is progressing faster than we can train people to adapt to content management techniques,” said Khashoggi. “Newspapers would never disappear, they will just take other forms,” he added.
First seen in Arab News.