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What’s going on with the UAE’s print media?
Moving online, pausing production, restructuring, cutting frequencies; the local print industry seems to be going through a tough time. Here’s what’s happening.
June 24, 2010 4:47 by Katherine Azmeh
Print media in the UAE is having a tough time of it, and the result is that titles are heading for the web and publishers are paring down offerings.
On the evidence of this week, an increasingly fragmented and bloated market is being forced to better define and target its readership, and compete in the midst of a migration to digital platforms. Recent news reports have confirmed that Dubai-based publisher The Media Factory is restructuring, rival ENG Media is ceasing publication, and Emirates Business 24-7 is going online only. And Kipp has heard rumors suggesting that daily newspaper 7Days may go weekly over summer.
Traditional media in the UAE is in the midst of a transformation, it seems, and the result will hopefully be fewer, more focused publications, better targeted to clearly defined readerships.
ENG Media (behind titles including Media Week, IQ and Insider) said earlier this week it would temporarily suspend publishing of its magazines while it fights a legal battle with Fujairah Media, the freezone through which its titles are licensed. As Kipp reported, it is understood that Fujairah Media and ENG are suing each other over financial disputes.
The news followed an earlier announcement by another Dubai publisher, The Media Factory (Autocar, F1 Racing), that the company would undergo restructuring and layoffs. Details are scarce, but management has blamed “a lackluster second quarter and the anticipated lean period over the summer months” for the changes.
And you can add to these the decision by Emirates Business to scrap its paper edition. Sheikh Maktoum bin Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum himself is reported to have given the order for Emirates Business to head online. “This trend is the result of the emergence of the internet being one of the most prominent channels of communication for people to get information,” Ahmad al Shaikh, the managing director of DMI (the company behind the title), said in a statement.
All told, this amounts to a slew of affected publications – everything from industry trade, to business, sports, racing, interior design, and celebrity titles.
This all seems to be the inevitable outcome of two significant factors. First and foremost, regional ad spending is posting consistent declines, particularly when it comes to print. What remains in ad budgets has more leverage than ever with media. Marketers want to put their ad dollars where they will effectively target clients, and the UAE’s print media has not always achieved this goal, owing partly to the radically diverse demographics in the country. An excess of print publications has also rendered the market overweight, and many of the titles fail to hit a narrowly defined, well-understood target audience. This failure does little to earn precious ad dollars, when marketers are unclear whether their target audience will be addressed.
The move to mobile devices as a primary source of media and information is also contributing to considerable paring in the industry. Research published earlier this month by the National Retail Federation in the US found that 41.5 percent of adults say they want a cell phone with internet access. More than half of adults between 18-34 years old report the same. With the young population in Dubai and the region, this trend is likely to be even more pronounced, and publishers know it. The young, it seems, don’t read print.
But this tighter ad spending and the drive to go digital will pare down an industry that was in need of consolidation. The last men standing will undoubtedly offer a superior product.