What next for Middle East’s media?

December 28, 2016 12:57 pm

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* 2016 has been the year that wasn’t for the Middle East media

* 7DAYS closed down, Emirates 24/7 and Khaleej Times slashed jobs

* GN Media closed down four popular radio stations

* Newspapers and magazines adverting spend to drop by by 6.1 per cent and 4.5 per cent, respectively, in 2017

The year 2016 ends with yet another blow to the Middle East’s media industry as UAE’s free tabloid newspaper 7DAYS shut down on December 22 because of the “challenging” market conditions.

The newspaper, owned by the UK-based Daily Mail & General Trust Plc (DMGT), had earlier announced that it was ceasing the publication after 13 years, citing bleak prospects of print media.

The industry had also witnessed a few other closures and job cuts due to rising cost and major decline in ad revenues during the difficult year.

The year that wasn’t

2016 has been the year that wasn’t for the media in the region.

As it tried everything it could to survive, 7DAYS cut its frequency from five days a week to weekly in November. But the newspaper, neck-deep in financial trouble, met with the ultimate fate as it also shut down online news website on the same day the last copy rolled-off the press.

“The current trading environment and future global outlook for print advertising remains severely challenged,” Mark Rix, CEO of 7DAYS Media, said when announcing the closure.

News website Emirates 24/7, run by government-owned Dubai Media Incorporated, shed staff as part of a restructuring. Media reports suggest that Khaleej Times daily had also laid-off nearly 30 staff during this year.

Dubai-based GN Media closed down popular Radio 1 and Radio 2 stations in June. Later in September, the media group closed two other remaining radio stations, Josh and Hayat.

“Following a strategic review of our operations, GN Media have made the decision to exit the broadcasting sector,” the company said then referring to the closure of its broadcasting arm, Gulf News Broadcasting.

Not only the small fries but also major publication and broadcast organizations had tough time during the past 12 months.

The Doha-based Al Jazeera media network announced in March that it was cutting 500 jobs. The broadcaster had earlier this year shut down its English-language channel in the US, Al Jazeera America, saying the business model was “simply not sustainable in light of the economic challenges”.

Declining ad spend

Print ad spend has drastically declined in the past few years in the UAE and across the worlds.

Globally, adverting spend in newspapers and magazines dropped this year from 2015 by 8 per cent and 5.9 per cent respectively, according to a recent report by London-based consultancy Warc. They are projected to fall further in 2017 by 6.1 per cent and 4.5 per cent.

In the region, newspapers accounted for 45 per cent of the advertising market in 2010. But they now represent only 32 per cent the market, according to the findings in a study by Northwest University Qatar.

Zenith Optimedia had earlier this year forecast an 11 percent drop in overall advertising spending in the region for 2016 as the region’s governments, the largest buyers of advertising, were trimming down spending on the back of lower oil prices.

Changing trends

Television still accounts for the vast majority of advertising in the region. Leading professional services firm PwC has revealed that the TV advertising market in Middle East and Africa (MEA) has seen double digit growth despite the economic and political turbulence. It predicts that the region will be the fastest-growing region globally with 12.1 per cent CAGR for TV advertising.

Digital advertising is picking up pace with the fast growing Internet and Smartphone population in the region. Both TV and digital advertising platforms are growing at the expense of print. From 2010 to 2015, digital advertising grew from $105 million to $550 million, or 10 per cent of industry mediums, NUQ finds.

PwC projects that by 2018, Internet advertising will overtake TV as the largest advertising segment.

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By Mujeeb Rahman
Journalist
Mujeeb Rahman is a business journalist at AMEinfo. His areas of focus include economy, markets, politics and international relations in MENA and Asia-Pacific regions. An ex-BBC digital journalist, he delves deeper into the subjects that matter most.



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