Change or Die !

Change or Die !


The passing of the traditional media in The Middle East


It is not a matter of a choice any more, either you change now or you regret it.

At the moment, this is the current situation with the print media companies in the region.

The news over the past year have been reporting closures and layoffs of many well-known publications and media houses in the GCC. It is a reflection of the reality that readers are switching to digital media for the hunt of content and news.

The latest advertising spend report, released in June this year by ROI agency Zenith (*), draws a dark shadow over MENA print media. The ad spend on newspapers in the MENA region dropped by 35.4% last year and is forecasted to drop by another 50.5% this year and 49.4 % next year.

The forecast for magazine ad spend is also alarming: a 37.3% drop in 2016, followed by a 43.3 % this year and also a drop of 39.4% next year, improving slightly at 24.9 % in 2019.

It goes almost the same for the other traditional media channels, including TV, radio, outdoor and even Cinema; who are also expected to witness a considerable slash in ad spend commencing this year to 2019. The only media to generate  growth in ad spend year-on-year through to 2019 is Digital.

This case in is not only in MENA, the global recession is accelerating and a rapid change in the print media arena is reflecting on the way publishers promote their services.

The question is: Has MENA publishers & media suppliers learnt the ‘new’ game lessons?

End of an Era

To find out why print media is in this situation today, it is important to learn exactly what went wrong.

  1. The digital content and news feeders are simply live and free, in a way that has led advertisers to reallocate their budgets from print to online.
  2.  The enormous and non-stop technology developments that aim to change the people’s interests and behavior toward a more ‘Automated’ life in a way that saves time and eases process …etc
  3. Another fact is that technology strives to replace printed materials in order to save the planet and maintain a friendly environment.
  4. From an ‘efficiency point; The digital ads have also conquered the traditional ones by providing a more relative and affordable reach with a number of measuring tools to monitor the ROI of the advertisers spends.

New Game .. New Rules

 The fact publishers realized that digital is on the rise,  many have committed a fatal mistake of transforming their printed materials into digital, while to survive that’s not enough.

It is not the case of only transforming the content from hard to soft copies, but digital requires a complete Online strategy that is different from the traditional one.

The digital content and platforms need to become more personalized and connected to users rather than readers. It is not like enabling E-versions of the printed publications. The worst you can do is take the same content and dump it on a website online, which is what most print publications have done, and definitely failed!

But rather consider a content that suits reader’s mobility, demo’s & geo’s and device’s compatibility ..etc

A website content is no longer a trend, the content is currently required to fit social media & mobile phones and even applications.

Video content is also dominating, users -previously known as readers- are no longer have the luxury to spend few minutes on reading, they prefer streaming videos that deliver the information in a summarized and stylish format.

The digital strategy should also adopt a flexible monitoring and optimization methods, while there is no standard content strategy that fits every media, publishers are rather requested to monitor and optimize the best content strategy that delivers the best ROI.

Success Stories

Paid content is also a great survival tool, with premium & specialized content, such as The Economist, The Financial Times or even The Washington Post and The New York Times.

A brilliant example of a successful digital media transformation is The New York Times Company, which reported a significant growth this year in its digital channel, despite the fact that its print ad revenue fell. The NYT digital advertising revenue rose 19% to $50 million in the first quarter of 2017. NYT also added 308,000 new digital subscriptions – the highest of any quarter in its history – helping to leverage 11% increase in circulation revenue. Mark Thompson, the chief executive of The New York Times, attributed the strong growth in digital advertising revenue largely to the company’s focus on mobile, branded content and marketing and creative services.

Say Hello to the new metrics

Digital transformation will enable publishers to acknowledge the value of data in marketing planning today. Understanding and taking advantage of this would not only enable publishers in the MENA to market their publications to the masses and thus aid their longevity, but would also help them meet an advertiser’s target audience.

The current marketing failure of the publishers is related to the lack of the ability to demonstrate to agencies and advertisers both the volume (reach and frequency) and the demographic value of their readers (age, net worth, influence, purchasing power, etc).

The value of traditional media measurement data cannot be denied in the marketing planning. however, advertisers still have a long way to go to put forward the credible reach and frequency numbers of their mediums.

Yet, the opprtunity is still there

Traditional media is still important. But, it has to play a distinguished role that cannot be replaced easily by digital.

To do so; it needs to shift from generic reach to a targeted one, using personalization, adaptability and authenticity to achieve its goals,”

Encouraging clients to spend on traditional media is still a good idea, but it has to be the right channels.

From a client’s perspective, they normally ask these questions:

  1. Does the media have the reach to make it to my TA?
  2. With the same budget allocation, would the message be communicated better through another channel?
  3. Could it prove a worthy ROI?

Print still has a lot of relevance, especially amongst the slightly older generations. While digital is the preferred medium for the younger generation, the older generation still prefer print & classic media, the relevance of traditional media will largely depend on audience, location and time perspectives. The later we go is the more older generations will shrink and younger generation will grow.


 Print media is not dead indeed, but they are in a fight for survival and only innovation and self-disruption can save it.




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