Apr 06 - 2010

Region shifts to online and mobile media for news

Consumers of digital and mobile media are expected to see growth that will confirm 2010 as the year of the digital, say industry reports.

In line with global trends, the region’s news consumption, particularly in Egypt, Lebanon, Saudi Arabia and the UAE, is shifting towards online and mobile media, as confirmed by experts.

According to the Arab Media Outlook 2009-2013 report, news consumption in the region is seeing an impressive shift to the usage of online media.

Currently more than half of the news consumers in Egypt, Lebanon and Saudi Arabia depend on inter-net sources, said Arab Media Outlook. In the UAE, 49 per cent use the internet and print media for news.

A closer look at the trends of news consumption, as shown in the annual report issued in the first quar-ter, also confirms the emergence of a portion of the news audience that relies solely on the internet for news feeds.

In Egypt, two per cent of readers depend completely on the internet for their information. In all, 59 per cent of the readers revert to online sources for news, while 41 per cent use only print.Out of online news readers, those who prefer the internet to print media or use them both equally, outnumbered the readers who still use print media more frequently than online media.

Based on the Arab Media Outlook survey results, 65 per cent of the readers who use the internet are frequent online news readers.

Similarly, in Lebanon two per cent of news readers use the internet as their only source. While 46 per cent of the news consumers prefer print and never use online media as news source, 54 per cent use the internet to gather news information. Out of those, 34 per cent use the internet equally or more than print. A majority of 63 per cent of frequent internet news consumers rely on the internet as a daily to weekly source of information.

In Saudi Arabia, 50 per cent of news consumers use the internet as one of their resources. Half of those use the internet more than print. Anna Gibbons, Business Director of neo@Ogilvy, OgilvyOne Middle East, said: “It is difficult to sup-port our observations with exact figures because of the lack of sufficient scientific research, but we see indications that show a growing reliance on internet resources for news and information.

“The local newspapers in the UAE, for example, have started responding to this trend by developing their own internet platforms, and I think that newspapers in that sense are following the international trends.”

A recent report published by The Pew Research Center’s Project for Excellence in Journalism showed a few similarities between the regional trends and news consumption trends in the US.
According to the report, the internet resides at the centre of the story of how people’s relationship to news is changing. Six in 10 Americans (59 per cent) get news from a combination of online and offline sources on a typical day, and the internet is now the third most popular news platform, behind local television news and national television news.

Most people say they use between two and five online news sources and 65 per cent say they do not have a single favourite website for news. Some 21 per cent say they routinely rely on just one site for news and information. Just over a third (38 per cent) rely solely on offline sources, and two per cent rely exclusively on the internet for their daily news.

In the US, the internet has surpassed newspapers and radio in popularity as a news platform on a typi-cal day and now ranks just behind TV.

More than half of American adults (56 per cent) say they follow the news all or most of the time, and another quarter (25 per cent) follow the news at least some of the time. Asked specifically about their news habits on a typical day, the results show that 99 per cent of American adults say on a typical day they get news from at least one of these media platforms: a local or national print newspaper, a local or national TV news broadcast, radio, or the internet.

Only local and national TV news, the latter if cable and network are combined, are more popular plat-forms than the internet for news. And most Americans use a combination of both online and offline sources.

However, despite indications that the regional consumption of online news is growing to international volumes, online advertising is not yet at the same level.

Industry experts expect online advertising to grow in the next three years and have started laying foun-dation of new business in the domain of digital and online marketing solutions. However, according to Arab Media Outlook 2009-2013, advertising revenue continues to be concentrated in print media, where newspapers and magazines together account for 61 per cent of the advertising spend in Egypt, 75 per cent in Saudi Arabia and 80 per cent in the UAE.

Meanwhile, mobile media are expected to become the new buzz in terms of attracting news consumers as well as advertising spend. The mobile penetration in the region, especially in the UAE and Egypt, is extremely high, said Gibbons.

iPhone applications are being developed locally by digital solutions consultancies to cater to its grow-ing base of users. However, Gibbons pointed out that the challenge that will be facing mobile advertis-ing, content and consumption, is the lack of specialised consultancies in this field.