Publishers must embrace digital age

Newspapers must stop thinking of themselves as merely print media, and embrace new ways of delivering their content, according to both print and online experts.

Ahmed Nassef, vice-president of online content provider Maktoob Group, told the Campaign Conference that publishers were failing to embrace the digital age - and could get left behind.

"They don't understand online or they are afraid of it and just avoid it," he said. "Traditional publishers need to stop being afraid of online.

"Convergence is the way of the future. We need to look at media as a much more malleable resource."

Kunal Wadhwani, senior vice president and head of sales at online information portal Zawya, echoed his view. "Newspapers don't understand online," he said.

Once internet penetration has reached a critical mass, he argued, a national transition, will take place, with consumers demanding quality Arabic language content."

He also argued that the Middle East's youthful population had little respect for the tradition of reading newspapers.. "They are the future. And they are not used to reading a paper," he said.

Dimitri Metaxas, director of OMD Digital, said newspapers had to redefine themselves as branded content providers.

But Gavin Dickinson, commercial director at Awraq Publishing, which produces Emirates Today and Emarat al Youm, said consumers would continue to seek out print media for analysis and 'views'.

"When big new events happen, like September 11, newspaper sales around the world increase. We all knew what had happened.

What people wanted was views," he said.

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