Updated: Jun 22
News platforms – what it means to the public and how they prefer to access and interact with it
The media industry in the Middle East vs. global markets
How to monetize and promote media platforms
News as a public service
There has been a spike in news consumption in the Middle East since COVID-19, asserting the value of local news and international expertise.
Millennials and younger generations tend to consume news through social media platforms. Due to the “share” feature embedded early on across Facebook and Twitter, news is shared more on those platforms, whereas news shared through Instagram gathers more “likes”.
Meanwhile, aggregator-based platforms focus more on behavior learning to induce virality.
You don't post something that doesn't get likes
Mixed media is being adapted to make news more “interactive”; e.g. augmented reality (AR) is being utilized to bring documentaries to life. Long-form journalism is not popular in the Middle East, though.
The media industry in the Middle East is not as nascent as you might think
The sophistication of any particular local media industry will depend on investments being made, the number of people employed, and the overall economic health of the region. The Middle East fares strongly on all these factors and, therefore, is not lagging too much behind countries leading in the media industry.
Notable regional media platforms in the industry include Wavo and Starzplay for streaming TV shows and movies, Kitab Sawti for streaming audio, and Anghami for streaming music; whilst international competitors are also still popular (e.g. Netflix and Spotify).
In Saudi Arabia, media has to be in Arabic, though there is an underserved, foreign-educated segment who speaks English. However, the production process is not massively different, though, compared to the UAE.
Monetization and growth of media
News can be supported beyond ads. Consider subscription models, for example, which can be imposed once valued content can be realized and packaged for delivery.
AdTech & programmatic videos are trending. You can either hire an excellent marketer to set the right strategy or focus on building a content platform that grows organically. Lower funnel, performance marketing, and partnerships are tactics to build an audience for media.
TV money is being funneled to connected TV, so there is unseized opportunity there, though it’s still modest (1% of all households in the UAE and 5% in Saudi Arabia have a connected TV, small compared to smartphone penetration).
Meanwhile, what’s been happening on my end?
This episode really got me thinking about the production and consumption of news. It seems as though there has been a lot of attention on social media companies to control the spread of false news, especially throughout the recent US elections and all throughout the widespread impact of COVID-19.
Some tech companies are using Machine Learning (ML) to help you consume news “better”. Meaning, they use ML to customize your news feedback, thereby hoping that you'd consume more of it. For example, you can subscribe to Google Assistant's “Your News Update” through the Google Podcast app, or even to Amazon Alexa's “Flash Briefing”. As I'm on neither of these platforms, however, I get my news from good old fashion long-form journalism in my email inbox by way of newsletters.
When not thinking of the news and media industry, I've been consumed by tech developments in the fitness industry. Specifically, the prospects of using tech to better manage your own body's data fascinates me. I use MyFitnessPal daily to track my nutritional intake. As someone who seldom pays a subscription for products with freemium models (which you'll hear me discuss in this week's podcast episode), I do see value in MyFitnessPal's ad-free, paid version; and, so, I was surprised to hear that Under Armour recently sold it for a loss against the purchase price. Perhaps they couldn't crack how to monetize the data on the platform? Nevertheless, the bump of Whoop (fitness tracking wearable) to unicorn status (i.e. a US$ billion+ tech company) seems very promising to the industry.
Until next time,