Technology transformation has led to a shift in advertising spending habits, say panelists at INSEAD NAA UAE Leadership Forum

 Digital media and new technology have changed the way media operates across the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region, including the way content is presented to the audience, according to panelists at the region’s first INSEAD NAA UAE Leadership Forum, which took place in Dubai today.

Speaking at a session titled ‘Accelerating the Media Revolution’, moderated by Editor in Chief of Dubai Post, Khadeeja Al Marzooqi, MBC CEO Sam Barnett said that new technology has led to advertising revenue generated in the MENA region moving to the USA. The region is spending more money on promoting their products through social media platforms, leading to social media companies based in the USA gaining revenue.  He also said that local media needs to find a way to survive in the new era and adapt to new changes. “Media has become a commodity, which needs to be monetised. Improving the quality of content and harnessing technology are key to achieving this objective,” Barnett said.

Worldwide, advertisers still believe in TV advertising, which is on the rise, according to Barnett. He also said that credibility and brand strength are key to attracting advertisers, citing the example of New York Times and The Guardian newspapers.  “Despite the fierce attack on New York Times by the US president, the newspaper saw an increase in subscriptions,” he noted. “The same thing is true for the Guardian, which relies on donations from readers to survive,” he noted.

Mohamad Al Harissi, Gulf/Yemen Deputy Bureau Chief and News Editor, AFP, said that new technologies have affected the way news agencies operate, despite the resistance of some staff. “In every bureau, there are people who resist change and avoid embracing it,” he said, noting that the changes also affect content. “Now, we need to ask ourselves how the story will look on smart phones,” he added.

Furthermore, Mohamad Al Harissi said that the ongoing transformation in the media scene has affected the way journalists do their jobs. “Amid the rise of fake news, journalists have to ensure the authenticity of their stories and verify it. That’s why we launched a dedicated team at AFP to fact check stories and inform clients in case they were fake,” he noted.

Daleen Hassan, Bureau Chief, EuronewsNBC, UAE, said that TV audiences are gravitating to social media platforms. TV channels need to focus on social media and deploy talent in digital media. She also said that technology has helped EuronewsNBC to manage the multiple languages it broadcasts in. “While we have to embrace changes and adopt new technologies, we need to maintain our identity as there are people who still believe in TV despite the introduction of new media technologies,” she noted.

Amid the ongoing transformation, media outlets across the MENA region still have an advantage as language has become a key strength for media outlets in the region, as it protects them from the invasion of the English language, said the MBC CEO. “If English was the main language across the MENA region, it means that we are connected to America and there is a little we can do to compete,” he said.

One of the key challenges facing the media is piracy. Regulatory authorities need to raise their capabilities to deal with this critical issue which mainly affects local companies. Barnett said that major companies like Netflix can survive piracy since tougher legislations are being enacted around the world. Compared to MENA, countries in the rest of the world are moving rapidly to combat piracy issues.  “Regulatory authorities across the region act fast when there is prohibited content, but they are slow to tackle piracy,” he noted.

Organised by the INSEAD National Alumni Association (NAA) in the UAE and the Government of Dubai Media Office (GDMO), the region’s first INSEAD NAA UAE Leadership Forum provided a platform for sharing diverse ideas on promoting sustainable economic growth and creating a brighter future for the region. Speakers engaged in a dialogue on vital topics ranging from the economy, society and culture to technology, entrepreneurship and innovation.

The Forum took a deeper look at the economic and social shifts taking place regionally and globally and explored how countries in the Middle East can ride these waves of change to bring more prosperity to the region.

One of the world’s leading and largest graduate business schools, with campuses in Europe, Asia and the Middle East, INSEAD has consistently been ranked among the world’s top three business schools. The INSEAD National Alumni Association in the UAE has the largest and most diverse alumni network in the Middle East.

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