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MENA news organizations must embrace digital transformation, finds survey

As much as 68% of MENA consumers name social media as their primary source for news.

MENA news organizations must embrace digital transformation, finds survey
[Source photo: Anvita Gupta/Fast Company Middle East]

According to a report from Strategy& Middle East, a part of PwC and Google News Initiative, consumers favor accessing their news through social media and online searches amidst widespread mobile connectivity, high internet penetration, and social media usage.

The research also highlights financial challenges facing the region’s news organizations, as newspaper and magazine revenues in the MENA region have declined annually since 2018, dropping from $2 billion to $1.4 billion in 2022.

With 45% of respondents expressing willingness to pay for high-quality reporting, particularly in entertainment, health, and sports, news organizations must adapt to digital news formats.

68% of MENA consumers surveyed have identified social media as their primary news source. This trend is further supported by the fact that 90% of respondents also indicate their mobile phone as their preferred device for accessing news.

The report, titled “Building a Vibrant News Industry in the Middle East and North Africa,” analyzed three of the largest news markets in MENA: Egypt, Saudi Arabia, and the UAE. These markets collectively account for 80% of advertising spending in the region’s entertainment and media industry.

Regarding news formats, 66% of respondents named mobile video as their favorite for news consumption, while short-form articles were also popular and enjoyed by 58% of respondents.

“The rapid changes in the news media industry in the MENA region have created significant growth opportunities. To effectively capitalize on these, news organizations must undergo digital transformation, adopt sustainable business models, and prioritize operational agility, innovation, and productivity,” stated Karim Sarkis, Partner at Strategy& within the PwC network and the leader of the media and entertainment sector in the Middle East.

Mazen Sabbagh, News and Publishing Partnerships Lead with Google MENA said, “The research by Strategy& underpins the need for the MENA region’s news industry to evolve fast and to focus its efforts on developing ways to better engage with news consumers and a strategic approach to diversifying its revenues and business models.”

The survey also found that younger consumers, particularly those between 18 and 24, access news less frequently than older demographics, with those over 45 accessing it daily. Given that the MENA region has one of the youngest populations globally, with 54% of its residents under 30, this underscores the need for news organizations to enhance their digital platforms.

Karim Daoud, Partner at Strategy& Middle East, a part of the PwC network, emphasized that modernization efforts require collaboration from all parties. “By working together, stakeholders can contribute to developing a talent pool for news organizations, providing essential financial support, granting access to necessary infrastructure and innovative technologies, and establishing up-to-date policies and regulations.”

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