Al Arabiya, Al Jazeera, Al Riyadh, Al Rroya, Al Youm Al-Sab'ea, Arab youth, Arab Youth Survey, ASDA’A Burson-Marsteller, egypt, forbes, Ipsos, middle east, Pew Research center, Rusiya Al-Yaum, Russia Today, Saudi Arabia, Tablets, The National, TNS
Understanding traditional media online in the Middle East
Friday 12 April 2013, 12:23
In terms of websites relating to newspapers, by far the largest is Al Youm Al-Sab’ea in Egypt. Between August 2011 and August 2012, its website attracted 842.84 million visits and 145.11 million unique visitors. These figures dwarf the region’s next largest newspaper site, Al Riyadh, from Saudi Arabia, which enjoyed 123.94 million visits and 35.52 million uniques.
Given the size of Egypt’s population (see graphic, although this excludes large parts of rural Egypt) and it’s relatively small but growing internet population, it is not unreasonable to expect that many of the visitors to the Al Youm Al-Sab’ea website are from outside of the country. Moving forward, it will be interesting to see whether much of the site’s growth comes from more Egyptians coming online or if its fastest growing audience will be a mixture of the Egyptian diaspora and other Arabic-language speakers across the region, if not the globe.
Forbes’ data also shows that some of the region’s smallest newspapers are enjoying the highest growth in terms of attracting new audiences. Oman’s Al Rroya, which ranked last on the overall list of top newspapers online, nonetheless enjoyed the highest percentage of new visits, at 67.11%. Similarly, The National, from the United Arab Emirates, which ranks 15th overall, came second where new visits are concerned, with newcomers accounting for 60.76% of total traffic.
In terms of TV news channels, given the international profile of Al Jazeera, it may come as a surprise to learn that the Qatar-based operator’s website isn’t the most visited in the region. That honour falls to UAE’s Al Arabiya (pictured top), which had 306.63m online visitors and 69.05m uniques between August 2011 and August 2012 (the latest dates for which fully published data is available).
However, Al Jazeera - with 277.89m visits and 55.71m uniques during this period – can draw comfort from the fact that users of its website spent longer online than they did on rival sites, at 10 minutes and four seconds. This is quite long for a news website, even if the average number of pages, 3.49, is not. This suggests a high level of immersion with content once viewers visit the site. It’s a level of engagement many rivals would without doubt love to see replicated.
But perhaps the real surprise is the rapid growth of Rusiya Al-Yaum (a Moscow-based Arabic version of Russia Today). According to Google analytics data, over half of the visitors to its website during the study period were new to the site. This was the highest ratio amongst the three online TV channels.
It will be interesting to see how usage of these sites evolves. Usage of smartphones, social networks and tablets continues to grow in the region.
Certainly based on current evidence, the impact of some of these changes is affecting news consumption differently to in the West. In terms of tablets, for example, instant messaging, video calls or taking photographs dominate tablet usage in the Middle East. As the research agency TNS recently noted: “While tablets are extra leisure devices in North America, in Latin America they have a more business-oriented role, whereas in the Middle East and North Africa people like their social features.”
In contrast, a 2012 survey by the Pew Research Center of news use on mobile devices in the US – in collaboration with the Economist Group – found that “for many people, mobile devices are adding to how much news they consume. More than four in 10 mobile news consumers say they are getting more news now and nearly a third say they are adding new sources.”
Yet, as Forbes’ data shows, online news consumption is growing in the Middle East. It may simply be that audiences in the region prefer to consume it differently. Tablets lend themselves more to long-form, immersive news experiences. People in the Middle East and North Africa, a region where TV news still dominates, often consume online content via their mobile – a format much more suited to short-form news.
A recent presentation by Ipsos showed that ‘News and feeds’ is the top downloaded smartphone application in four of the six countries it surveyed, and that it was also the top online mobile content in most of these countries.
Finally, there’s also the question of social media, especially among young Arabs. The fifth annual ASDA’A Burson-Marsteller Arab Youth Survey, which was published this week, reported how this group is increasingly getting its news from social media, with trust in websites and social media as reliable news sources having risen sharply in the past year. As with news outlets in the West, these are platforms which media players in the Middle East have no option but to engage with unless they want to leave a generation of news consumers behind.
Alaa Batayneh, arab digital content, Arab Digital Generation, arab world, Arabic TV channels, Arabic Youth, ArkaBeh, Booz & Company, Cairo Transport App Challenge, Cisco, Consumer Electronic Show, Damian Radcliffe, Digital Digest, Dubai, egypt, eMarketer, forbes, GlobalWebIndex, Google, Google Glass, google.org, ictQATAR, internet society, Internet usage, Iraq, isoc, IXP, Khaled Al Ahmad, Kuwait, Law 3andak Dam, Maps, MENA, microsoft, middle east, mobile data, newspapers, Ofcom, palestine, Pew Research center, qtel, Saudi Arabia, smartphone, Tejuri, TFour.me, The Social Clinic, Top 100 Arabs, traffic, Turkey, Twitter, UAE, vodafone qatar, Wamda, Wasselni, Weill Cornell, Wrold Bank, YouTube
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AR, augmented reality, connected TV, Destination Local, disruptive technologies, Edinburgh Reporter, geo-tagging, hyperlocal business models, Internet of Things, Kindle, LTE, Pew Research center, Postcode Gazette, RFID
This is a cross-post of an article published yesterday on the Creative Industries Knowledge Transfer Network. Like the article I wrote last week for the US website, Street Fight, it attempts to summarise my recent report on the UK hyperlocal scene (not easy when the latter was 15,000 words) and encourage people to read the whole report – as well as take part in the NESTA programme “Destination Local“.
Given the audience, the emphasis of this piece is on technology.
UK Hyperlocal Challenges And Opportunities by Damian Radcliffe, Author of the ‘Here and Now…’ Report
Last month NESTA and the TSB launched “Destination Local” a new £1m fund designed to fund prototypes of next generation hyperlocal media services.
It is the first time that this sort of money has been made available for this nascent sector, and it offers an exciting opportunity for funders and practitioners to work together to identify disruptive technologies and business models which can help hyperlocal media in the next stage of its evolution.
To accompany the funding launch I authored a 15,000 word landscape review, ‘Here and Now: UK hyperlocal media today’, which examined ingredients for success, opportunities and challenges, as well as key issues on the hyperlocal horizon.
Members will find the report full of examples of “online news or content services pertaining to a town, village, single postcode or other small, geographically-defined community” (my definition of hyperlocal) which I hope will inspire and inform them about the potential for working in this space.
There is no such thing as a typical hyper-local site; their voice, audience and purpose are defined by the community they are serving. As a result, the report features hyper-local outlets offering everything from a focus on ultra-local news, through to being a platform for campaigning or an online hub for an area.
Technology lies at the heart of all sites, both in terms of content creation and dissemination. Tools like Facebook, Twitter and WordPress have removed many barriers to entry for people interested in creating and sharing content about their area. Not only do they create a means to set up a hyperlocal site in minutes, but you can do it for free from your phone, PC or tablet, wherever you are.
Consumption, as well as creation, via these platforms is becoming increasingly common. Accessing content on the move and related to your location is a trend which is only likely to continue.
The impact of this means that business models are changing too. Search, smartphones, tablets and social media are all playing a role in the erosion of traditional “analogue” advertising models. The impact of this on traditional media is well documented. For hyperlocals, it offers a real opportunity. In the US, hyper-local has already been identified as the fastest growing advertising market.
Yet despite the monies and consumer activities moving into the mobile space, hyperlocal practitioners are not embracing the medium as much as you might expect. Examples like The Edinburgh Reporter – which now has a Kindle Edition and the Postcode Gazette in Sheffield – do exist, but hyperlocal mobile services are not yet mainstream.
There is great potential here, and other technological advances from Augmented Reality to LTE, connected TVs, geo-tagging, RFID and even the Internet of Things, are all worth exploring in a hyperlocal capacity.
At the same time, we also have to strike a balance between the opportunities afforded by new technologies and the challenge in helping audiences to find great content in an increasingly crowded space. Audiences can now access local content from a wider range of sources and platforms than previously possible. So helping audiences to find the right content, at the right time and on the right platform, will also be an important consideration.
Discoverability, alongside funding and sustainability, is already a key challenge for this sector. And as the range of content available to us continues to grow, it a challenge which is unlikely to go away. The prize is that when you do find your audience evidence suggests that they often become highly engaged, both as consumers of content and as participants in local discussions.
Moreover in the States, a 2011 survey by the Pew Research Center, found that 80% of internet users (including 82% of social network users and 85% of Twitter users) are active in a voluntary group or organisation, compared with 56% of non-internet users. Translating that finding to the UK is an exciting social and technological ask.
In contrast to traditional media or the hyperlocal scene in America, data about the UK hyperlocal sector is often hard to find. But evidence does suggest that the hyperlocal sector, and its audience, is growing.
The challenge now is to build on this and stimulate the next phase of development. Solutions to these challenges are varied. There will be no “one size fits all” solution. However, the relative youth of the UK sector has resulted in a plethora of different business models, and there are important lessons to be learned from others.
Partnerships – as well as technology – will also be important in taking things to the next level, and so I would urge you to see what you can do to support the sector.
Hyperlocal media can help to define local identity, fill gaps in existing content provision, hold authority to account and offer more content for audiences.
With your help, we can make it even better.
Damian Radcliffe (@mrdamian76) is the author of “Here and Now – UK hyperlocal media today” the UK’s first review of this emerging sector. He has spent much of the past 20 years working in local media, in a mix of content and policy roles.
A former BBC staffer, he has also worked for Ofcom and led a SONY Award winning partnership between BBC English Regions and the charity CSV (Community Service Volunteers). His research and writing on hyperlocal media can be found on his personal website and on SlideShare.