Abdul Hamid Ahmad, Editor-in-chief and Executive Director of Publications at Gulf News Image Credit: Antonin Kélian Kallouche, Gulf News

The past four decades have been a time of constant innovation for Gulf News, while setting benchmarks in many spheres and consolidating its market leadership in the UAE. Even as the digital age arrived with a set of challenges for traditional mainstream media, Gulf News has stayed ahead of the curve by anticipating and preparing to thrive in this new era of journalism and market dynamics.

With a relentless focus on the quality and credibility of its journalism and by putting its readers at the heart of everything the company does, Gulf News today is the market leader in convergent media and audience interactivity.

Readers have always been at the heart of everything Gulf News has done. What is your message to them as Gulf News turns 40?

On Gulf News’ 40th anniversary, I would first like to thank our readers who have chosen to make us a part of their lives. It is with their support, confidence and enduring trust that we have successfully been able to continue our journey from a modest 16-page black-and-white tabloid newspaper in 1978 to the sophisticated publication and digital brand that we are today, while celebrating many milestones along the way.

We are proud of the fact that most of our print run comes from subscriptions. This is truly unique to Gulf News that the majority of its readers are also subscribers, which means we have a loyal readership base who depends on the brand for quality and reliable content.

Over the past few years the UAE publishing industry has faced severe headwinds due to a combination of many factors. In this challenging context, how is Gulf News evolving?

There is no denying that print media across the world is going through a very challenging time, with digital and social media dramatically changing the way we access and consume news. For young readers, print media is no longer the primary source for accessing information. The challenges of our time demand we change the way we think, narrate a story and how we present it to our consumers. If we fail to embrace the changes, we will fall behind the trends and eventually cease to exist in this competitive space.

However, the good news is this period of change gives us many opportunities to innovate and stay relevant. Consumers may value the speed and ease of social platforms but they are still interested in reliable and relevant content. We have the right resources, values and experience to offer unique, targeted content that appeals to them. This can be in the form of analysis, value-added reporting, in-depth reviews and balanced, trustworthy views.

Using multimedia and a multiplatform approach, we ensure that we present a good story in the most compelling manner. Furthermore, we always emphasise on making reading fun and interesting for our readers, whether it’s in design, presentation or narrative.

Innovation and creativity is the way forward for any media and publishing house to survive in this time. While we still have a long way to go, Gulf News is on the right track.
 
Gulf News has always been a pioneer in editorial innovations in the UAE. How would you describe its transformation from a print newspaper to a digital brand to reckon with? Where are we now in that journey?

We have paid heed to the value of digital platforms in news generation as well as consumption for many years now. We realised the importance of making the big shift from print to digital before any other media houses, implementing our web-first strategy a decade back. We’ll keep the momentum alive as we transition from print to digital.

To grow in this challenging time, it’s critical for us to identify the areas where we can deliver better than any media platform. Gulf News’ core strengths lie in its ability to deliver credible, high-quality and accurate news. The editorial values and integrity we have always applied to our print products also apply to digital and social platforms. In an age when many of us get our news from social media, it’s the job of a credible, unbiased brand like Gulf News to provide real and professional journalism.

We are a media and publishing house with history and a legacy of leadership. While we are now looking at attracting new audiences and engaging them in the most compelling way possible through a multiplatform strategy, we have made a promise to our readers to stay true to our core editorial values of delivering only credible, real news supported by fact- and data-based reporting. While we have taken a platform-agnostic approach to content and journalism to keep up with the trends, we’ve also pledged to stay true to our standards and ethics even in this tough time.

We have done a remarkable job in responsible journalism over the past 40 years. However, we have to do much more as we continue to grow and provide journalism that matters to our readers.

With innovative offerings such as REACH by Gulf News, the brand has been a trendsetter in the commercial publishing sector. What more can we expect from Gulf News?

As markets rapidly evolve, we need to constantly innovate and think differently to successfully manage change and uncertainties. Gulf News has always been open to all kinds of new ideas. We were the first to introduce the concept of paid/partner content in this market and this has successfully engaged businesses over the past two years.

REACH by Gulf News is a unique platform for brands, advertisers and editorial to collaborate on creative solutions. This is a win-win solution for Gulf News and the businesses reaching out to audiences. We will experiment and try new concepts in the future without compromising our editorial quality and credibility.

You’ve held various roles in media companies in the UAE and are among the pioneers in the UAE Journalists’ Association. How has media evolved over the past 40 years in the UAE?

The UAE media sector has evolved significantly over the past four decades, influenced by new technology and changing consumption habits.
We have some of world’s best infrastructure for rapid adoption of media, but media is not just about tech and infrastructure. It’s about delivering the right content at the right time to the right audience to sustain engagement. We have witnessed good times in the UAE, producing strong local content for our readers.

However, in a few instances we have also failed to deliver as per our readers’ expectations. So it’s critical for us to review our journey from time to time to see what we could have done differently, where we succeeded and where we failed.

However, we also need to remember that the UAE is a very young nation and journalism has a long way to go before we can set benchmarks in quality and content.

Finally, could you tell us three unique things about Gulf News that you personally like?

Professionalism: We all work for the brand’s best interests while respecting each other’s skills, expertise and personal boundaries.
Leadership Gulf News has always taken a leadership role in the UAE media sector, from creating standards in reporting to launching new concepts and products. We have never allowed complacency to ruin our competitive edge in the market. We are constantly innovating with ideas to move forward.
Respect for readers Gulf News’ respect for readers as well its business partners is the key to its success. We care for our readers, creating content that adds value to their lives. This sets us apart from other media companies.