Researcher Ross Dawson speaks about “The Future of Arab Media” on the day one of the Arab Media Forum 2014 being held at Madinat Jumeirah, Dubai. Image Credit: Pankaj Sharma/Gulf News

Dubai: Traditional newspapers in the UAE are predicted to be on the verge of extinction by the year 2028, said a renowned researcher at the Arab Media Forum 2014 on Tuesday.

Ross Dawson, a renowned researcher, futurist and author, shared his study regarding media in the Arab world during a session titled “The future of Arab Media”.

Dawson said traditional newspapers will become insignificant by 2028 in the UAE as a result of the country’s smartphone usage, which he said is the highest in the world.

Dawson also predicted that the USA will be the first country where traditional newspapers will become extinct by 2017, while Saudi Arabia will follow the UAE (UAE will be the first Arab country where newspapers will become extinct) six years later in 2034, and the whole world will stop relying on newspapers as a primary source of news by 2040.

“I don’t think that the extinction of Arabic media is a bad thing, as long as people get the news the medium does not matter.”

He attributed the extinction of traditional newspapers in the UAE to different factors that include consumption growth, fragmentation of the market, participation of the users, personalisation of content, evolving revenue models, generational change and increasing bandwidth.

According to Dawson’s study, social media is one of the highest used mediums in the UAE as a source of news. He said Arabs in general mainly depend on television for their news, followed by social media.

The study also found that the UAE is mostly interested in local news, regional news next and international news comes last.

However, social media is still an opportunity rather than a threat to traditional press, a leading newsman told the AMF.

User-generated content-sharing sites allow journalists to tap into live developments in “any big event” globally, said John Daniszewski, vice-president and senior managing editor of international news at Associated Press.

“It used to be that journalists broke the news. The game changer [today] is people sending tweets, photos, videos from the scene of almost any big event. It extends the reach [of reporters],” Daniszewski said.

“But there’s a problem,” he added, saying news on social media is often “not verified” or sometimes “deliberately distorted” for “propaganda”.

He said mainstream press such as AP can be indispensible to “sift through” the deluge of social media content “and find the golden kernels of truth, to verify and vet” leads.

Daniszewski also pointed out that it was newspaper reporters who “whistleblowers and leakers” — such as Edward Snowden and Wikileaks — contacted to get the story out. He was responding to a question on whether “their success is failure for traditional journalists”.

“[Snowden] had a unique ability to move the secrets of the [US National Security Agency] as he was a NSA contractor. [But] he needed to work with journalists. I don’t see it as a failure on the part of the media.”