Mona Ghanem Al Marri, Director General of the Media Office of the Government of Dubai and Chairman of Dubai Press Club at the press conference to announce the Arab Media Outlook for 2016 to 2018 in youth, content and digital media. Image Credit: Zarina Fernandes/Gulf News

Dubai: The region’s media sector stands at a point of evolution and is rapidly transforming to digital media, the fifth edition of the Arab Media Outlook Report, ‘Arab Media Outlook: Youth… content… digital media’, showed.

Providing a comprehensive view of the media landscape across 14 markets in the Arab region, the report highlighted future trends that will emerge over the next three years. The full report will be released at the Arab media Forum taking place on May 10-11.

The report also looked at paid media and advertising revenues across all platforms, including digital, mobile, print, TV, and radio, and highlighting an expected higher growth rate in the paid media sector than in advertising.

“Digital media is the way forward. The transformation process to digital media taking place will change the landscape of media worldwide in the next five to 10 years,” said Mona Al Merri, chairperson of Dubai Press Club, at the launch of the report.

With young people under the age of 24 counting for half the population in the region, their interaction with media content is a factor driving growth of digital media.

“A key dynamic changing the media landscape is youth engagement on digital media, not only as consumers of content but also as producers of content,” said Jayant Bhargava, partner and head of digital media and entertainment Middle East.

Describing content produced by Arab youth as “amateur digital-only content”, Bhargava pointed out that youth media has significantly increased the level of Arabic language content available on digital platforms. “Much of the content tells local stories and is resulting in a cultural boom. This youth involvement is also transforming the marketing landscape with social media influencers becoming an integral part of any marketing campaign in the region,” he said.

Bhargava pointed out that on average, an individual in the region spends almost 10.9 hours per day consuming media in 2015, an increase from 10.6 hours per day in 2013.

Mobile, apps, the internet, and social media are the first touch points and a way of life for many youth, rapidly increasing smartphone penetration in the region.

The report showed that the share of views on mobile phones has jumped from 11 per cent in 2011 to 70 per cent in 2015. It also predicts 2016-2018 to be the era of many “mobile firsts” market in the Mena region and the stage of content on the small screen.

Paid media

Another key finding in the report was the noticeable growth of paid media sector compared to advertising sector. Al Merri explained that spending on advertising is set to increase by 2.5 per cent annually between 2016-2018, while spending on paid media is set to grow by 3.7 per cent during the same period backed by video games and TV paid subscriptions. “While paid media is a synonym of “excellent content”, we should stop at this noticeable progress and think about what our local and Arab media should do in terms of development steps, to keep pace with the rapid changes,” said Al Merri.


Media snacking culture

- The most notable impact of access is specifically the smartphone and in the video space.

- The majority of time spent on social networks and mobile videos, digital constitutes 40 per cent of their attention span with 80 minutes and 28 minutes of time being spent on social networks and video.

- On the social networking side, the “power of communities” is becoming stronger with social plug-ins and recommendation engines.

- The strongest enabler of these communities is Facebook that has evolved into a ‘Super App’, ie, it is going beyond its core functionality of connecting friends and family to becoming an enabler for the commercial ecosystem to include services like buying, sending money, or even booking a taxi.

- Facebook is also having a strong impact on news discovery, development and distribution, driving the shift to “breaking views” as opposed to “breaking news”.

- On the video side, the fastest growing segment is short-form (few minutes long), amateur digital content – curated by Arab youth and distributed on video platforms, such as YouTube.