13th WAN-IFRA Middle East Conference discusses dramatic shifts in Publishing & Media industry

His Excellency Omar bin Sultan Al Olama, UAE Minister of State for Artificial Intelligence, today predicted that the Artificial Intelligence revolution would have a more profound impact on the media and publishing industry than all other revolutions before it. Majid Al Suwaidi, MD of Dubai Media City, Dubai Studio City, Dubai Production City says that new media market expected to grow from US$1.7 billion to US$3.6 billion in MENA region.
His Excellency Omar bin Sultan Al Olama, UAE Minister of State for Artificial Intelligence
His Excellency Omar bin Sultan Al Olama, UAE Minister of State for Artificial Intelligence

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Profound Impact of AI

His Excellency Omar bin Sultan Al Olama, UAE Minister of State for Artificial Intelligence, predicted that the Artificial Intelligence revolution would have a more profound impact on the media and publishing industry than all other revolutions before it. His comments came as part of his keynote speech on the opening day of the 13th edition of the World Association of Newspapers and News Publishers (WAN-IFRA) Middle East Conference, organised in association with Dubai Production City (DPC).

His Excellency Omar bin Sultan Al Olama was a guest of honour at the event that brought together over 300 media experts, publishers, journalists, policymakers, and other stakeholders from around the globe for a series of industry talks and sessions under the theme ‘Roadmaps for Transformation’. 

Pointing out that AI was prompting hopes and fears within the industry, His Excellency Al Olama said: “I do not come bearing good news or bad news, I just want to share a few facts and perspectives about change. We are at a crossroads today, some feel hope and some fear of being made obsolete. We must understand that change is important for the future.” His Excellency highlighted the publishing industry’s adaptability, and its shifting relationship with the reader in the face of three separate revolutions: the invention of the printing press, the computer age and the internet revolution.

He said: “Readers have always read, but with the internet and social media, the delivery of news has changed and Majed Al Suwaidithe relationship with readers has also undergone a sea change thanks to Snapchat, Periscope and other apps. But Artificial Intelligence will have a bigger and more profound change than all three of the earlier revolutions. Through automation and Artificial Intelligence, news will always be customised and optimised for individual readers.”

Publishers discuss impact of Digital Content

Hosting several thought  sessions on modern publishing platforms, content and commerce, the 2 day event was held at The Westin Dubai Mina Seyahi Beach Resort & Marina. Bringing together media publishers, journalists, policymakers, and other stakeholders, the conference seeks to explore the outlook for news media companies amidst the rise of digital content.

Majed Al Suwaidi

For his part, Majid Al Suwaidi, Managing Director, Dubai Media City, Dubai Studio City and Dubai Production City, examined the changing media landscape and the emergence of digital in the MENA region marketplace that is expected to ensure significant growth in the coming years.

He said: “In the past four years, we have seen a compound annual growth rate of 16% in digital companies operating in Dubai Production City alone. In the MENA region, the market for New Media is expected to grow from US$1.7 billion in 2015 to US$3.6 billion by 2020. Furthermore, it is not surprising that more than 60% of the MENA media market is in the GCC region. We have all witnessed the change in the media landscape and how it continues to evolve.”

This is the second year that WAN-IFRA has partnered with an external organisation to co-host its annual gathering. Speaking to Digital Studio about Dubai Production City's initiative to co-host the WAN-IFRA Middle East Conference, Al Suwaidi said sponsorship of such events helps to "facilitate discussion about what is happening in the industry. The media industry is going through an evolution and we have to admit this evolution is happening. Publishing and print media in general is going through to a tough time, and I think here the teams will be talking about how companies can mitigate the risk and be able to evolve into more sustainable models going into the future."

Asked about the rise of digital content and it's impact on the Middle East, he thinks, "Publishers in the Middle east are no different than other publishers across the world. Other regions might have felt this shift a bit earlier and Middle East is seeing it now. But the gap has shrunk very fast. so what has affected publishing in the West very recently is coming to us quickly. Unlike before when it was taking at least a year or two for people to feel the changes, now the changes are coming to us quickly – so these are the shifts that are happening."

Al Suwaidi urged companies to adapt in terms of content, business and distribution models, and said: “Publishers must embrace a more collaborative and interactive media landscape. The UAE has pre-empted this shift and has taken the necessary steps to create new ways for content generation and content sharing to suit different types of audiences. Currently, the UAE has a mobile penetration rate of 193% - more than 16 million active mobile subscribers – nearly double the population, according to the Telecommunications Regulatory Authority.

“Publishers need to create content that is engaging and relevant. The industry has huge potential for growth. However, we need to evolve and to achieve that, simplification and content are two crucial components that can enable us to maintain a competitive edge. It is no secret that companies need to constantly innovate and be open to new ideas to reach wider audience segments and to stay closely connected with their current consumers.”

He added: “I personally subscribe to the view of His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, who said - ‘Those who neglect the new will remain at the back of the line; those who wait for luck to make things happen will be disappointed.”

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