13th WAN-IFRA Middle East Conference to draw new roadmaps for transformation

Quality journalism is one of the major factors behind all succeeding in driving news media companies worldwide. How do they achieve this? With examples and case studies from the Telegraph Media Group (UK), The Times of India (India), The Guardian (UK), Styria Media Group (Austria), Sayidaty (UAE) and many more, the 13th WAN-IFRA Middle East Conference will present specific strategies around product, business model transformation, digital subscriptions, and newsroom management.

Scheduled on February 28 and March 01, the WAN-IFRA Middle East Conference 2018 will bring a confluence of publishing stalwarts from the region for a string of discussions and discourses, charting out new paths towards a profitable and sustainable future for the industry.

The opening of the conference will mark with welcome addresses from a host of speakers, viz Ibrahim Badei, Member of the Board of Directors, Dar Al Hayat (UAE); Majed Al Suwaidi, MD, Dubai Media City (DMC), Dubai Studio City (DSC) and Dubai Production City (DPC) (UAE); Dr Saleh Al-Humaidan, chairman, WAN-IFRA Middle East Committee, KSA and Mechthild Schimpf, director Middle East, WAN-IFRA, Germany.

Road to digital

Opening keynote address will be on paving Road to Digital, in which Murdoch MacLennan, deputy chairman of Telegraph Media Group (UK) will take the audience through his journey of transforming a traditional newspaper operation into a truly multi-media publishing house. His vision of a fully integrated newsroom started in 2005 already. Only two and a half years later, The Daily Telegraph became the Telegraph Media Group and had moved its entire editorial operation to one floor of a massive building in Victoria in central London. Around 400 journalists went through week-long training programmes. This session on the pioneering project still is a benchmark for many media companies around the world. The Daily Telegraph is an award-winning, multimedia news brand that has been synonymous with quality, authority and credibility for more than 160 years.

Media trends and outlook 2018

In the follow-up session, Thomas Jacob, chief operating officer, WAN-IFRA (Germany), will present the global trends and outlook for news media companies in 2018 that WAN-IFRA research has identified. He will also talk about the latest technological developments that are impacting the media industry and how publishers are responding.

Audience monetisationb

Is it time for Middle Eastern news publishers to charge for their digital content? Great journalism is driving the global success of freemium and hybrid meter paywalls. The details are more important than ever. In this session, moderator Grzegorz Piechota, research associate, Harvard Business School (Poland), will talk about paid contents.

Transformation in a Disruptive Market—this will be the topic of discussion, in which successful strategies from Svenska Dagbladet, a Schibsted newspaper. In 2012, the Swedish media market was badly hit by structural changes. Print advertising and circulation both dropped rapidly and Svenska Dagbladet was forced to make drastic changes. Relating to it, Gunilla Asker, CEO of Svenska Dagbladet, will describe the journey from the formulation of their multichannel strategy to digital innovation and internal implementation. The internal cultural aspects of the change process will also be discussed. In addition, Gunilla will explain how Svenska Dagbladet recently took its internal data driven work with digital subscriptions one step further.

Facebook and YouTube platforms

The biggest ‘newspaper’ in the world – Facebook with two billion users – has no journalists. The biggest TV network – YouTube with 1.5 billion users – produces no shows. Digital platforms such as Facebook and Google have dominated users’ attention and become getaways to media content on the internet. Paired with superior technology, the platforms have dominated digital advertising markets worldwide, and effectively decoupled content from ads. What should be the strategic response of news publishers? How can they change the competition dynamics? How are publishers in Americas, Asia and Europe innovating with their business models? These questions will be answered in the discussion with speaker Grzegorz Piechota, research associate, Harvard Business School (Poland).

Paid content strategy

Here is a question of how much will people pay for quality? The Danish newspaper Politiken introduced a metered model in 2013. After a couple of years of experimenting, the newspaper decided to radically change its entire paid content strategy with a shift to the Premium model and a massive monthly price increase: from 10 euros to 40 euros. Astrid Jørgensen, head of subscription sales and marketing at Politiken, will take the audience through the learning, mistakes and successes of their bold pricing move.

Bringing content and commerce together

Sayidaty Mall has succeeded in bridging Sayidaty, the No.1 online magazine for women in the Arab world, with an e-commerce online platform where readers can easily find and purchase high-end clothing, elegant accessories, and glamorous jewelry. Mohammad Fahad AlHarthi, editor-in-chief, Sayidaty, Al Jamila and Arrajol Magazine – SRPC, Saudi Arabia, will speak in this final session of the first day of the conference.

Revenue strategies

Second day of the conference will open with keynote address by Anthony Tan, deputy chief executive officer, Singapore Press Holdings Ltd, talking about the company’s road to transformation. After the introductory note, a session on ‘Digital Revenue Strategies to Support Quality Journalism’ will be followed up, with speaker Lisa MacLeod, head of digital, The Tiso Blackstar Group (formerly: Times Media Group), South Africa. The group faces the same challenges that most newsrooms around the world are experiencing: how to be agile, engage with its audiences, and thrive in today’s über competitive media landscape. The speaker will share some of the products, new revenue streams, and paid content strategies that The Tiso Blackstar Group are pursuing to keep its journalism front and centre.

Artificial Intelligence (AI)

AI is a positive force in journalism. In this, many researchers believe AI will soon be able to mimic human intelligence in a truly generic sense. The news industry has the kind of broad-based and deep data that is needed for AI to truly fulfil its promise. In return, AI will help the news industry to become super productive. Parankusha S, VP and head of R&D, Ninestars Information Technologies Pvt Ltd, India, will talk about AI assisting and augmenting capability of news creators to focus more on quality journalism and not just reporting – broad coverage, in-depth analysis, investigative journalism. The session will have an insight of the prospect of AI, finding out whether the technology is really replacing humans in the newsroom and on-field. And fake news— will AI solve this menace?

Bridging the gap

Hayat Social Network ‘Preparing for an Age of Participatory Content’ is the session in which speaker Bashar Mezher, head of culture management, Dar Al Hayat (UAE), will talk about the social media as participatory content where the content is gathered, selected, edited and communicated by professionals and amateurs, and by producers and consumers alike. In a time of declining public trust in news and content, loss of advertising revenue, and an increasingly participatory, self-expressive and digital media culture, journalism is in the process of rethinking and reinventing itself.

Print now in better shape

In the session ‘Add Print – Add Power’, speaker Ulbe Jelluma, MD, Print Power Europe, Brussels (Belgium) will talk about the power of print in this era when advertising decision makers have an increasingly difficult task. The media landscape is getting more and more complex. Buzzwords sometimes hide existing concepts or cause confusion. Then there’s the growing problem of ad blocking by users across digital devices. Print media proves to be an ongoing force in the advertising mix. Although lower in volume than 10 years ago, advertising in printed newspapers has the power to address readers directly and amplify the effects of other channels.

In the similar tone, Prof Dr Neil Thurman, professor of communication in the Department of Communication Studies and Media Research, LMU, Munich, will talk about metrics about audiences, attention, and the persistent power of print. Recent reports seem to indicate that print is in better shape than previously thought. The speaker will take a look at this mainstay of business and how it will contribute to revenues going forward.

In the concluding part of the conference, Niko Ruokosuo, CEO, Al Abkaria Holding Company and GM Nebras Films (Saudi Arabia), will conduct a panel discussion on embedding the innovation culture in news media companies. The session titled ‘Investing in Media Start-Ups – Presentations and Panel Discussion with Entrepreneurs’ will highlight how forward-looking media companies around the world are creating media labs and investing in startups to spur innovation. The panellists will take on key criteria to look for when investing in start-ups.

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