Prince Faisal bin Salman, chairman of the Saudi Research & Marketing Group, has emphasized SRMG’s plans to expand its investments in human capital and digital media technology.
“Those who are working in the media should be prepared to acclimatize with the realities of the new digital age. Or they will be left in the oblivion,” the prince told a forum of SRMG managers and editors in chief of its publications.
Prince Faisal said there was remarkable growth in electronic advertisements, helping companies to increase their profits. In this respect, he commended the success of Al-Khaleejiah Advertising and Public Relations in increasing the group’s profit from advertising, including digital advertisements.
He highlighted the international reputation achieved by SRMG publications, including Arab News. “There is no competitor for Arab News in the Saudi market,” the chairman said.
However, Prince Faisal emphasized the need to improve the editorial content of all SRMG publications. During an open dialogue with participants, he disclosed plans to expand and broaden the company’s media projects with good content as part of its efforts to diversify revenue sources. Such a move was essential to balance the rise and fall in advertising revenues, he said.
“This annual forum is aimed at strengthening contacts between the company’s top officials to exchange ideas and enhance cooperation between the group’s various companies and publications,” the SRMG chief said while addressing the event on the first day.
This forum is the brainchild of Dr. Azzam Al-Dakhil, CEO of SRMG, the prince said, adding that he wanted discussions to deal with present developments in the media industry. This year, the forum focused on digital media. He disclosed the group’s intention to distribute sources of income within its existing framework.
Al-Dakhil highlighted the significance of digital media as a fast expanding information outlet. He said the group would do everything possible to serve Arab readers by developing highly efficient digital media platforms providing quality content.
Professor George Brooke, head of the Faculty of Journalism at City University in the UK, was the chief guest. He thanked Prince Faisal and the group for inviting him to this important forum. While giving a presentation on international experiments in shifting to digital media, he spoke about the challenges ahead. However, he pointed out that digital media has already become a strong competitor for conservative media.
He stressed the need for dealing with the huge influx of information, adding that people could obtain information through the Internet, mobile phones, iPhones and iPads. “We expect greater progress in this side of the media by the passage of time.”
He referred to ‘The Times’ success story in digital media, saying it helped the British newspaper win greater popularity and reach out to its readers in different forms using modern communication means.
Brooke explained the opportunities and challenges involving the transfer to digital. “Going digital has become imperative for every media organization,” Brooke told the forum.
He said big media organizations would be able to adopt policies and plans to shift quickly to digital media. He commended SRMG’s efforts in this respect. “Some people believe that shifting to digital would take years, but it depends on the culture of the individuals and employees in media organizations,” he said.
Some organizations should prepare their digital media strategies and ask their staff to follow them. He emphasized the need for producing different contents for digital platforms. “We have to experiment with different options to create new revenue sources.”
Professor Brooke later answered questions from participants on the mechanisms needed to transfer to digital platforms.
Taking part in the discussions, Tariq Alhomayed, editor in chief of Asharq Al-Awsat, spoke about his newspaper’s experiments in digital media. The Arabic daily launched its digital news service on the iPad and iPhone last year.
“We have achieved this as a result of the continuous efforts of my colleagues,” he said. The paper’s development programs have helped it achieve top position among Arabic newspapers. Alhomayed expressed his confidence that Asharq Al-Awsat would be able to maintain its leading position by further improving content.
Adel Al-Turaifi, editor in chief of Al-Majalla magazine, described his publication as one of the popular political magazines in the Arab world. “We have been applying global best practices in digital media,” he said, adding that Al-Majalla would be able to win a large number of readers in the Arab world by continuously improving its content.
In his presentation, Abdulwahab Al-Faiz, editor in chief of Al-Eqtisadiah, stressed the need for intensive training to help staff members cope with digital media challenges and use digital media platforms efficiently.
He presented the business daily’s strategy to go digital. “I am sure that Al-Eqtisadiah can achieve a prominent position in digital media with the support of a full-fledged team,” he said, adding that he was preparing his staff to enter the new market.
Al-Faiz emphasized the need for converting ideas into successful projects that would earn the company considerable profits. “SRMG is working in a big market. Being a holding company, it is facing pressure from shareholders,” he said. “We want to train 30 editors in the next three months to participate in the new media industry,” he said.
Speaking about the banking magazine, published monthly in both English and Arabic, he disclosed plans to establish an endowment to run the magazine. He also hinted at possible cooperation with research chairs in Saudi universities.
Mohammed Al-Harithi, editor in chief of Sayidaty magazine, spoke about the changes in world media. “Investment in digital media requires self-confidence in the first place,” he said.
Sayidaty has established its name in the Arab world, he said, adding it has every potential to become the nucleus for other successful projects. He said the magazine has achieved 200 percent growth in the last five years, adding that it accounts for 27 percent of magazine advertisements.
Al-Harithi said the publication of a special edition of Sayidaty for the UAE was successful as it increased distribution by 130 percent in the UAE. He emphasized the need for all publications of the company to work as one team. He spoke about plans to develop Al-Jamila magazine and publish a Sayidaty educational magazine, hoping the new magazine would be able to win readers and make profits for the company.
Mai Badr, editor in chief of Hia magazine, spoke about her magazine’s achievements. She said Hia was not affected by the financial crisis because it was receiving a lot of advertisements. She cited her magazine’s efforts in entering into academic circles and taking part in awareness campaigns against diseases such as breast cancer. These efforts were successful in strengthening the magazine’s position in the Arab world. It also sponsored a number of events related to women.
Roger Harrison of Arab News explained the English daily’s strategy, being the leading English language newspaper in Saudi Arabia. He said the newspaper had made a lot of changes catering to the requirements of its readers. He emphasized Arab News’ move to develop its content and use it for the various digital platforms, targeting English readers in the Kingdom and elsewhere in the world.
Farouk Luqman, editor in chief of Malayalam News and Urdu News, said there was a substantial increase in the readership of the two papers that target Malayalam and Urdu speaking expatriate workers in the Kingdom and other Gulf countries. The two papers have been successful in providing news about local, regional and international affairs, focusing on the regions where the two languages are spoken.
Saleh Al-Dowais, deputy managing director of Saudi Research & Publishing Company, Bander Asiri, managing director of Al-Khaleejiah Advertising and Public Relations, and Ayman Al-Tamami, new media director, delivered a joint presentation.
Al-Dowais spoke about new communication technologies in the Arab world. He said SRPC was still focusing on the conventional media. Asiri spoke about the Admap experiment to increase advertising revenue, especially from digital advertisers.
He expected dramatic changes in digital media world with the introduction of new media. Al-Tamami explained SRPC’s efforts in the field of digital media.
Sultan Alsudairy, managing director of Numu Ventures, spoke about his company’s efforts to provide logistic support for SRMG to develop its businesses and strategies in the years to come.
Fahd Al-Zoghibi, managing director of Numu Multimedia, highlighted growing prospects of the Internet as a major media platform apart from televisions and cell phones.
Omar Al-Sheikh, CEO of Numu Educational Solution, spoke about his company’s efforts to distribute textbooks used in international schools. In 2009, SRMG purchased the company.
“After joining SRMG, the company’s profits rose by 200 percent,” he said. He also spoke about the company’s work in developing curriculums and school textbooks.
“We have a strong presence in a number of Gulf countries. We also provide consultancy services and solutions to problems through partnerships established by the company,” he said.
Muhammad Hassoun, director of training at Numu, explained the company’s strategy to enter the training sector. “SRMG can play a leading role in the sector thanks to its vast experience in the media, research and marketing,” he added