The challenges facing the media sector in terms of its dimensions, content, message and audience, in the context of a world in the making, were the main focus of the Saudi Media Forum organised on 20 and 21 February in Riyadh

The Saudi Media Forum discusses the challenges facing the transcontinental press

Saudi Media Forum
Saudi Media Forum

In its third edition, the Saudi Media Forum shed light on the different challenges faced by the media and information in the mission of transmitting their content and making it reach other continents. Experts in the field and professional journalists met in Riyadh to discuss the subject and offer recommendations for improving the reality of the mass media in Arab countries as well as in other nations around the world. 

  1. Identifying failures to empower the media
  2. Keys to capturing the desired audience
  3. New technologies at the service of rich and useful content
  4. Useful and attractive content is the ideal service offered by the press

Identifying failures to empower the media

Mohammed Tunusi, a Saudi journalist and information consultant with long experience in eleven media platforms, both written and audiovisual, highlighted the three main problems of the media as media institutions in Arab countries: 

  • Traditionality: not knowing how to deal with the new challenges of new content. Sometimes this ignorance can go as far as fighting the electronic side of the press and clinging to tradition, instead of learning how to profit from it. 
  • Clinging to past glories: this is another factor of failure; when the institution is tied to its achievements made by planned work and effort or simply by chance and forgets to update and adapt to the new conditions imposed by journalistic work.
  • Imitation: this is the main cause of the backwardness experienced by most of the media, as each channel wants to be like the other. This is exactly what happened with Alikhbaria, which wanted to be like Al Arabiya.

The solution, in Mohammed Tunusi's view, is to bet on locality, because it is a winning card that guarantees a good performance of the news being the essence of the content. "We need a media that respects the minds of the people and transmits what has been achieved faithfully in order to transcend continents," he concluded. 

Saudi Media Forum
Saudi Media Forum

Keys to capturing the desired audience

Mohammed Abdelmotaal, the CEO of MBC Egypt, who has 30 years of experience in the media, explained how the media group has managed to keep up with the changing types of viewers, explaining that "we always start with research, study and information by focusing on the target audience".

"Having the help of research or marketing agencies is crucial to know what audience we have, their social class, their cultural and economic level, in order to get the right message to transmit to this audience," emphasised the general director of MBC Egypt, putting the focus on content as the central element of journalistic work. 

The mission is to keep such content highly distinguished by being new, exclusive and of high quality. To achieve this goal, the use of technology, updating and keeping up with the needs of the audience must always be used, Mohamed Abdelmotaal emphasised. 

He emphasised the importance of knowing who we are talking to and offering them the right message, then building trust by presenting good information, the real news, and advocating credibility and exclusivity. Two pillars that build the relationship between the channel and viewers both in Egypt and in the Arab world.

Saudi Media Forum
Saudi Media Forum

New technologies at the service of rich and useful content

Aadwan El Ahmari, the editor-in-chief of Independentarabia and president of the Saudi journalists' organisation, began by presenting the "Read it and listen to it" experience launched by the newspaper. The idea, he explained, is to integrate technologies with artificial intelligence to load articles also in audio support. 

According to El Ahmari's vision, before, the global journalist was the one who knew how to write or record and edit, but now the global journalist is the one who can be anywhere with a mobile phone, like in Ukraine or Gaza, record videos, write texts, upload the material and put the newspaper's slogan on top. 

Today, all newspapers have electronic platforms. However, some of them keep a few copies on paper of honour for those who want to read them. The important thing here is to respect all generations.  

Aadwan El Ahmari also clarified that "there are technologies that help the lazy journalist to be lazier", giving the example of Echobox, which schedules all the newspaper's content to be published directly on social networks at the time that the editor sees fit for each separate area. 

However, this technique remains lazy and uncreative and needs human intervention to formulate the tweet well, as an example.  "Unlike English, using it in Arabic is a mess; as the crisis we face in the Arab world is the lack of an Arabic programming language in artificial intelligence so far and all attempts are almost negligible," stressed the editor-in-chief of Independentarabia.  

Atalayar en el Saudi Media Forum
Atalayar at the Saudi Media Forum

Useful and attractive content is the ideal service offered by the press

For his part, Javier Fernández Arribas, president of the International Press Club and director of the magazine Atalayar Between Two Shores, stressed the need to consolidate social services and offer people quality media content. 

"In the age of information and communication, the most important thing is to work on attractive and useful media content that allows people not only to take advantage of it and stay informed, but also to enjoy it," Javier Fernández Arribas pointed out, noting that this is the ideal method to attract the audience for newspapers, radio, television or even social networks.

Javier Fernández Arribas en el Saudi Media Forum
Javier Fernández Arribas at the Saudi Media Forum

In Spain, as in several countries around the world, the abundance of information sometimes leads to waves of erroneous information or false news; which creates doubts in the recipients and causes intoxication in the media, according to Javier Fernández Arribas. 

"We can only control this invasion of information when we have professional people who are experts in the field of the press to give the news from its reliable source and transmit to the reader the reality of what is happening around them," added the president of the International Press Club.

Answering the question "how to attract a large audience and keep it", Javier Fernández Arribas urges to combine what is important with what is attractive, to avoid reader or viewer boredom. To do this, we must strive to know how to satisfy readers' curiosity. 

Saudi Media Forum
Saudi Media Forum

In this sense, Javier Fernández Arribas emphasised the true primordial role of the media and information in the fight against "fake news", doing serious and fruitful work with responsible people and professional journalists. 

We must be efficient in order to face economic challenges, build bridges of dialogue and coexistence between different cultures and consolidate relations between Arab Gulf States and Europe, especially between Spain and Saudi Arabia.

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