Middle East and Africa ripe for digital transformation

“Transforming a magazine brand is not a matter of taking a PDF, putting it online, and calling it a digital experience,” Abbar explained to attendees to FIPP’s Middle East and Africa event in Dubai today. In 2012, Abbar was tasked with bringing about a “differentiated experience” for the company’s audience.

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The transformation didn’t happen without plenty of challenges, according to Abbar, which included changing the company’s “print mindset” which was used to producing a monthly magazine and working in a cycle. “Now, every minute counts,” he said. Another challenge was the change in type and frequency of content being delivered. “We needed to make sure the content we produce is what people are looking for, and deliver it with speed, accuracy and relevance,” said Abbar. 7AWI now produces 150 pieces of content per-day…quite a change from producing a monthly print product.

“That’s versus a magazine that was published on a monthly basis with 300 pages. Now, we have almost 500,000 visits a day on the website, more than eight million social fans on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, and 200,000 newsletter subscribers. So the conversion from a traditional magazine into a digital experience – based on the user experience, the content and the technology – was the right decision to make.” Today, the company operates across all platforms (including smartwatches and smart TV coming soon), and 70 per cent of its traffic comes from mobile. “We have to be where the audience is,” concluded Abbar.

In terms of monetisation, Abbar admitted it’s difficult but they are “in it for the long haul”. And according to him, the silver bullet is native advertising. “Next year, 50 per cent of our revenue needs to come from content. But it’s a huge effort to convince advertisers that this works.”

Download Abbar’s presentation here.

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