With the aim to provide quality information about business dynamics and socio-economic issues, highlight investment prospects and analyse current and future business trends in the Middle East, public relations expert Amal Masri undertook a challenge even large publishing houses would consider a challenging task: going live across web, mobile app and a YouTube Channel while, at the same time, printing a quarterly magazine.
Yet, says Masri, the launch in 2013 of her Middle East Business News and Magazine across a multitude of media platforms was necessary for her to secure success, given that the current media environment demands an integrated multi-platform approach. “I had to think long and hard about how to make the print content different from the online content. Online and print differ so radically.”
The result was an in depth content approach with specialists in various fields – mostly not journalists – from across the globe writing long form analyses for print, as opposed to regularly updated short form news from journalists and agencies for the website and app links. The YouTube channel provides ‘behind-the-scene’ insight into all matters related to the title, including events and causes, such as promoting the role of women in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region.
In fact, as one of the ten Global Women Entrepreneurs and Leaders as voted by the International Council of Small Enterprises in the USA, Masri places women’s rights on par with issues such as her aim to connect private sector players within the Middle East region with the rest of the world, regional construction goals or growth in entrepreneurship.
With the website being run without a paywall, the magazine itself is distributed to paying subscribers only. Masri says she finds it encouraging that people are still willing to pay for a quality printed magazine in an environment where so many publications – in fact the vast majority in the Middle East – are distributed free of charge. Most subscribers are from the upper echelons of society, including business executives, company directors and managers, lecturers and students, government executives and leaders of non-government organisations (NGOs).
Middle East Business News and Magazine is fully owned by the Ougarit Group, a marketing, communications, events and publishing firm established by Masri and her husband Khaled in 1998 in Ramallah, Palestine. By integrating the goals and activities of their publication with the objectives of some of their clients it creates numerous opportunities, such as sponsored content for NGOs, to cite only one example. Special events and projects, on the other hand, create expanded distribution platforms for the magazine. Middle East business development stands central to all these initiatives.
To further development goals the magazine has partnered with strategic allies such as the Jordan Chamber of Industry, not only by supporting their strategic objectives, but also because the Chamber offers a targeted distribution channel. “I’m not a journalist. I’m a marketer and a PR. What we do is to cater effectively to connect people with ideas.” To this aim the multi-platform title integrate event networking with its content, messages and vision.
Masri says the growth of the title has outperformed expectations. Business chambers, even in the US, regularly place bulk orders for the magazine. Subscriptions now make up slightly over 15 per cent of income, with advertising and paid for advertorials completing the income stream.
The next natural step is to launch an Arabic version of the website as well as an Arabic mobile app. This will happen within the next couple of months. She also plans to continue to print at least half of the magazine in Arabic – an exercise they have already experimented with successfully to showcase at FIPP Middle East and Africa earlier this year when the title joined FIPP.
More about Amal Masri
As CEO of Ougarit Group, Masri holds many positions in local business organisations working for the advancement of women in Palestine and across the Arab world. These include being board member of the Islamic Reporting Initiative, former president of the Business Women Forum of Palestine, founder and former board member of Middle East Business Women’s Network, a member of the Arab International Women’s Forum and steering committee member of Fostering Women Entrepreneurs in the Middle East initiative.
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