VIDEO: The growing taste for local market content in the UAE

Please give us a brief overview of Gulf News… (0:02)

I handle supplements for Gulf News, which is the largest newspaper in the Middle East. We do about 150 titles a year. They vary in format from A5 magazines, through A4 magazines, to Berliner newspaper, to tabloid sized newspaper. So there’s about six different formats. And they vary in content from lifestyle, to business, to entertainment to B2B/B2C across the board.

Traditionally these have been extremely tactical titles, so if we see a business opportunity, we tend to go in and deep dive into special interest areas and build editorial around it. We have a number of titles that do well every year that are door-stopped into the calendar. Those tend to be associated with specific events, they tend to be associated with specific times of the year, or they tend to be seasonal. What we’re trying to do now is break those into brand-led businesses, so we want to build 4 special interest brand-led businesses which will sit around technology, personal finance, country guides and then calendar & events.

Demographically, what is your target audience? (1:16)

It’s really quite interesting. The UAE is very different from other markets because 80 per cent of the people that live in the UAE are expatriates. They come from 200 different countries, predominantly the Asian sub-continent, a large proportion of people from Europe, and then smaller proportions of people from the US, Africa, China and other parts of the region.

So when you’re creating content you need to think about where that’s going. So a lot of that is mapped. The print part is mapped against our readership profile. A largely Indian subcontinent, British expat – and so we can create content around those niches. But what tends to happen – what we’re finding more and more – is that people want to know what’s going on in Dubai, so the approach tends to be very, very hyperlocal. Yes they want to know about Rihanna performing at the Grammy Awards, but the fact that she’s wearing a UAE designer’s dress is what will really shoot your audience metrics/interest really high.  

How does your content differ between print and digital? (2:25)

I don’t think there’s a division between print and digital at all. I think it’s much more about a synergy. The core of the story remains the same, but it’s layered differently. So you would break news or you would create a snap as they call it on the wires, to the website or to Twitter actually (first to social media). Then you’d break it out and put it onto your website. Then a much deeper analysis would go into print. There’d be follow-up reactions again online.

I don’t really think that you can say that long-form is offline and online is bite-sized content. I think if readers are interested – and research is bearing this out – if readers are interested they are getting to the end of an article. You can put codes in place at the bottom of your articles that tell you when a readers hit that point so you have an advertising metric there to say, okay the readers hit that point. Maybe it’s 30% of the readers who’ve hit that point. What we’re finding is, with the online business, people are spending between 3 and 5 minutes on our stories, so they’re spending a fair amount of time on our stories. It’s not the news stories but it’s the features. People are interested in features, they want to look at them. If you’ve got a little in-depth action on your story… so you’ve got some case studies, you’ve got some great pictures, you can have as much as 30 minutes on a story, which is pretty fantastic.

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