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Monday, June 22, 2009

Paper Publications in Qatar: The (very) beginning of the end?

A Qatar tourist guide today decided to shut down its paper publication, and to concentrate instead on its website.

It's not a huge or frequent publication (Qatar Explorer only updates its book every two years) but it is significant in that it is the first sign of a global trend coming to Qatar.

Across the world newspapers are going bankrupt. Faced with new competition from community news sites and from aggregate news sites like Google and with competition only ever just a click way, online brand loyalty has disappeared and online revenue is increasingly unable to support bloated newspaper and magazine outfits.

Yet despite the explosion of online web content - and traffic - in Qatar (we have seen our own website go from a few hundred visitors a month to over 70,000 in just two years) newspapers and magazines seem to have continued on oblivious.

Half hearted attempts at websites often break multiple web standards and SEO guidelines, and high prices are charged for advertising - often many multiples of what companies can pay for equivalent online exposure.

Qatar media has been warned - very directly. At an ICT media conference the founder of Now Public, who had jettisoned the traditional new business to form a participatory news service fuelled by a mixture of traditional journalism and crowd reported, urged Qatar newspapers to get their online act together.

That's not to say that every organistion in Qatar is behind the times. In addition to Qatar Living, Al Jazeera, the Qatar based Arab News Network, has been groundbreaking in its use of the Internet. Not only has it leveraged social media sites such as You Tube and Flickr to reach an audience previously unavailable (and in some cases consciously blocked by US censorship), it has also enabled citizen journalists to report directly from areas such as Gaza. But Al Jazeera is not a newspaper threatened by falling print sales!

The real effect of the Internet in Qatar may be concealed by the huge population explosion, which has seen Qatar almost triple its population in the last four to five years. With a steady flow of new customers the effect of the Internet revolution on newspapers in Qatar could be hidden.

However, with one newspaper editor telling me she got more response to a classified in Qatar Living than in an ad in her newspapers, the days of print publication may well be numbered!

Also see: Qatar Newspapers