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Publishing Industry to Witness Dramatic Shift with Rise of Artificial Intelligence

His Excellency Omar bin Sultan Al Olama, UAE Minister of State for Artificial Intelligence, today predicted that the Artificial Intelligence revolution would have a more profound impact on the media and publishing industry than all other revolutions before it. His comments came as part of his keynote speech on the opening day of the 13th edition of the World Association of Newspapers and News Publishers (WAN-IFRA) Middle East Conference, organised in association with Dubai Production City (DPC).

His Excellency Omar bin Sultan Al Olama was a guest of honour at the event that brought together over 300 media experts, publishers, journalists, policymakers, and other stakeholders from around the globe for a series of industry talks and sessions under the theme ‘Roadmaps for Transformation’. Hosting several thought sessions on modern publishing platforms, content and commerce, the event runs until 1 March at The Westin Dubai Mina Seyahi Beach Resort & Marina and aims to provide publishing executives with an exceptional opportunity to discover the latest in regional and global industry trends and best practices.

Bringing together media publishers, journalists, policymakers, and other stakeholders, the conference seeks to attract, foster and empower young innovative talent in the region, and explore the outlook for news media companies amidst the rise of digital content. This is the second year that WAN-IFRA has partnered with an external organisation to co-host its annual gathering.

Pointing out that AI was prompting hopes and fears within the industry, His Excellency Al Olama said: “I do not come bearing good news or bad news, I just want to share a few facts and perspectives about change. We are at a crossroads today, some feel hope and some fear of being made obsolete. We must understand that change is important for the future.”

His Excellency highlighted the publishing industry’s adaptability, and its shifting relationship with the reader in the face of three separate revolutions: the invention of the printing press, the computer age and the internet revolution.

He said: “Readers have always read, but with the internet and social media, the delivery of news has changed and the relationship with readers has also undergone a sea change thanks to Snapchat, Periscope and other apps. But Artificial Intelligence will have a bigger and more profound change than all three of the earlier revolutions. Through automation and Artificial Intelligence, news will always be customised and optimised for individual readers.”

The Minister said that innovators in media are already collaborating with tech companies to find ways that smart machines can help in data processing and other automated tasks, which will streamline the newsroom workflow.

He said: “Some people may view this change with fear, fear for the future. But I see great potential in this development. If we get rid of the repetitive, automated tasks that take up our time, we can then focus on the creativity for which our species is known. Humans can leverage technology for progress and for a better future.

“There will be an increase in human creativity. Everyone will be augmented the same way as today we all have our mobile phones. Today we have access to so much information and can connect with any person, anywhere in the world at any moment, with the simple touch of a button.

Today’s landscape will be seen as primitive compared to where we can be. There are positive and negative possibilities, but if all the key stakeholders come onboard, then we can have the future that we can only imagine.”

For his part, Majid Al Suwaidi, Managing Director, Dubai Media City, Dubai Studio City and Dubai Production City, examined the changing media landscape and the emergence of digital in the MENA region marketplace that is expected to ensure significant growth in the coming years.

He said: “In the past four years, we have seen a compound annual growth rate of 16% in digital companies operating in Dubai Production City alone. In the MENA region, the market for New Media is expected to grow from US$1.7 billion in 2015 to US$3.6 billion by 2020. Furthermore, it is not surprising that more than 60% of the MENA media market is in the GCC region. We have all witnessed the change in the media landscape and how it continues to evolve.”

Al Suwaidi urged companies to adapt in terms of content, business and distribution models, and said: “Publishers must embrace a more collaborative and interactive media landscape. The UAE has preempted this shift and has taken the necessary steps to create new ways for content generation and content sharing to suit different types of audiences. Currently, the UAE has a mobile penetration rate of 193% – more than 16 million active mobile subscribers – nearly double the population, according to the Telecommunications Regulatory Authority.

“Publishers need to create content that is engaging and relevant. The industry has huge potential for growth. However, we need to evolve and to achieve that, simplification and content are two crucial components that can enable us to maintain a competitive edge. It is no secret that companies need to constantly innovate and be open to new ideas to reach wider audience segments and to stay closely connected with their current consumers.” lovehub

He added: “I personally subscribe to the view of His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, who said – ‘Those who neglect the new will remain at the back of the line; those who wait for luck to make things happen will be disappointed.’”

Mechthild Schimpf, Director Middle East, WAN-IFRA, said: “At WAN-IFRA, we strongly believe that first-hand information, knowledge sharing and networking are irreplaceable catalysts for successful transformation and growth. The exponential growth and adoption of consumer technologies drives new news media consumption patterns that force publishers to react rapidly and adjust their businesses accordingly. By sharing industry best practices through our global events, we facilitate peer-to-peer connections for sharing and learning from one another’s experiences.”

Day one of the WAN-IFRA Middle East Conference 2018 saw speeches covering different aspects of the industry. Gunilla Asker, CEO of Swedish newspaper Svenska Dagbladet, told audiences about the successful transformation achieved by the newspaper in a highly disruptive market. Thomas Jacob, Chief Operating Officer of WAN-IFRA, highlighted the current media trends and the outlook for 2018.

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Chris Fernando

Chris N. Fernando is an experienced media professional with over two decades of journalistic experience. He is the Editor of Arabian Reseller magazine, the authoritative guide to the regional IT industry. Follow him on Twitter (@chris508) and Instagram (@chris2508).

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