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Opinion

‘We will always be as good as our last story’

Arab News today celebrates its 42nd anniversary, just as I am preparing to mark six months on the job as its editor in chief in a few days’ time. Naturally, much has changed in the paper since its establishment in 1975. I would like to think that much has also changed in the half-year since the team and I started working on our new management’s mandate to make the paper “more digital, more global.”

Passion for journalism and quality content remain at the heart of what we do, and always will. We are delighted to announce that we have just surpassed the 100,000-mark on Twitter, we have reached 5 million followers on our Facebook page, and we have nearly 300,000 fans on our Instagram page. Last month marked our biggest ever in terms of online traffic. All this, and we are only just getting started!

Newspapers worldwide are undergoing massive change, and are being challenged by new competitors every day. The whole concept of print itself is being questioned, and these changes do not come without their issues.

Perhaps we as news consumers are now facing — more than ever before — an unprecedented rise in “fake news,” fueled by the ease of dissemination through social networks. Similarly, financial challenges and changing business models are making it difficult for quality news brands to remain sustainable, particularly since — as anyone in our industry knows — news-gathering is an incredibly costly business.

This means investing in established, trustworthy news brands is now more crucial than ever. We at Arab News have never been known to run away from challenges, but rather take them on and find ways not only to survive but to thrive.

As we strive to find new sources of revenue and refine our operation to make it “lean and mean,” we must also look at the opportunities that come with these changes in our industry. One major advantage is that there is no such thing as being a “local” content provider anymore. Thanks to advancements in technology that eliminate most barriers to entry, we are now all global players, whether we like it or not.

Our slogan has always been: ‘The Middle East’s leading English-language daily.’ All we need to do is continue producing excellent journalism while ensuring we are efficiently and effectively utilizing technological advancements to expand our reach.

Faisal J. Abbas

As such, we are now more capable than ever of attracting new audiences and advertisers outside our traditional markets. What helps us particularly in Arab News is that our slogan has always been: “The Middle East’s leading English-language daily.”

All we need to do is continue producing excellent journalism while ensuring that we are efficiently and effectively utilizing technological advancements to expand our reach and strengthen our brand. This obviously goes hand-in-hand with our need to cater to a new generation of news consumers, who need to be better informed if we are to trust them to make important decisions in the future.

Over the past six months, we have appointed regionally and internationally renowned journalists and analysts in key countries as part of our aim to widen our reach and footprint. At the same time, we are on a constant lookout for talented youngsters to document and narrate the path-breaking changes taking place in Saudi Arabia and the Arab world.

Also over the past six months, we have been quoted in various respectable international media organizations on a number of issues. Our head-turning headlines and front-pages have been widely shared and discussed on the likes of CNN, the BBC and various social media platforms. Our stories have been dissected in the corridors of power in the East and West.

Providing quality content is my commitment to our readers. It remains our position that editorial integrity cannot be promised, it must be proven. This is why, and as part of our commitment to quality content, we are proud to announce our partnership with YouGov, the world pioneer and leader in online polling.

We worked with YouGov in November last year, and our first ever regional poll on Arab sentiment prior to the US election proved to be an incredible success, with so many readers, academic institutions and media outlets downloading it, citing it, or requesting further details and additional copies.

Last but not least, I would like to thank all my previous editors in chief. Thanks to them, we have a well-established brand we can build on as we keep an eye on the future. To our avid and loyal readers, I say: We do not take any of this for granted, and you should rest assured that we are fully aware that as journalists, we will always only be as good as our last story.

Faisal J. Abbas is the editor in chief of Arab News. He can be reached on Twitter @FaisalJAbbas