The year is 1975, and Saudi Arabia is witnessing an economic boom like no other in its history. In a small garage in Jeddah, on Saudi Arabia’s west coast, two brothers work relentlessly to get their new business venture off the ground: An English-language newspaper.
Some time before, brothers Hisham and Muhammad Hafiz, amid a multitude of pilgrims from across the globe on a pilgrimage to Makkah, realized that a publication in English for these international visitors was an exciting media opportunity.
They began to put in place procedures for this new operation, and on April 20, 1975 they carried bundles of their new paper, sold them to the public and distributed them to supermarkets, grocery outlets and corner stores. Arab News was born.
The brothers could have scarcely imagined that one day the words of their beloved tabloid would be read on the other side of the globe, seconds after a mouse click from an editor in downtown Jeddah.
Today, Arab News is no longer just eight pages or solely focused on covering Saudi Arabia. It has numerous bureaus and staff worldwide, and with its 24-hour digital operation it has a loyal following locally and internationally.
Much has changed since the first Arab News website launched at the turn of the century. Back then, news outlets were desperately trying to understand how the Internet would impact the industry. Publications worldwide saw readers cancel their print subscriptions and opt for free online news sources, forcing many of them out of business.
At Arab News, we now know clearly that failure to adapt to the ever-changing digital landscape means harsh consequences. Though technologies and mediums may change, the fundamentals remain. Readers want content that means something to them. They want stories that are told well and add something to their lives. This aspect of the industry will never change.
The paper’s website has also developed over the years, with new features and sections seeking to give a broader choice to readers. Traditionally, news stories would be published on the site after a laborious process to make it print-ready. That has changed.
News waits for no one, and the online operation has shifted to reflect this. Stories are prepared by editors who work for the reader, regardless of where the story ends up — either on dead trees or digital pixels — and will almost certainly be published first online.
Journalists, editors, graphic designers, photographers and digital specialists all collaborate to tell the best story. The digital wing is now indispensable to accomplishing this mission. Breaking news can only be done online. User-generated content is infinitely easier to receive and publish using social channels. And crowdsourcing is a natural fit for digital platforms. So an evolving news space requires the right adjustments.
Arab News is constantly adapting to the needs of its readership, so it was crucial to enhance the offering on social media. Readers more often than not start their interaction with stories on these sites. The Arab News brand has received a strong response from fans on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook, where it is on the cusp of welcoming its 5 millionth fan.
Arab News continues to invest in the things that matter most: Content, staff and its digital future. For a publication that seeks to analyze and explain an interesting and at times complicated region, this is welcome news for its readers.
To this day, Arab News remains the pride of its parent company, the Saudi Research and Marketing Group — one of the largest media companies in the Middle East — as it sits alongside well-known Arabic publications including Asharq Al-Awsat, Al-Eqtisadiah and Sayidaty in the company’s roster of brands. Whatever the next 42 years hold for the popular Arab News, its steady and determined evolution would have made the founders proud.