What is next for Arab News and digital journalism

What is next for Arab News and digital journalism
Updated 20 April 2017

What is next for Arab News and digital journalism

What is next for Arab News and digital journalism

On this day in 1975, Arab News was launched to provide Saudi Arabia-based readers with breaking news and informed analysis of events in the Kingdom and around the world.
Then, in 2001, the familiar green broadsheet was joined by a website, marking Arab News’ first foray into digital journalism.
To mark 42 years as one of the country’s leading English-language dailies, we sat down with Arkan Aladnani, Mahad Mohamed and Romulo Tangbawan of Arab News Online, to understand where the newspaper’s digital platform is headed and why it is so important.
Q: Arab News has already embraced change with its substantial digital offering — but does it plan to become more Internet-focused?
A: Many years ago, the battle of print versus the airwaves ended, and neither won the race. A new battle of the digital news era has begun — and across the world, news organizations are facing the same exciting challenges that we at Arab News are overcoming every day.
Fueling this battle is the rise of connected devices, such as smartphones, with which many now consume the news. The planet has gone digital and this is especially evident in Saudi Arabia, where smartphone penetration rates are extremely high.
Therefore, digital publishing and related social-media platforms of any news organization are key to success. Embracing this evolution allowed us to be at the fingertips of millions of people around the globe, bypassing geography and time zones to access a whole new base of readers.
We are able to reach our audience with news headlines and breaking news alerts so they don’t miss a beat when it comes to current affairs. Our online team is growing and that is a direct reflection of what our audience is demanding. We understand that it is the future and we are confident in forging a path in the right direction.
Q: Does online journalism pose different challenges to those faced in print journalism?
A:
To be heard clearly is an issue for all in the crowded online space. However, by sharing quality news and being consistent, we are overcoming this obstacle.
Another obvious challenge is speed. There needs to be an increasingly narrow time gap between a story breaking and posting it online. We don’t have the luxury of working toward a singular, late-night print deadline and we are required to operate 24 hours a day.
Another pressing issue is related to the verification of content circulating online, particularly on social media. It is sometimes very difficult to ascertain when a video was taken and if a poster’s claim is accurate. Of course, this last point, along with the proliferation of fake news, is something the whole industry is grappling with and is not limited to online journalism. However, journalists in the digital sphere must be over-cautious and diligent as the need for speed can lead to erroneous stories spreading like wildfire.
Q: Arab News is gaining social media followers by the minute and has 5 million followers on Facebook. How did you manage to build up such a large online following and what were the challenges involved?
A:
Firstly, having 5 million loyal and engaging fans from across the world is a great honor and something we are really proud of. Secondly, we believe that our emphasis on quality and accuracy, and being consistent in sharing interesting and newsworthy content, has garnered us such a loyal following.
Our followers are counting on us to provide them with their daily dose of news. We listen to them and learn from them and we engage with them every minute of the day.
Keeping this huge fan base informed requires time and effort, especially as we cover the news 24/7. We are up for the challenge and realize that our efforts are being rewarded every day as more and more people choose to find out what is happening in the world via our platform.
Q: Arab News is active on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram but which platform do you believe is the most effective?
A:
Considering the different demographic of each platform, we would say that every platform is effective in its own way.
When we post, we do so with the audience in mind. A post on Twitter — where we are followed by a number of official governmental accounts, leaders and other political influencers — will be different from posts we share on Facebook and Instagram, where we can be more creative and engaging.
If we are talking about the sheer number of followers, then clearly our Facebook and Instagram accounts are the most successful channels we have on social media. We are proud to say we outdo many competitors in the Middle East in terms of our followers on these platforms.
Q: Arab News traditionally had a readership base comprising diplomats and business-focused readers. Has the online platform changed this?
A:
For sure, while these readers have always found Arab News useful in understanding the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and the wider region, the website and social media platforms have earned us a new base of fans.
With more than 100,000 Twitter followers, we are followed by international corporations, celebrities, sport personalities, governments from all around the world, as well as influencers and international users interested in a wide variety of content.