US media sector braces for brutal year for jobs

In this file photo taken on May 16, 2019 the building of the Washington Post newspaper headquarters is seen in Washington, DC. The struggling US media industry is facing its worst year for job layoffs in a decade as news organizations continue to cut staff and close shop, according to a new survey. (AFP / Eric Baradat)
Updated 06 July 2019

US media sector braces for brutal year for jobs

WASHINGTON: The struggling US media industry is facing its worst year for job layoffs in a decade as news organizations continue to cut staff and close shop, according to a new survey.
The consultancy Challenger Gray & Christmas reported this week that media companies, which include movies, television, publishing, music, and broadcast and print news, announced plans to cut 15,474 jobs so far this year, of which 11,878 of which were from news organizations.
That is nearly three times more than the 4,062 cuts announced in the media sector in 2017 and the highest total since the economic crisis in 2009.
“Members of the media, especially journalists, have had a tough few years,” said Andrew Challenger, vice president of the Chicago-based firm.
“Many jobs were already in jeopardy due to a business model that tried to meet consumer demand for free news with ad revenue. As media outlets attempted to put news behind pay walls, in many markets, consumers opted not to pay.”
Some of the notable events this year included the closing of the Youngstown Vindicator, the only daily in the Ohio city, with 144 jobs lost, and the sale of the New Orleans Times-Picayune resulting in the loss of some 160 positions including 65 in the newsroom.
But the troubles have also impacted the digital sector with BuzzFeed cutting 200 employees in January and Verizon eliminating 800 jobs in its media division, which includes Yahoo, AOL, and HuffPost, the Challenger report noted.
The report noted that media companies have been unable to keep pace with Facebook and Google in tailoring ads for customers based on their interests, making it hard to generate online revenue.
It also noted that a rise in browser ad blocking extensions has made it increasingly difficult to monetize online news.
“Job cuts and consolidations are likely to continue until these companies are able to find ways to create growth in revenue streams,” Andrew Challenger said.
He added that subscription-based models will only work if news organizations can convince consumers of the importance and value of their news.
“Another possibility for media companies is to monetize users’ personal data, as Facebook and Google have,” he said.
“There are obvious ethical implications and potential legal issues, however, especially as privacy laws begin to pass in various jurisdictions across the country. Ultimately, the quality of the country’s news will start to decline if we as users refuse to pay for it.”


‘Paranormal’: Netflix’s first Egyptian series whips up social media storm

Updated 12 August 2020

‘Paranormal’: Netflix’s first Egyptian series whips up social media storm

  • The books featured Dr. Rifaat Ismail, a professor of hematology whose life is taken over by supernatural forces

CAIRO: Netflix’s first Egyptian series was trending on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram in Egypt as it marked the “anniversary” of the death of its main character, ahead of its release.

“Paranormal,” a horror series which will be available in the fall of 2020, is based on a hugely popular series of books by the writer Ahmed Khaled Towfik. The books featured Dr. Rifaat Ismail, a professor of hematology whose life is taken over by supernatural forces. Towfik turned out new books in the series twice a year from 1993 until 2004, but he killed off his doctor on Aug. 8. The announcement of his death provoked a strong response, with some fans holding private funerals and some strongly attacked the writer.

The Netflix series has also provoked a strong response over the choice of Ahmed Amin in the lead role. Social media users noted the great similarity between Amin and Ismail but were still concerned over Amin’s ability to do the widely loved character justice, since he is mainly known as a comedy actor.

“August 8 ... the anniversary of the passing of Dr. Rifaat Ismail ... the legend of the godfather, that was never just mere fiction ... it made Ismail a true friend of a whole generation ... 81 stories … which we spent our entire pocket money on ... we hid in them at bedtime, so we could hear from Dr. Rifaat,” Amin wrote on Instagram alongside a picture of himself in character.

“Paranormal,” directed by Salama and Majid Al-Ansari, was filmed in Egypt, and written by Dina Maher, Omar Khaled and the Egyptian poet Mahmoud Ezzat, whose latest film “Souad” was nominated for the Cannes Film Festival.

The novels sold more than 15 million copies and have millions of fans across the Arab world. Towfik, who died unexpectedly at the age of 56 a year ago, once said: “I want it written on my grave: ‘He made young adults read’.”

And so it happened: many fans attached notes bearing this phrase to his grave after his death.