SRMG expands into publishing industry in MENA with the launch of Raff Publishing

Raff Publishing, which has a major presence at the Riyadh International Book Fair (1–10 October, 2021), aims to become MENA’s most forward-looking publishing house in a global industry currently valued at US$92.68bn. (Supplied)
Raff Publishing, which has a major presence at the Riyadh International Book Fair (1–10 October, 2021), aims to become MENA’s most forward-looking publishing house in a global industry currently valued at US$92.68bn. (Supplied)
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Updated 03 October 2021

SRMG expands into publishing industry in MENA with the launch of Raff Publishing

Raff Publishing, which has a major presence at the Riyadh International Book Fair (1–10 October, 2021), aims to become MENA’s most forward-looking publishing house in a global industry currently valued at US$92.68bn. (Supplied)
  • SRMG announces Raff Publishing at the Riyadh International Book Fair, in line with the Group’s new growth strategy and digital transformation
  • Raff Publishing will adopt new models in regional publishing, harnessing digital formats and innovative technologies, and amplifying regional perspectives by publishing the Arab World’s greatest authors

RIYADH: The Saudi Research and Media Group (SRMG) today announced the launch of a book publishing company designed to meet the market needs of the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region. The new venture, Raff Publishing, will embrace digital technologies, explore new formats and adopt innovative business models which support SRMG’s reputation as a leading source of audience-centric content and information in the region.
Raff Publishing, which has a major presence at the Riyadh International Book Fair (1–10 October, 2021), aims to become MENA’s most forward-looking publishing house in a global industry currently valued at US$92.68bn, and forecast to reach US$104.21bn in 2025. The new publishing house will utilize pioneering business models and embrace new digital formats and publishing technologies, including print-on-demand, e-books and audiobooks. While the global publishing market is predicted to grow at a three per cent compound annual growth rate (CAGR) over the next five years, e-books are expected to reach 11.7 per cent CAGR, with audiobooks achieving even stronger growth at 24.4 per cent CAGR, offering significant commercial opportunities for the Group.




Jomana Al-Rashid, CEO of SRMG

“It’s time for the MENA publishing industry to evolve to meet the content demands of a technologically advanced population in Saudi Arabia and across the region,” said Jomana Al-Rashid, CEO of SRMG. “With the launch of Manga Al Arabiya, we witnessed a massive turnout of young Arab talent with creative ideas, ready manuscripts and unique perspectives, and realized that we only need to provide an outlet for this talent to flourish,” added Al-Rashid. “With Raff Publishing, we are committed to developing talent, broadening audience reach with a focus on popular genres to meet existing demand, and to creating new markets through diverse formats, on-demand publishing and intelligent use of data and modelling to inform our business strategies.”
The Group believes it will deliver significant returns by tapping into new audiences, building avenues for consumption, and meeting the demand for Arabic content—including for international best-selling titles across fiction and non-fiction genres.
In line with SRMG’s commitment to enrich Arabic content and foster a culture of reading, Raff Publishing will publish MENA authors with compelling stories, and unique insights enabling it to acquire a roster of the Arab World’s greatest writers and literary classics.
Haifa Al-Jedea, Managing Director of SRMG Think, said: “With the launch of Raff Publishing, we will actively seek out new authors from across the Arabic-speaking world. We aim to publish books that will reach the full range of regional audiences who are hungry to hear stories they can relate to and, most importantly, feel represented by. We know there is an unmet appetite for quality regional content, and we will seek to discover, develop and publish new authors—poets and novelists, children’s authors, essayists, thought leaders and analysts—increasing the opportunities for MENA voices to be heard.”




Haifa Al-Jedea, Managing Director of SRMG Think

To enhance the regional audience’s access to global-best sellers and enrich Arabic content in the region, Raff Publishing has established extensive relationships and arrangements with international publishing houses and authors specializing in genres that are in high-demand but not widely available in the region. These include, Penguin Random House, the largest trade book publisher in the world; John Wiley & Sons, respected publisher of scholarly and scientific works, as well as the bestselling For Dummies books; Abrams, publisher of critically acclaimed and bestselling works; and The MIT Press one of the most distinguished university presses in the world. Raff Publishing is also engaging with global best-selling authors in order to publish their titles in Arabic, including the famous Max Einstein series by renowned author James Patterson,
The first titles from Raff Publishing are expected to be available online and through regional bookstores early in 2022.
With an expanding network of outlets, SRMG’s new growth strategy covers five business verticals: SRMG Media: Digital Platforms, Podcasts and Multimedia; SRMG International: International Investments and Partnerships; SRMG Think, providing unique viewpoints on local, regional and global topics by enhancing existing capabilities and venturing into two new businesses, including Raff Publishing, that complete, complement and enhance the Group’s current offering; SRMG X: Events, Conferences and Exhibitions; and SRMG Labs: Innovation, Incubation, and Training.
Driven by a newly appointed leadership team, and listed on the Tawadul stock exchange in Riyadh, SRMG is focused on delivering original, exclusive and premium content to consumers through new digital and social platforms, as well as strengthening its cable and satellite reach. The recently announced growth strategy leverages the Group’s data and technology strengths to develop new products and services, enhance monetization capabilities and diversify revenue streams.
Raff Publishing is at Riyadh International Book Fair, stand I-01.The Fair runs from 1 – 10 October 2021 at Riyadh Front.


Online Controversy: Israeli comedian’s viral satirical video mocking UAE normalization divides viewers

Noam Shuster-Eliassi, who speaks Arabic fluently and is a strong advocate of Palestinian rights, criticized the peace agreement between Israel and the UAE. (Facebook)
Noam Shuster-Eliassi, who speaks Arabic fluently and is a strong advocate of Palestinian rights, criticized the peace agreement between Israel and the UAE. (Facebook)
Updated 19 January 2022

Online Controversy: Israeli comedian’s viral satirical video mocking UAE normalization divides viewers

Noam Shuster-Eliassi, who speaks Arabic fluently and is a strong advocate of Palestinian rights, criticized the peace agreement between Israel and the UAE. (Facebook)
  • The song “Dubai, Dubai” was performed by Israeli comedian and activist Noam Shuster-Eliassi

LONDON: An Arabic-language satirical Israeli song criticising normalization between Israel and the UAE has gone viral in the Middle East this week, causing a stir online.

The song “Dubai, Dubai” was performed by Israeli comedian and activist Noam Shuster-Eliassi and appeared as part of a comedy sketch on the Arabic-language station Makan 33’s “Shu-Esmo” program.

Shuster-Eliassi, who speaks Arabic fluently and is a strong advocate of Palestinian rights, criticized the peace agreement between Israel and the UAE, highlighting the hypocrisy of Israel’s position on Arab countries. 

The parody song begins with the comedian introducing herself as “Haifa Wannabe,” a reference to the famous Arab singer Haifa Wehbe. 

Shuster-Eliassi then goes on to say that she’s “going to sing an original song I wrote in Arabic in celebration of the peace treaty with Dubai, but in general — it’s very important for me to send out a message of love and peace, particularly if it is found 4,000 kilometers away from here.”

The song’s lyrics include: “At the end of the tunnel there is light, and if only all of the Arabs, like those who are in Dubai who have money, would love the people of Israel and not throw us into the sea.

“There is nothing quite like Arabs who have millions, and who have forgotten the members of their people who underwent a Naqba, who have forgotten Palestine. In Dubai, they forgot the siege on Gaza, how nice would it be if only all the Arabs were from Dubai.”

The song went viral on Arab media outlets sparking a storm from supporters, particularly on social media sites. 

One user, Ahmad Ghanim, tweeted: “The song is a mix of Hebrew and Arabic, and speaks of cooperation between UAE and Israel against the Palestinians. It also speaks about how Arabs have forgotten about Palestine and the suffering of its people. We sincerely appreciate what (the singer) is doing.”

Another said: “This is the best thing I’ve seen on Twitter in a while.” 

Meanwhile, Shuster-Eliassi tweeted: “Have you ever recovered from covid for the 2nd time while causing a diplomatic incident with a viral video mocking a ‘peace’ agreement between 2 governments who were never at conflict, trade weapons anyways and ignore Palestinian human right? Don’t try this at home.” 

 


‘Building bridges’: Annahar opens Dubai bureau

Annahr Al-Arabi opened offices in Dubai. (Supplied)
Annahr Al-Arabi opened offices in Dubai. (Supplied)
Updated 19 January 2022

‘Building bridges’: Annahar opens Dubai bureau

Annahr Al-Arabi opened offices in Dubai. (Supplied)

LONDON: Lebanon’s Annahar Media Group announced on Wednesday the opening of its Dubai bureau, aimed at consolidating its longstanding presence in the Arab world.

“We’re building the bridges that we dream about between Lebanon and the Arab world and the Gulf,” Annahar CEO Nayla Tueni told Arab News. “I salute all the journalists who are fighting for survival in Lebanon.”

Lebanon’s ties with Arab Gulf states deteriorated over the course of 2021. Diplomats from Saudi Arabia, the UAE and other countries were recalled following comments by Lebanon’s then-information minister in which he praised the Iran-backed Houthi militia and criticized the Coalition to Restore Legitimacy in Yemen. Before that, Lebanon’s then-foreign minister blamed Saudi Arabia for the rise of Daesh.

Deciding on launching a physical presence in Dubai after such a turbulent political year between Lebanon and the Gulf is a way to showcase how the country’s political squabbles do not represent its citizens, Tueni said.

During the opening ceremony at the Dubai Press Club, Mona Al-Marri, director general of the Government of Dubai Media Office, described the opening as a “historic moment” that “will take digital media to a whole new level in the Arab region” and “consolidates relations with the UAE.”

The announcement comes as newspapers in Lebanon struggle to keep their doors open in light of the country’s economic crisis, the COVID-19 pandemic, and the ramifications of the 2020 Beirut Port blast.

Annahar Al-Arabi, the newspaper’s latest edition that focuses on pan-Arab coverage, launched on August 4, 2020, the same day of the port explosion that left hundreds dead and thousands injured and homeless.


New podcast ‘Decision Points’ to highlight world-changing moments in time

New podcast ‘Decision Points’ to highlight world-changing moments in time
Updated 19 January 2022

New podcast ‘Decision Points’ to highlight world-changing moments in time

New podcast ‘Decision Points’ to highlight world-changing moments in time
  • Rising Giants Network’s original podcast will focus on historic political, financial, technological decisions

DUBAI; Middle East story-telling company Rising Giants Network has launched its first paid subscription-based podcast, “Decision Points.”

Hosted by commentator and voice artist, Abdullah Mansour, the show, recorded in Saudi dialect, will discuss moments in political, financial, and technological history that changed the world.

Basel Anabtawi, chief executive officer and co-founder of RGN, told Arab News: “Our goal is to highlight how one decision can alter the course of history.

“These decisions include moments such as when Mark Zuckerberg (CEO of Facebook) decided not to return to university resulting in the social media revolution; or when (former US President) Harry Truman decided to drop the atomic bomb, which ended World War II and started the arms race; or even when the (investment banking firm) Lehman Brothers decided to file for bankruptcy, which began a domino effect that resulted in the global recession.”

The show will pinpoint the moment these decisions were made followed by a deep dive into their consequences and aftermath.

“Decision Points” marks RGN’s foray into paid subscription-based podcasting under the banner of RGN Originals. Although the network has produced original shows before, such as “Beirut Blast,” the new show will be available on Apple Podcasts for 4.99 Emirati dirhams ($1.36).

With podcast listenership rapidly increasing in the region, the network has a new slate of shows ready to be released in the first quarter alone.

“We are planning seven new shows (under RGN Originals) at the moment, which would all be released this month,” Anabtawi said.

In March, RGN will also release a scripted show related to former Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein, “Al-Tikriti,” followed by “Al-Rasool,” “7 Bharat,” and the second season of “Hakawati” during Ramadan.

“This (“Decision Points”) is not our first scripted show, but we’ve learned from our previous efforts that what best retains an audience is gripping and riveting content,” Anabtawi added.

“Decision Points” consists of five episodes with a new episode dropping every month.


Netflix to add 25 new Korean titles in 2022

Netflix to add 25 new Korean titles in 2022
Updated 19 January 2022

Netflix to add 25 new Korean titles in 2022

Netflix to add 25 new Korean titles in 2022
  • Global viewing hours of Korean shows grow sixfold in a year

DUBAI: Streaming giant Netflix saw a sixfold increase in global viewing hours of its Korean shows compared with 2020.

“Squid Game,” the platform’s biggest show, led the way with a massive 95 percent of its viewership coming from outside South Korea.

The dystopian drama is the most-viewed Netflix show in 94 countries, with many of its viewers going on to explore more Korean content on the platform.

Two months after the release of “Squid Game,” Netflix launched another Korean show, “Hellbound,” which racked up 43.48 million viewing hours, making it the No.1 show in 34 countries and among the top 10 Netflix shows in 93 countries.

The Korean production “The Silent Sea,” which launched last year, also made it to the top spot on the weekly non-English top 10 lists for its premiere.

The popularity of these shows is also reflected in popular culture, with “Squid Game” merchandise and the striking costume of the characters becoming a Halloween favorite.

Netflix launched more than 130 South Korean titles between 2016 and 2021, and with the increasing popularity and demand for Korean content, the platform is set to launch 25 new shows this year.

These include shows such as “All of Us Are Dead,” “Juvenile Justice,” “Money Heist: Korea — Joint Economic Area,” and movies such as “Seoul Vibe,” “Love and Leashes” and “Carter.”

“We believe this is a slate that showcases more of the inventive and gripping Korean storytelling that the world has come to love,” said Don Kang, vice president of content for Korea, Netflix, in a blog post.

He added: “To do that, we will continue to invest in Korea’s creative ecosystem and, together, we will keep on showing the world that ‘Made in Korea’ means ‘Well-Made’.”


UK bans ad showing girl eating cheese while hanging upside down

UK bans ad showing girl eating cheese while hanging upside down. (Shutterstock)
UK bans ad showing girl eating cheese while hanging upside down. (Shutterstock)
Updated 19 January 2022

UK bans ad showing girl eating cheese while hanging upside down

UK bans ad showing girl eating cheese while hanging upside down. (Shutterstock)
  • Mondelez said the ad was aimed at parents, and had been shown only on programming for adults

LONDON: Britain’s advertising regulator has banned a TV ad that showed a girl eating cheese while hanging upside down, saying it could promote behavior that could lead to choking.
The ad for Dairylea cheese, a brand of US snacks giant Mondelez, had been shown on British video-on-demand services in August last year.
It featured two girls, aged six and eight, hanging upside down from a soccer goalpost, discussing where food went when you hang upside down. One of the girls then ate a piece of Dairylea cheese.
The Advertising Standards Authority said children could try to emulate the girls, and one person had complained that a three-year-old relative had eaten food while hanging upside down after seeing the ad.
Mondelez said the ad was aimed at parents, and had been shown only on programming for adults. The girls were close enough to the ground to be safe from falling, and adults supervising them could be seen in the background. However, the ASA concluded these were not sufficient factors to reduce the risk of harm.