Doing Business in the Middle East: The industry that once changed the world!
Is Print Publishing dying in the Middle East? By Khaled Masri
Chairman Ougarit Group, GM of Dar Al Qalam for Packaging and Print
The Future of Print Publishing and Digital Publishing in the Middle East
When Gutenberg invented the movable printing press in 1440, the world soon changed. However, at that time, Gutenberg would surely not have been aware of the global impact this machine would have and how it lead to the establishment of one of the most important industries in the world. The print industry revolutionized the way in which mass populations received information, and still remains a huge part of life for many people around the world.
Today, the total printing revenues in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) was $17.6 billion in 2012, and are forecast to grow 7.2% per annum reaching $26 billion by 2018. This sector employs a huge number of people. However the future is changing as new printing technology led by nanographic printing is advancing quickly against traditional old methods of printing.
Saudi Arabia is undoubtedly the leading front runner when it comes to printing revenues. However, when it comes to the number of sales, Turkey takes the lead, with the maximum volume share in the market, followed by Saudi Arabia and Iran. Over all countries such as Iraq and Syria showed depreciation in their performance, as the civil war broke out within the country hence the print market faced severe decline. There was news that the growth rate of the newspapers in the Middle Eastern region, has been at an all time low. Lithography has been dominant in the Middle Eastern region and packaging, flexography and detailing has also shown growth. There has been a declining demand for long term planning, which is being replaced by short lived or incoherent printing.
Is Print Publishing Dying in the Middle East?
The reasons for its decline
The most important reason for the decline in print publishing is the easily accessible internet and the new mediums, such as smart phones, which consumers are increasingly using more of.
The contrast differences between literacy ability, education and socioeconomic backgrounds within and among the Middle East is also another contributing factor to the decline.
Political movements and agendas are also contributing, whereby aspects such as censorship are greatly securitized by the public. This particularly leads for consumers to look elsewhere, such as the uncensored and instant internet.
Increasing costs of print are also have detrimental effects on the industry. In particular, the use of old machinery has led to a decrease in efficiency of the number of prints.
Another aspect which is affecting the print industry is the emerging social movement of environmentalism. Many people are becoming more environmentally conscious and thus the trend to more sustainable and environmentally friendly options are also negatively impacting the print industry.
Recently, the political upheaval in the Middle East has also led to a decline in print services. A series of large protests began in Yemen, Iraq, Bahrain, Syria, Tunisia and Egypt. This reduced advertisers’ confidence in print advertisements. While the economic situation did not reach abysmal levels, this conflict led to private print media outlets, which rely on advertising, to suffer. Additionally, as the political protests became more frequent many of the publishing projects were shelved.
New Trend of Digital printing
The combination of the many factors mentioned above has had detrimental effects on the print industry. These, combined with the shift from print to digital, greatly affected the print newspaper economy in particular. Newspapers have started printing less, and have now tried to incorporate digital into their distribution mediums.
A concept, known as Paywall, has greatly helped the newspaper industry’s shift to digital print. Paywall is a system which prevents internet users from accessing web page articles without a paid subscription. With the increase of tablet and smart phone usage, this is a direction which may rescue the newspaper industry. While many have criticized, saying that those which have previously obtained news from the internet for free, will not pay for a subscription to access content. However, newspaper companies are determined to see it succeed.
Despite the factors which are pushing for a decline in the print industry, the Middle Eastern print market is forecast to grow. While digital printing has shown vigorous growth, consumer needs are continuing to fluctuate. With improvements in print quality emerging, particularly as technology improves and as companies upgrade, the print industry is able to maintain its appeal. This is particularly true as magazine popularity increases.
Consumer needs are constantly changing, and as we head into this new era of digital publishing, and of instant internet news access, it’s vital that the print industry is adaptable. While there are many challenges yet to be faced, the print publishing industry is definitely not done in the Middle East where it’ll continue to be an important, dynamic and influential industry.