Cairo Conference Assesses Impact of Innovation on Media Worldwide
The Media Development Program (MDP) in Egypt marked its first anniversary with a daylong conference on the impact of industry innovations. Attended by several hundred media professionals, the Cairo event focused on changes within the media sectors of Egypt, the Middle East, and worldwide. Many of the innovations discussed are the subjects of training, consultations, and other support provided to Egyptian media partners through MDP.
"Fast technology reform has begun testing Egyptian media, like other media in the region—and the world, for that matter—and new media concepts add to the need for quick and thorough adaptation," said Joe Raffelberg, IREX's Chief of Party for MDP in Egypt.
IREX provides the key technical media development expertise for MDP, a five-year program supported by the US Agency for International Development through a contract to Management Systems International, Inc. Other partners on the program are D3 Systems, specializing in market research; and CARE, long engaged in civil-society development at the governorate level in Egypt.
MDP focuses on support to media-training institutions operated by key partners in the Egyptian media, ranging from the Al Akbar publishing company to the Middle East News Agency (MENA) and the Faculty of Mass Communication at Cairo University. Other program elements address business development for media outlets nationally and in the targeted governorates of Alexandria, Aswan, and Minya. MDP works with media managers, editors, and journalists from print, broadcast, and online media, and recently completed detailed media market research conducted to independent international standards for its partners in Egypt.
The September conference, entitled “Media Industry Innovation - At Home and Abroad,” examined the impact of innovation and competition on Egyptian media, the prospects for non-state commercial media outlets in Egypt, and the opportunities and challenges posed by the globalization of media. Three workshop sessions focused on "Impact of Innovation and Competitiveness on the Media," "A Future for the Independent Media," and "Globalization - Threats and Opportunities for the Media."
Speakers included Mohamed Ahdy Fadly, chairman of the board of the Akhbar Al-Youm publishing house and participant in an MDP-sponsored trip to the World Association of Newspapers’ 2007 annual conference in Cape Town, South Africa; Louis Greiss, training director for the Supreme Press Council; and Magdy Al-Gallad, chief editor of the successful non-state Al-Masry Al-Yom newspaper. International perspectives came from Kailash Kalyani of Microsoft in Egypt; Robb Montgomery, an expert on visual journalism; and David Dunkley Gyimah, a pioneer video journalist.
"Innovate or die," Dr. Mahmoud Alameddin, head of Cairo University’s Faculty of Mass Communication’s Journalism Department, told the Egyptian media community during his presentation. "In order for an Egyptian journalist to be successful and independent, he must first and foremost be professional."
Several speakers noted how changes in media technology have begun testing Egyptian media, like other media in the region and the world. For example, noted IREX’s Raffelberg, the market research conducted for the Media Development Project found that substantial numbers of respondents “want the information to be offered in handier forms and formats, and better and colorfully illustrated through generous pictures, maps and meaningful graphics – for they are visually influenced by TV and the Internet.”
“They also indicate that communication tools like SMS and Internet offer a vast potential for development—a conclusion that has already caused MENA to add packaged news products to their range of money-spinning services,” he said. “And they tell other, say, “established” media how much they stand to gain from employing their brand attraction and by updating their websites more frequently to build loyalty and cash in on it.”
The MDP research also showed that 55 percent of a sample 3,000 respondents in Cairo never read a newspaper. Raffelberg said one of the reasons given was the failure of this medium to reach young people. Others surveyed said they would like to read more about their home and neighborhood environments, health and science subjects, and business opportunities—written in plain language and putting developments in context.
In addition to the market research, which will be analyzed individually for MDP’s Egyptian partners, the project is offering a wide range of consultations, workshops, technological upgrades, study tours, and other support as the media sector develops responses to the pressure for innovation. Areas covered include newspaper design, multi-media websites, new trends in advertising and circulation management, and newsroom convergence.