The National Geographic Society regards the launch of an Arabic-language version of its magazine and its existing TV channel as "vanguards" for further growth in the Middle East. The society says it could explore further business opportunities in the region after the launch of National Geographic Al Arabiya. The magazine, which was officially launched at an event in Abu Dhabi last night and hits the news-stands on October 1, is published under licence by the Abu Dhabi Media Company, which also owns and publishes The National.
The society, which was founded in 1888, also has partnerships with ADMC in the television channel National Geographic Abu Dhabi and the film subsidiary Imagenation Abu Dhabi. "We hope that with the reach of the brand through the magazine and through the channel that there will be a lot more business opportunities in terms of the products, all of which are designed to serve our not-for-profit mission," said Terrence Adamson, the executive vice president of the National Geographic Society. "The vanguard is the magazine and channel - that's our wedge always, in any new market. That's what drives us, that's our soul and our heart. We'll see how the magazine does and we're very optimistic about it."
Mr Adamson said there were no concrete plans for further expansion in the region but pointed to some of the society's activities that were poised for growth. Among them are the National Geographic educational materials, produced under licence by a third party. "The Middle East is one of those places where they think it's positioned for growth ? the footprints are already there and I think it will grow," he said. "I think there will be new partnerships to grow out of it."
A National Geographic retail store in London, which is also run under licence, is another growing business, Mr Adamson said. He said the store licensee had expressed an interest in the Middle East. Expansion into other markets typically "starts with ancillary products like books, maps and DVDs", he said. National Geographic Al Arabiya, which is edited by Mohamed al Hammadi, will be the 33rd local-language edition of the magazine.
It will be distributed across the GCC, Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon, Yemen, Libya, Morocco, Tunisia, Syria and Sudan. Between 20 and 30 per cent of each issue will be generated locally. Chris Johns, the editor-in-chief of National Geographic magazine, said he hoped the launch of the Arabic title would act as "a bridge of understanding" between MENA and the rest of the world. "We look at National Geographic as a bridge across nationalities, cultures, religion and ethnicity," Mr Johns said. "And we feel very strongly that having an Arabic edition will help our reach and help promote world understanding.
"We want people to connect and understand that they are people who love their children and many share the same values that we do and, in turn, for Muslims to understand Christians and Hindus and people of other faiths. "I believe that our work has never been more important ? in the United States right now there is an alarming amount of misinformation about Islam and Muslims." While the magazine does touch on political issues, Mr Johns said it did not have a political agenda. "Our mission is to take an unbiased look at the world and to try to do our very best to tell the truth."