MENA advertisers to keep favouring print

Newspaper advertising revenues in the MENA region will continue to outpace those in online media for at least five years, according to local media executives.

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Newspaper advertising revenues in the MENA region will continue to outpace those in online media for at least five years, according to local media executives.

This comes despite trends in some other markets, where digital advertising revenues have recently overtaken those in the traditional media.

According to the digital marketing research firm eMarketer, this year will be the first time that US advertisers spent more on the internet compared with newspapers.

Total spending on digital advertising is expected to hit US$25.8 billion (Dh94.76bn) for the year, surpassing the $22.8bn spent on advertising in US newspapers, TheWall Street Journal reported.

But newspaper and advertising executives in the MENA region said that while they expected online advertising to eventually overtake print, this would not happen in the near future.

"I believe that internet advertising in the Middle East market will indeed overtake print advertising. However, I do not believe this will happen within the next five years," said Mark Rix, the chief executive of 7DAYS and Catchpole Communications, the management company of the UAE's free daily tabloid.

Elie Aoun, the managing director for the MENA region at Ipsos MediaCT, which tracks advertising spending, agreed that it would take "years" for online advertising spending to catch up.

"Newspapers are still very popular in our region and used by a lot of advertisers. I estimate online revenues not to exceed 3 per cent of total advertising revenues in our region, while newspapers can be at least 30 per cent," said Mr Aoun.

"Growth of advertising expenditures online is growing, but slowly. It will [take] many years to reach the level of print advertising."

Andreanne Leclerc, the digital planning director for the MENA region at the media buying agency MEC, said it was "very unlikely that online spending will overtake newspapers within the next three to five years".

Mrs Leclerc pointed to several factors behind this, including the "low or underdeveloped" online environment in markets such as Saudi Arabia and Egypt, and the relatively high cost of internet access in the region. The "mindset of many advertisers is still angled towards traditional media", she said.

Despite this, Mrs Leclerc noted "exponential growth" in the region's online advertising spending, but cautioned that the market was "not monitored at an industry level so actual figures do not exist".

Mr Rix said mobile advertising was also poised for growth.

"We ought not to exclude mobile device advertising when considering this question, particularly given the extraordinary level of mobile penetration in the region," he said. "From the perspective of my own business, 7DAYS, this arguably has greater long-term revenue potential."

While online advertising may have just overtaken its newspaper counterpart in the US, the surge in digital spending came earlier in other markets. UK internet advertising spending overtook that of newspapers in 2006, according to a report issued in 2007 by the Internet Advertising Bureau and PricewaterhouseCoopers.