Wan-Ifra launches new program in the Middle East

Aimed to drive newsroom transformation towards reader revenue success

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Wan-Ifra
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A Wan-Ifra program tailored to pioneering Middle Eastern newsrooms, the Newsroom Transformation Programme 2021 will be launched on May 18, 2021. It will provide intensive coaching, training, and mentoring over three months to senior editorial and commercial participants. Ten selected news publishers across the Middle East will be able to speed up the transformation of their newsrooms to ensure they are both audience-centric and sustainable.

The participants will be drawn from the ten news organizations which are selected from applications by Wan-Ifra members in the region. A formal call for applicants will go out next week.

Facebook and Wan-Ifra have partnered to launch the new initiative. Mechthild Schimpf, director Middle East of Wan-Ifra, said, “All over the world, newsrooms are having to transform to stay relevant and sustainable – and not only because of Covid-19. We are delighted that through this partnership with Facebook, we can be a catalyst and help news publishers in the region develop the skills and generate ideas to move their newsrooms and products to the next level.”

Facebook is committed to ensuring traditional news outlets can create thriving digital businesses. Our partnership with Wan-Ifra to bring the Newsroom Transformation Programme 2021 to the Middle East reinforces these efforts that support the news ecosystem in the region,” said Mohamed Omar, strategic partner manager, News Partnerships Middle East, and North Africa at Facebook.

The program will focus on four key themes topics:

Understanding waves of disruption to news media. Participants will learn to plan, lead and manage transformation while building a culture of innovation in the newsroom;

Developing an integrated editorial and business vision for the news organization and a content portfolio that supports the needs of different revenue streams (including advertising);

Defining target audiences and planning audience development for acquisition, activation, engagement, and retention. It will focus on new product development in cooperation with relevant parts of the organization;

Identifying the new operational skills and capabilities needed to deliver the editorial strategy. It will equip participants to plan new workflows and adjust newsroom resources to execute on a new strategy.

Co-leaders of the program will be George Brock and Gregor Waller.

George Brock is a former managing editor of The Times (London) and professor of journalism at City, University of London. He has been president of the World Editors Forum and served on the board of the International Press Institute. He is the author of Out of Print: Newspapers, Journalism and the Business of News in the Digital Age. He was co-leader of the Newsroom and Business Transformation Asia 2020, also set up by Wan-Ifra and Facebook.

Gregor “Greg” Waller is a globally active media consultant focused on both business and editorial elements of digital transformation. Greg Waller holds an MBA in strategic management with Prof Dr Ebers (former Associate Professor of Professor Michael E. Porter, Harvard). He worked for Axel Springer as head of Strategy and Innovation and member of the board of Welt and regional quality papers. He introduced Axel Springer’s first paywalls in 2009. As a core member of the corporate Premium Content task force, he shaped the premium content strategies for Bild and Welt.

Wan-Ifra is the World Association of News Publishers. Its mission is to protect the rights of journalists and publishers around the world to operate independent media. Wan-Ifra provides its members with expertise and services to innovate and prosper in a digital world and perform their crucial role in society. With formal representative status at the United Nations, UNESCO, and the Council of Europe, it derives its authority from its global network of leading news publishing companies and technology entrepreneurs, and its legitimacy from its 60 national association members representing 18,000 publications in 120 countries.

The Covid-19 pandemic led to the country-wide lockdown on 25 March 2020. It will be two years tomorrow as I write this. What have we learned in this time? Maybe the meaning of resilience since small companies like us have had to rely on our resources and the forbearance of our employees as we have struggled to produce our trade platforms.

The print and packaging industries have been fortunate, although the commercial printing industry is still to recover. We have learned more about the digital transformation that affects commercial printing and packaging. Ultimately digital will help print grow in a country where we are still far behind in our paper and print consumption and where digital is a leapfrog technology that will only increase the demand for print in the foreseeable future.

Web analytics show that we now have readership in North America and Europe amongst the 90 countries where our five platforms reach. Our traffic which more than doubled in 2020, has at times gone up by another 50% in 2021. And advertising which had fallen to pieces in 2020 and 2021, has started its return since January 2022.

As the economy approaches real growth with unevenness and shortages a given, we are looking forward to the PrintPack India exhibition in Greater Noida. We are again appointed to produce the Show Daily on all five days of the show from 26 to 30 May 2022.

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