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Thu 25 Jun 2020 12:04 PM

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Arabian Business: why we're going behind a paywall

Great, independent content has value and we believe publishers and media houses should be at the forefront of protecting it

Arabian Business: why we're going behind a paywall

On June 26, Arabian Business will go behind a paywall. Anyone who wishes to read its market-leading mix of news, interviews, features and columns, as well as watch its original debate shows and new bulletins, will have to pay the modest sum of $5.99 per month to do so.

It’s a decision that has been long in the making, and the subsequent journey to launch has been punctuated by the usual considerations of timing, market conditions, audience reaction and the potential impact on traffic and, as a result, advertising revenues.

Ultimately, though, we are confident that charging readers to access the content on ITP Media Group’s flagship title is not only the right one for us as a business but, in terms of the entire media industry here in the Middle East, the responsible one, too. Put simply, placing a dollar value on the high-quality content our team produces every hour of every day protects the integrity of their work.

The articles, columns, interviews, features, videos and podcasts on Arabian Business require a significant investment to create and, as a result, have an intrinsic value in their own right – and one that shouldn’t be measured purely in terms of the advertising that may or may not surround them.

In fact, the more we discussed the imposition of the paywall in the current media landscape, the more it made sense to us. On the one hand, we’ve seen the decline of print circulations and revenues – ITP’s for most of the last 30 years – and the fracturing of traditional advertising methods. On the other, we’ve witnessed the emergence of new platforms, new brands and new content creators, all disrupting the way companies such as ours operate. Taken together, these factors have forced us to evolve and in the last two or three years, we have worked hard to incorporate this new thinking into our own offering, and now influencer management, original video content and virtual conferencing and events are important elements in our portfolio. ITP is a now a genuine digital-first media house.

The paywall is merely another manifestation of this philosophy. We are pivoting towards a sustainable revenue model that is driven by the consumer – the reader – rather than the advertiser, and on Arabian Business that will be underpinned by quality editorial produced in a variety of engaging, innovative formats that our readers will be prepared to pay for. The traffic our site attracts will now be a testament to our team’s efforts not what fuels it.

As we refine the product and expand its reach and relevance beyond the immediate region, it is really not unreasonable to think that subscriptions will overtake advertising revenue in a relatively short space of time. This optimism has precedent: after all, consumers in the Middle East already pay for almost every other type of media they consume, whether that’s the magazines they buy in supermarkets, the music they stream on Spotify or the television they watch via Netflix and Amazon Prime.

The paywall will have other, non-financial benefits, too. Firstly, it will help ensure our editorial independence and afford our journalists the scope to continue pursuing stories across the region with even greater tenacity. Secondly, it will increase the quality of the readership. From June 26, the only people reading ArabianBusiness.com will be those who have paid to do so, which means we can start to hone our product around the needs and desires of a real, engaged and accessible community.

So, despite the questions and doubts that naturally accompany a step such as this, we are greeting the paywall not as a moment of anxiety or trepidation but one of excitement and no little pride. Arabian Business will be the first publication in the Middle East to put its content behind a paywall and, by doing so, we believe we will help revolutionise the way media here is accessed, consumed and ultimately paid for.

Whatever else the paywall achieves, that legacy alone will be ample reward.

From June 26, unlimited access to ArabianBusiness.com can be unlocked for $5.99 per month. Click here for more details.