An overnight advertising downturn impacted publishers and journalists worldwide. Would anyone step up to help?

Photography by Andrew Mwai

“It’s a paradox that, as more and more people realise they need high-quality factual information to navigate the crisis, the business models that sustain that information are collapsing,” the non-profit International Media Support (IMS), explains.

“The global economic shutdown has severely reduced the advertising revenues that many media outlets depend on.”

As a result, “worldwide, countless independent news providers are being forced to scale down, lay off reporters or close altogether”.

This financial backdrop is just one factor shaping the response of news organisations and journalists to the pandemic, alongside issues such as navigating the ‘infodemic’ and frequent encouragements on…

COVID-19 has encouraged encroachments on media freedom

Image via the Council of Europe

Writing in Foreign Policy at the end of June 2020, Sushma Raman, executive director of the Carr Center for Human Rights Policy at the Harvard Kennedy School, reflected on “the global deterioration of press freedom”, adding that “an increasing number of attacks on the media have come in places where press freedom was once enshrined”.

One of the primary reasons for attacking, or threatening, journalists is to try and influence their reporting. As Gavin Rees, director of Dart Centre Europe, has explained:

“The basic headline is that if somebody is threatening you, they are trying to get into your head…

Navigating misinformation has been a key challenge for journalists during the COVID era

The picture painted by Kathy Katella, a senior clinical writer for Yale School of Medicine, will be familiar to almost everyone.

“You read about COVID-19. Then, you read some more. Then, you read things that contradict other things… COVID-19 is worrisome enough, so when you add in the tsunami of information surrounding it — and whiplash accompanying it — it can wear you down. If you’re overwhelmed, you’re not alone.”

This dynamic led to the WHO acknowledging that the outbreak, and response to it, has resulted in “an over-abundance of information — some accurate and some not — that makes…

In 2011, Facebook and Twitter were key players in political uprisings across the region. What’s changed since then?

Protesters in Aden, Al Mansoora during the Arab Spring 2011 calling for the secession of South Yemen from the North. Credit: AlMahra via Wikimedia

It is now a decade since the Arab Spring, a period of upheaval and turmoil that continues to have repercussions across the region.

Although its importance has arguably been overstated, social media played an important role in contributing to the organisation of protests and enabling outside journalists to get a sense of what was happening on the ground.

As someone who has been tracking this scene in a series of annual reports since 2012, here are ten ways that social media has changed in the Middle East in the decade since the Arab Spring.

1. Facebook falls out of fashion (but not everywhere)

At the time, the biggest social…

New markets, investment and collaboration are just some of the potential prospects that closer links are already beginning to unlock.

The Abraham Accords, a series of normalisation deals signed last year between Israel and Bahrain, Morocco, Sudan and the United Arab Emirates (UAE), offer the chance to galvanise the technology sector across the region.

The deals signed last year established diplomatic relations between the countries and also opened the way for more business opportunities between the long-estranged states.

The Accords were “a historical and timely breakthrough, and a turning point for the Middle East region,” says Abdulla Al Hamed, managing partner at digital transformation and consultancy company INTERMID and chairman of the Bahrain Internet Society. …

How did the COVID-19 pandemic affect social media use in the Middle East and North Africa?

I’ve been mapping social media trends in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA), producing an annual report every year since 2012, in order to highlight evolving social media habits in the region.

The latest study dropped in March, looking at social media usage during the pandemic, as well as longer-term trends.

Here are five main takeaways from the report.

1. The Middle East loves social media

Although usage varies, research from GlobalWebIndex indicates that social media users in the wider Middle East and Africa (MEA) region spend over three and a half hours a day on social networks.

In doing this, time is split across a…

The latest social media stats for consumer adoption and usage of social networking platforms in the Middle East & Africa (MENA)

This week saw the publication of a new report, “How the Middle East Used Social Media in 2020,” produced in partnership with the New Media Academy in Dubai, and offering the most up to date — and comprehensive — look at the trends that shaped social media in the MENA region last year.

My co-author Hadil Abuhmaid and I consulted more than 200 different sources — from academics, news releases, interviews, media and event coverage, as well as studies produced by agencies and brands — to provide a data-rich evidence base outlining the latest trends in social media habits and…

The study can be used as a guide for individuals and institutions to enhance their digital content on social media platforms

Media Release for “How the Middle East Used Social Media in 2020” a new report (free to download) out now in English and Arabic.

Report Highlights

  • Over 200 sources of information were curated for this report
  • 79% of Arab Youth consider social media a primary news source, with a 25% increase from 2015
  • 65% increase for TikTok GCC influencers’ fanbase between February and August 2020
  • 5 hours a day is the average time spent on Social Media by users in the Middle East
  • UAE users have over 10 accounts on social media platforms
  • Egypt is the 9th largest market for Facebook in the world with 44 million users
  • Saudi Arabia, Iraq and Egypt are among the 13 largest markets for Snapchat worldwide
  • Google, WhatsApp and YouTube…

The pandemic rapidly upended journalistic norms and created a series of unprecedented challenges

Journalists during a press conference. EPA-EFE/Mauricio Duenas Castaneda Via International Press Institute.

The impact of COVID-19 on newsrooms was as rapid as it was sudden. As Hannah Storm, Director of the Ethical Journalism Network pointed out during the earlier stages of the pandemic: “News organisations had to reinvent decades of working practices in days.”

“Nothing compares with the events of recent weeks in terms of the global impact on media around the world of COVID-19 and the unprecedented scale of the story, and the demands it is making on our journalism and on us as journalists.”

Not surprisingly, given the all-encompassing nature of the pandemic, it has left an indelible mark on…

A new report from the Thomson Reuters Foundation gives voice to journalists around the world and their experiences during the pandemic — here are seven key findings.

This is an extract from a new report on The Impact of COVID-19 on Journalism in Emerging Economies and the Global South, published by the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

COVID-19 is a generation-defining pandemic, impacting families and communities in every country on the planet. In this report, we explore the consequences of the COVID crisis on journalism in developing economies and the Global South.

To help us do this, 55 alumni of training programmes run by the Thomson Reuters Foundation (TRF) shared their experiences about living — and working — in the COVID era. …

Damian Radcliffe

Chambers Professor in Journalism @uoregon | Fellow @TowCenter @CardiffJomec @theRSAorg | Write @wnip @ZDNet | Host Demystifying Media podcast

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