Insights – Exploring the Future of Media

Carma, Insight Discovery, and Capital Club Dubai hosted an exclusive Media Event attended by media professionals, journalists, Club committees and members. The expert panel discussed what the media landscape might look like in the future.


Mazen Nahawi, Founder & Group CEO, Carma

Lynn Chouman, Senior Editor at LinkedIn News

Emma Graham, Supervising Producer at CNBC International

Scott Armstrong, Editor in Chief, Arabian Business

Sunil Singh, Editor, Citywire, Middle East

Moderated by Nigel Sillitoe, CEO, Insight Discovery

Key takeaways:

  • People prefer to follow credible journalists and multiple platforms where there are pockets of excellence for truth.
  • No longer are brands and stations popular but individuals who have a desire to articulate truth.
  • There is a slow but steady return to old-fashioned values and slow journalism, demanded by Gen Z who are more principle- rather than profit-driven.
  • Every journalist needs to address the fundamental questions that every story should be able to answer – the five W’s – Who, What, When, Where, and Why.
  • Human editor vs. Algorithm – who is better at facilitating diverse voices?
  • The last couple of years of the pandemic and the ongoing financial and geopolitical crisis has put additional pressure on the media, already struggling with trust deficit, to do better. The jury is still out.
  • Traditional media were unprepared to respond with agility to the blitz of social media and Google.
  • The call to action is to go back to your purpose, understand your audience and build back the foundations of your business model. Is it fair? Is it accurate? Is it balanced?
  • We are living in the age of digitalization, disinformation, and disregard for the truth, so how does media navigate through this? Are journalists able to separate the wheat from the chaff?
  • The creator economy will challenge the status quo and be the content makers going forward responding to the consumers.
  • Nations that provide more freedom of expression are the ones that progress better and quicker

The outlook for the next few years:
✔ Move towards content with more value; push towards specialists; generalists will struggle
✔ Consumers becoming more aware and demanding
✔ Public trust deficit continues to challenge media
✔ Increase in freelancers
✔ Truth ecosystem via decentralized platforms with individuals being followed; not brands or corporations
✔ Not yet the demise of print media, but a return and rethink through finding purpose, value and uniqueness
✔ Democratization of content for more credible information production and dissemination
✔ Media will find new ways to connect, expand and monetize
✔ Cable TV is dying. Data from Europe reveals that about 1.4 million households will end their TV subscription by 2027
✔ Twitter, LinkedIn, TikTok are the go-to platforms for content

Nigel Sillitoe: The media landscape is changing. From Elon Musk and Twitter to fake news and the public trust deficit, what is the future of media? Some interesting stats reveal that there are 3800 journalists representing 2100 media outlets around the world. When asked what the biggest challenges are, the top answer was maintaining credibility as a trusted news source and combating accusations of fake news. Number two was lack of staffing and resources; and the third was declining advertising in circulation revenues.

Nigel Sillitoe: Where do you go for the truth?

Mazen Nahawi: I do my homework. I do not go to one location, one brand or one outlet anymore. I need to stitch it together. I do not watch Sky News on TV but on Tik Tok because I want to hear a particular journalist that I trust. Where do I go for business news? In the MENA region, I will go to CNBC, Arabian business, for news on Saudi Arabia, I will go to WriteCaliber and the social section in the Riyadh newspaper. There are pockets of excellence which combine a desire to articulate the truth with old fashioned journalism values. Do you have your five Ws answered – what, where, when, who and why? Have you done your homework? Did you give everyone a fair opportunity to express their side of the story? So, it is a concoction of dozens of people, journalists, influencers, but all of them are underpinned by old fashioned journalist values. On my office wall hangs my degree in print journalism. And I take pride in the old-fashioned values of print journalism.

Lynn Chouman:  I go to LinkedIn, not because I work for LinkedIn, but because I want to hear from diverse voices – CEOs who are commenting on a certain trend or environmentalists telling me what is going on in a certain part of the world. I also go to newswires and publications that I trust.

Scott Armstrong: During my training, there were these three pillars of journalism that we had to follow when we reported news: Is it fair? Is it accurate? Is it balanced? Unfortunately, social media, which entraps us into the politics of engagement, because that is the only way media enterprises can make money, holding on to people on their sites for as long as possible. This has not been good for journalism and has created a polarisation. One of the reasons why our evening business went behind a paywall is so we can separate ourselves from that endless treadmill.

If we can be more independent, take a step back and figure out what we want to write that is of value to our audience so that we do not get stuck in that treadmill of engagement. While social media been great in terms of outreach and connecting people, we need to go back to the old-fashioned values that Mazen talks about. Gen Zs and the millennials favour ‘purpose’ and principles. There is beginning of a shift back to capturing values.

Lynn Chouman: LinkedIn has an editorial team, with human editors, who check what the algorithms pick up. We are a team of over one hundred journalists who curate content for members. The mission is to allow the global workforce to build their voices through news, commentary on trends and journalistic content.

Audience 1:  Why is the trust in media so low? Is the structure of the business model of media the root of the problem?

Emma Graham: Interestingly, during the pandemic, our data showed that people started to trust again, as they looked for facts and because we are in one crisis after another. People want to know what is going on and seem to be going back to established sources that have been around for a while rather than independent news organizations.

 Scott Armstrong: I completely agree that media has been in freefall for years. And when Google and Facebook came along, we did not respond. We were lazy and used to taking money from the advertisers and we were asleep at the wheel. And we are still recovering from that. We are still trying to reset. But how do media organizations operate with no budget? How do we retool our business model? This is one of the reasons why we went behind the paywall to try and wean ourselves off the money that the media enterprises make from online advertising, which is ridiculously small. You know, it is a zero-sum game. You must go back to your purpose, your value, define what your audience wants and what makes you unique and then build your business from there.

Sunil Singh: The state of the current state of media is because of the spate of digitalization that we are going through. We are living in the age of disinformation and post-truth, where facts are cherry picked to build an argument. But there is opportunity for the role of real journalism that knows how to separate the wheat from the chaff.

Mazen Nahawi:  The demand for journalism is at an all-time high. But we have a very obsolete financial model for this industry, with its roots connected to advertising funds. We need to modernize. It is not about the platform but the financial model. And we need to care about delivering quality journalism. This transition is happening.

Lynn Chouman: The creator economy will disrupt media with access to diverse platforms. This is the shaking that the business model needs. What matters to people is receiving accurate information. And those that will create more value will succeed.

Nigel Sillitoe: How can you make sure there are more Arabic speaking journalists in this region?

Mazen Nahawi: We need more freedom. When I was a journalist a long time ago, we could not talk about the company performing badly. Today you can. The countries progressing quicker and more successfully are the ones who provide the greatest amount of freedom. Another element is making journalism viable as a career for young Arabs. It needs to be better funded, which goes back to the financial model that needs to be modern and platform agnostic. An expansion of freedom and financial benefits will attract people who are willing to take risks to be a good journalist.

Audience 2: I would have to disagree with you about there being freedom of the press here. We do not criticize the leaders, we do not tackle certain ‘sensitive’ news, we do not write about companies doing badly here.

Mazen Nahawi: It is evolving, and we have come a long way. I have been here since 1974, and there is a definite march towards greater freedom and liberalization with a peaceful evolution. Freedom, that expands gradually over time, moves hand in hand with responsibility and prosperity.

Audience 4: Crypto could potentially assist a token financial model and the concept of a DAO could bring a like-minded community together, with content creators compensated through a token. What are your thoughts?

Lynn Chouman: This could be a new model removing third parties, but it will take time to build something completely different.

Scott Armstrong:  Once there is proper regulation in place, only then can we move into a model like this.

Lynn Chouman: We need time and not to rush to build the right community with credibility and trust.

Nigel Sillitoe:  What is the place for freelancers in the future?

Scott Armstrong: There is a definite seat at the table for them, but at the same time you still want people who will be invested in the company, are part of the values and team.

Mazen Nahawi: Journalism is becoming an increasingly decentralized art, where individual journalists may command greater credibility than a masthead, brand, or title. I trust individuals. I might not trust News Corp, but I trust individual journalists within it. And increasingly, my truth ecosystem is around individuals, not platforms. The most reliable way to monetize media is through the taxpayer and be ready for public spending to become a public trust, a major driver of free and independent journalism in the future.

Nigel Sillitoe: What is the outlook for the next few years?

Emma Graham: Cable TV’s dying. By 2027, about 1.4 million households will close their TV subscriptions. The future is not television. And I work for a television network, and I am saying that. We are looking at Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram, TikTok. I make my TV trained reporters to do a TikTok reel. And that is how we reach the youth of today and this region. Two thirds of the population is under thirty and that is how we reach them. The demand for good journalism, for investigative journalism, for something you can read and learn, is always going to be there, because people really crave information. But television is a dying medium.

Scott Armstrong: The big generalists are going to continue to struggle. You need to be a specialist and have an area where you provide something unique. We are interested in ‘human stories which is what the younger audiences crave. Print is facing the same sorts of challenge as TV, though at Arabian business, we have just increased the size of our magazine and improved the quality of the paper and the paper stock. We have still got faith in it. Having said that, two years ago we were a weekly, now we are monthly and who knows when we might become a quarterly. But there is a future there, and the more we discover our purpose, we will find value and what makes us unique.

Sunil Singh: The outlook of media companies will depend on what framework they will adopt and how consumers are going to accept the content. To survive, media companies need to find an ability to monetize in this age of democratization. It makes it imperative for publishers to find new ways connect to their end users and to develop new experiences that are hyperconnected, immersive and frictionless.

Mazen Nahawi: First, the demand for news will continue to grow exponentially. And with it, the amount of money into media and journalism will grow exponentially. Second, there will be more decentralization on multiple platforms. Many more freelance journalists. And the third, if you give people quality, credible information, they will come to you. And I see all three of these growing at a fast rate. We just need to be able to pull our socks up and go through that change process and survive it.