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His Excellency Sheikh Nahyan bin Mubarak Al Nahyan, UAE Minister of State for Tolerance, highlighted the role of the media in connecting people and increasing human engagement around the world during his keynote speech on the first day of the 14th edition of the World Association of Newspapers and News Publishers (WAN-IFRA 2019) Middle East Conference. Dubai Production City, the region’s leading community for the printing, publishing, warehouses and events industries is co-hosting the conference for the third consecutive year to showcase industry trends, create awareness on best practices and highlight future solutions for media, printing and publishing.

Ran at the Dubai Knowledge Park Conference Centre from 6 to 7 March, the leading event for the media, printing and publishing industry in the region drew the participation of over 250 key stakeholders, publishers, journalists and industry experts from across the globe.

Welcoming the audience, His Excellency Sheikh Nahyan bin Mubarak Al Nahyan said: “The media industry plays a significant role in modern times, especially with the arrival of social media that has brought unprecedented levels of engagement. It has blurred the lines of credibility but also created new ways to connect. New media and digital publishing have given most people the ability to consume and share almost all news, information and ideas from around the globe.”

He added: “I extend a warm welcome to all our guests, who help us promote excellence in media regionally and globally. As you all know, 2019 is the Year of Tolerance in the UAE, and in this context, we have implemented several new initiatives and visions for the improvement of the country. Tolerance is not a natural state for most people, yet it has the potential to offer great economic and human benefits. This year’s WAN-IFRA Middle East Conference will feature several discussions about tolerance in the news and publishing industry.”

In his speech, Majed Al Suwaidi, managing director of Dubai Production City, said: “The UAE ranks 30th in the Digital Competitiveness Report 2018 in terms of knowledge, technology and future readiness. The country’s ambitious vision and strong leadership has made it what it is now. With the rapid technological change, publishing houses, businesses and stakeholders in the media industry are exploring new ways to harness innovative solutions to achieve higher revenues and benefit their audience.”

He added: “Today, the members of our audience are selective about the content they consume and invest in, and it is imperative that we adapt to these changes. At this year’s WAN-IFRA Middle East Conference, some of the topics under the scanner include native advertising emerging as a premium source of revenue following the decline in value of traditional advertising. Also, we aim to envision the future of newsrooms and provide solutions for businesses to address upcoming challenges in the industry.”

In closing, he said: “We are proud to co-host the conference for the third consecutive year and look forward to some insightful discussions over these two days.”

Dr Saleh Al-Humaidan, chairman of the WAN-IFRA Middle East Committee in Saudi Arabia, said: “The media industry has seen many changes, especially due to the rise of new and digital media, and adapted to them through updating its tools and creating new ways to address the evolving requirements of the end users.”

He added: “Dubai has become a prime destination for events such as this conference, and the support we have received this year underlines its leadership’s commitment to advancing the media industry.”

The first day of the conference hosted sessions with renowned speakers, such as Ibrahim Badei, chief executive officer of Dar Al Hayat, and social media influencers Lojain Omran and Aseel Omran. Torry Pedersen, head of editorial at Schibsted Media in Norway, enlightened the audience about the rise of mobile phones as the preferred choice to receive news. Meanwhile, Dorthe Bjerregaard-Knudsen, Executive Vice President and COO of JP/Politikens Hus in Denmark, shed light on how media companies are reinventing and transforming their business models to stay ahead.

The second day featured sessions from Ruba Ibrahim, head of operations at Al Arabiya, and Khadeeja Al Marzooqi, editor-in-chief at Dubai Post and Emirates 24/7.

Held under the theme ‘The Age of the Audience’, WAN-IFRA Middle East Conference 2019 provides publishing executives and other stakeholders with an opportunity to gain insights into the latest regional and global trends in printing and publishing. The two-day event also serves as a learning platform for young innovative talent. This year’s edition of the conference highlights successful business models and the role of technologies such as artificial intelligence (AI) in driving digital revenues within media companies worldwide.