What does digital comms really look like in UAE?

By Anthony Hughes

Returning to the UK after five years with Newgate’s Abu Dhabi operation in the UAE has been a big adjustment in many ways not just marvelling at the rain. One of the most interesting things I have noticed is how many misconceptions exist about the region.

Many people have been to Dubai and marvelled at the architecture, the engineering feats that have built world class attractions and the opulence and wealth. Some know that Abu Dhabi produces oil and has global cultural icons such as the Louvre, the Shiekh Zayed Mosque and even the impressive F1 circuit. What many people do not know is the Gulf states’ local populations are predominantly young, well-educated and tech-savvy. Around 60 percent of Gulf populations are under 25, outward-looking and as comfortable using English as they are in Arabic. As with many other societies the smart phone is ubiquitous. Smartphone penetration in the UAE for example is at 200 percent so almost everyone has at least one phone or most likely two and some times more. This has had a resounding impact on the region, which has seen, among other things a massive shift from ‘old-fashioned’ traditional media to digital and social media platforms in a matter of years.

As you might expect video content (viewed on mobile devices) is the most important content type particularly for engagement of younger generation who spend an average of 72mins per day watching video content according to the Dubai Press Club. YouTube is viewed daily by half of young Arabs (50 percent) according to the Arab Youth Survey and KSA has some of the highest rate of users on YouTube globally. The fastest growing video segment is “short-form (few minutes long), amateur digital content — curated by Arab youth and distributed on platforms like Whatsapp, Facebook, Snapchat and Instagram. However, this is also changing, in a recent survey nearly seven in ten national internet users say they changed how they use social media due to privacy concerns. The desire for greater privacy, combined with the dominance of mobile and social video, needs to be taken into account in any effective social media strategy in the Middle East.

Sources:
• World Bank
• Dubai Press Club
• Arab Youth Survey
• Global Media Insight
• CNN
• Dubai studio City
• Al Arabiya

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