A pat on the head is all our media seems worth

You know when you really want something to be good, and it ends up leaving you feeling vaguely disappointed? I’m thinking of stuff like Quentin Tarantino’s Jackie Brown movie, Mars Bar milk drink, England’s cricket tour of Pakistan, flying with Qatar Airways or Christmas.

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By  Tim Burrowes Published  December 18, 2005

A pat on the head is all our media seems worth|~||~||~|You know when you really want something to be good, and it ends up leaving you feeling vaguely disappointed? I’m thinking of stuff like Quentin Tarantino’s Jackie Brown movie, Mars Bar milk drink, England’s cricket tour of Pakistan, flying with Qatar Airways or Christmas. Because you over-anticipate beforehand, the actual experience ends up being no more than okay at best. And this year I added another one to the list. I’m afraid that the launch of Emirates Today just hasn’t lived up to its initial promise. It’s one of the UAE-based media vehicles we get an international verdict on in our feature on page 18 this week. And the main message from our panel on virtually all the titles reviewed is that there’s no more than a pat on the head for the Middle East for nearly being there. That certainly goes for Emirates Today. If only the title were as vigorous as its proprietor, Abdullatif Al Sayegh. He certainly talked a convincing game ahead of launch. It could have been so good. Reasonably resourced, and with a new team, it had a real chance to blow the market away. Goodness knows the appalling Khaleej Times and complacent Gulf News deserve it. Instead, it’s just okay. It’s not terrible, it’s not embarrassing, but it’s nothing special. The best tabloid (of a bad bunch) is still 7Days. The news coverage in Emirates Today is relatively bland – there have been far more predictable tales about rents and traffic than there have genuinely challenging stories. There is also more reliance on wire service copy than a paper living and breathing the local culture should offer. Unlike the tightly targeted 7Days (targeted at being bought by the wealthy owners of the UK’s Metro, probably), it’s hard to see just who Emirates Today currently sees as its core audience. That said, there are a couple of things it can build on. First, the features section started strongly from day one and has remained the best thing in the newspaper. Second, it is still very early days. In the time the team has been together, many newspapers would still not have launched. And third, its distribution and production issues should sort themselves out over time, although I still found myself unable to buy that day’s copy in either of my local supermarkets on Monday of last week. As to the radio verdict, I think our juror was being kind. Without wanting to re-open an old debate, the state of radio advertising remains a scandal, with a fresh horror each week. I hope you had the chance to hear the Ideal Home Exhibition advert — it was a new crime against humanity. TV is similarly slapdash. While it was nice having Viacom bigwig Sumner Redstone in town last week, I wonder if he got to see the output of his Showtime operation — it went through weeks of accidentally replaying programme segments so viewers would end up seeing the first half twice, and never get to see the end. In any other market, to do so once would make it a laughing stock, to do it night after night would be unthinkable. There’s one big reason why the region’s media lags in virtually every medium — that old issue of transparency. Because of the dubious way they are renumerated, media agencies do not yet care enough about how many people are watching or reading, as it is irrelevant to their own bottom line. No wonder then that in most magazines and newspapers the advertising department has the upper hand. At present, those media owners who do take the trouble to deliver a quality product — for reasons of professional pride as much as anything else — are not properly rewarded for it. Still, that should gradually change as advertisers start to demand greater advertising effectiveness. And there will be nothing disappointing about that.||**||

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