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Old media firms adapt to new media world

Interview - July 8, 2015

Upper Reach talks to Sulaiman Al Hudaithi, CEO of one of Saudi’s top media firms, SRMG

SULAIMAN AL HUDAITHI, CEO OF SRMG
SULAIMAN AL HUDAITHI | CEO OF SRMG

Saudi Research and Marketing Group (SRMG) is very much the cornerstone of the Saudi media market with many leading newspapers and media products. Can you give an overview of the group?

Since its establishment in 1987, Saudi Research and Marketing Group (SRMG) has been playing a pivotal role in the markets of publishing and journalism in the Arab world, through its flagship political, economic and lifestyle dailies, weeklies and monthlies like Alsharq Alawsat, Arab News and Aleqtisadiyah newspapers and widely circulated magazines like Sayidaty and Alrajol.

Our businesses have been expanded locally in Saudi Arabia, regionally and internationally. 

Exploring new horizons of growth, SRMG paved the way for a new specialised commercial and licensing platform in 2006 with the new Saudi Specialised Publishing Company, SSPC, established to publish international licensed titles in Arabic and English editions for our region.

Saudi Arabia has got the highest penetration of social media in the world. How does that affect traditional media companies?

That is where the pressure is today on all the newspapers and magazines around the world. And, more importantly, that is where opportunities are looming at the same time.

With such pressure and challenges exacerbating day after day, our advertising share of the market has not dropped. What has dropped is the value of the market itself. 

And how are your competitors faring with regards to the change in media habits and transforming their businesses?

Everybody is trying their best, racing towards that digital ‘wonderland’. Like slate.com and huffingtonpost.com, the online market in Arabia has been surfing such Arabic websites imitating this international model, or that where some traditional editors-in-chief, managing editors or writers jump from the print wagon to the digital one. 

We hear a lot about the modernisation story of Saudi Arabia and diversification of the economy. What are the key driving forces behind these trends of modernisation in your view as a leader in the media? Is it something that young people are driving?

Well one may say that a mixture of the wisdom of the elders together with the enthusiasm of the young generation is driving the society towards our flavour of modernisation.

Many people have been mistakenly confused by the notion that to modernise is to necessarily ‘Westernise’.

Surprisingly enough, the government is today the leading force behind such great initiatives to develop our societies to pave the way for the best international levels of development – economically, financially, culturally, educationally and socially.

Also, the private sector, with the support of the government, has been developing a strong base of industrialisation outside the oil sector.

One of the big steps is the opening of the Saudi Stock Exchange and inviting international investment. How much excitement have you detected here about the opening of the stock market amongst the business community?

Opening the Saudi Stock Exchange for international investment is probably a positive step. More money will be coming into the country.

There will be more people interested in coming and participating. As a result, Saudi Arabia is moving confidently to have one of the major stock markets in the world.

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