Saudi Research & Media Group announces transformation strategy

Refreshed brand and new company website to underpin SRMG’s new approach focusing on platform expansion and international partnerships. 

Saudi Research & Media Group (SRMG) – which owns more than 30 major media outlets including Asharq Al-Awsat, Asharq News and Arab News, and has a combined monthly reach of 165 million – announced a new transformation strategy focusing on platform expansion, international partnerships and strategic investments across five key business verticals.

SRMG, which is listed on the Tadawul stock exchange in Riyadh, will further expand its current portfolio, digital offerings and global reach by transforming print publications into digital-first platforms, introducing new platforms that address white spaces in the market, investing in media start-ups with bold ideas and building long-term mutually beneficial partnerships with internationally recognized brands. SRMG already has successful partnerships and collaborations with leading media organizations including Bloomberg and The Independent.

Driven by a newly appointed leadership team, SRMG is focused on delivering original, exclusive and premium content to consumers through new digital and social platforms, as well as strengthening its cable and satellite reach. The Group will continuously look to leverage its data and technology capabilities to develop new products and services, enhance its monetization capabilities and diversify its revenue streams.

Building on its expanding network of outlets, SRMG will work across five business verticals to unlock new regional and international commercial opportunities:

1. SRMG Media: Digital Platforms, Podcasts and Multimedia
Digitizing and expanding content creation and distribution to engage audiences with original, unique and exclusive content
2. SRMG International: International Investments and Partnerships

Building a global network through bespoke partnerships and strategic investments, driven by a team of seasoned media professionals with global experience

3. SRMG Think: Research and Polling
Providing unique insights and expert analysis from the Middle East and around the world

4. SRMG X: Events, Conferences and Exhibitions
Delivering leading events that provide important opportunities for personal connection and engagement in a digital world

5. SRMG Labs: Innovation, Incubation, and Training

Fostering talent and technology, and driving creativity and innovation in the regional media space, while helping to train the next generation of media professionals, journalists and content creators

Abdulrahman Ibrahim Alrowaita

Abdulrahman Ibrahim Alrowaita, Chairman of SRMG, said: “For almost five decades, our titles like Asharq Al-Awsat, Arab News, Sayidaty and others have played a significant role in telling authentic and impactful stories from the Middle East and around the world. Now, driven by our new strategy, we will strengthen our unique and established position by expanding our global focus and reach and widening our regional footprint in a growing media sector.

“Through new platforms and international partnerships, we will empower global audiences with relevant and reliable news and information. We will remain committed to diversity and inclusivity in journalism and across our newsrooms, fostering talent and innovation by helping develop the next generation of media professionals, journalists and content creators.”

Jomana Al-Rashid, Chief Executive Officer of SRMG, said: “Our focus on premium content creation, introducing new platforms and expanding our reach through new titles and services ensures SRMG will be the primary driver of the region’s digital future in media. New platforms will allow our journalists to report news and deliver audience-centric content backed by data and driven by the latest technology, to reinforce SRMG’s position as the premier media house in the Middle East.

“Our new strategy is an exciting next chapter for a media house with a long legacy of growth and innovation. We look forward to enhancing our engagement with our audiences by continuing to provide relevant and diverse media content while widening the services we offer and building on our leading media market position.”

SRMG’s new growth strategy is supported by a refreshed brand and new website that reflect the company’s fresh approach while upholding its rich, unique history. Leveraging its legacy, scale and new capabilities, SRMG is uniquely positioned to access growing media markets worldwide.

A conversation with Jomana Al-Rashid

Campaign had a conversation with SRMG’s CEO Jomana Al-Rashid, who was appointed in October last year.

By Austyn Allison

1 Why do you think you were appointed? What skills, ambitions, etc. do you bring to the table that can help us understand the company’s ambitions more?

Merit!.. Merit, ambition, focus, and vision which is the only way you can introduce bold transformational ideas and have the tenacity to see them through. You must consider the kingdom’s transformation when looking at my appointment, a transformation born out of a vision that embodies merit ambition and tenacity. This vision trickled down from the highest levels of government to all facets of life including private publicly traded entities like SRMG.

The fact is that change is inevitable but change can be unsettling without forethought and planning.

I have always had a deep passion for journalism and media, which inspired me to dedicate my interests, studies and career to this vibrant industry. Then, the digital world emerged and got us all hyper-connected and engaged. I have been an avid reader of SRMG’s news media titles, like Asharq Al-Awsat and Arab News, Sayidati among many others, for as long as I can remember, and they’ve played a significant role in my life, even during my previous role as the London correspondent for Al-Riyadh newspaper.

Now, I am humbled and privileged to lead our team and one of the region’s leading media houses. I’m standing on the shoulders of the giants of Arab media and journalism both personally and professionally. And I intend to build on what they have achieved.

We have ambitious growth plans which will build on SRMG’s long-established legacy to drive a digital transformation strategy that will sustain our role as the region’s industry leader. SRMG will shift into a modern global provider of news and information. We will bolster our media reach and engagement by enhancing our content, advancing our technology, and investing in raw talents.

We want to empower our audiences and enrich their lives with original, exclusive, and premium content, news and information, available whenever and wherever they want it.

2 What is your road map for SRMG in the coming years?

We are focused on further expanding our current portfolio, digital offerings and global reach by transforming our print publications into digital-first platforms, introducing new platforms that address white spaces in the market, investing in media startups with bold ideas and building long-term mutually beneficial partnerships with internationally recognized brands. We already have successful partnerships and collaborations with leading media organizations including Bloomberg and The Independent and are working on adding more to these.

We want to build on SRMG’s position as the region’s leading global media house from the Middle East, providing original, exclusive and market-relevant premium content and experiences to our audiences, primarily through our commitment to multi-platform digital and social expansion, as well as strengthening our cable and satellite reach.

We will also continually look to leverage and expand our data and technology capabilities to enhance our monetization capabilities and diversify our revenue streams.

Clearly, we mean business, and commercial revenues is the Group’s priority. We want to be able to offer client-partners, advertisers and key stakeholders – be they subscribers, content producers, aggregators or others – the highest ROI and value for their time and money invested in our titles and platforms. The objective is for us to offer more data insights and analytics that would make sense to them in terms of business, bottom-line, measurability and unique experiences.

I would like SRMG to be involved in thought leadership across the MENA region proposing new policies, initiatives and solutions to existing issues affecting the Arab Media industry as a whole, such as an audience measurement, Ad spend, anti-piracy, intellectual property rights (IPR), diversity and inclusion in/out of newsrooms, global standards and best practices.

What’s good for the industry is often good for us! Competition is healthy but, there’s a lot we can achieve together, across the board, for the common good of all.

3 How has SRMG been coping with the transition from traditional media to digital? Where will your focus be, and what will be your strategy to continue to navigate the transition?

Going forward, we’re focusing on brand, product and distribution; original and unique premium content; and multi-platform, multi-touch points delivery. Clearly, one has to stay culturally relevant and commercially viable while keeping a tight grip on cost and monetization. In short, we’re increasingly providing our audiences with the content they want most, on the platforms they use most, including social media, podcasts, audiobooks, e-books, events, gaming and e-sports platforms and exhibitions.

Our new growth strategy is an exciting next chapter for a media house with a long history of growth and innovation. Working across five new business verticals (SRMG Media, SRMG International, SRMG Think, SRMG X, and SRMG Labs). We will explore new regional and international commercial opportunities, develop new digital platforms, conduct unique research and insights, and deliver leading events and exhibitions amplifying personal connections through our digital platforms.

4 How have you picked your management team? What characteristics and skillsets did you look for?

For this to work we need not just good talent in key positions, we need -the best- talent in all positions-. Merit, ambition, and tenacity are the metrics by which SRMG welcomes talent. My team completes and complements me and we all bring something to the table. A strong and empowered team guided by a clear vision will translate into exponential growth and change. They say “People, people, people” is for the cultural and creative industries (CI) what “location, location, location” is for the real-estate world.

People are our greatest assets and SRMG’s continued development will be driven by both the commitment to retain our top talent whilst attracting new talent.

In parallel, we’ll work on the training and upskilling of SRMG team members. Our mission demands the best out of our people, and we look to give them the best in return. Our new strategy has a significant focus on talent incubation and professional development, so we can help the next generation of journalists, content creators and other media professionals thrive.

I want all SRMG employees to be passionate about what they do and feel empowered to come up with innovative ideas, solutions and to be bold in their creative process.

Our editorial expertise has been a huge part of our success over the past 50 years, and it will continue to be at the absolute heart of our work over the next 50 years because compelling, unique content is the bedrock of everything we do.

5 Your appointment says a lot about the Kingdom’s new freedom to recognise and reward female talent; what more do you hope/expect to see for women in the media industry in the coming years?

Women are an integral part of the growth and advancement of any community, society, or specific sector. They play a vital role in the cultural and creative industries (CCI), both regionally and globally. SRMG’s wide portfolio of women’s market-leading titles – including Sayidaty, Hia and Al-Jamila, among others – have included compelling content catering to women since the 1980s and we continue to pave the way for everyone’s voices to be heard, and stories to be told.

We pride ourselves in tackling real issues and telling the stories that matter most to all women, (Saudi women, Arab women), without distortion, exaggeration, or bias. That’s why millions of women, in Saudi Arabia and across the MENA region seek and trust our content which in turn drives us to deliver more. Definitely, there’s still a lot to do in this respect and we don’t intend to rest on our laurels.

Under our new transformation strategy, we want SRMG to be a talent magnet, a hub with a focus on professional development, encouraging more women to come on board and take up roles in the media industry and newsroom. We believe this will help firmly position SRMG at the heart of the Middle East’s digital future, empowering media professionals, journalists and content creators, and changing the way journalism is taught and produced.

6 What is SRMG’s relationship with the government in terms of editorial guidelines, censorship, etc? How do you work together, and how is that changing?

Each of our publications has its own editorial line, just like any other publication in the world, and our coverage and stories are approached with the utmost integrity in line with all the global best practices.

If you go back in history, since 1972, SRMG’s titles like Asharq Al-Awsat and Arab News have never shied away from introducing, examining and discussing ideas that were not necessarily popular, including for example introducing Sayidaty in the 80s, a time when society was not necessarily open to discussing women’s issues publicly, let alone having a dedicated magazine for women.

We have been a leading source of news, information and lifestyle content and have played a significant role in telling the authentic, unique story of the Middle East. This rich and unique history is the foundation on which SRMG is built, so we recognize the important role that journalism plays in society.

At SRMG, our editors define their own coverage and we have a proud tradition of covering the news fairly and accurately with an on-the-ground perspective. This will remain the case as we continue to grow and embrace new platforms and new ideas. Our goals are to empower global audiences, enrich people’s lives, invest in knowledge and forge enduring global connections.