The New Media – Publishing: Changing gears, by Motivate’s Ian Fairservice

The last year has required publishers to adapt, evolve and innovate, writes Motivate Media Group's founder and CEO, Ian Fairservice.

What a year it has been.

This time last year, the world was facing the challenges of Covid-19 head-on. Motivate Media Group was no different as we faced up to this challenging new world order.

Our strategy was to put our content into the hands of our readers at a time when distractions were most needed. The content was delivered through our magazines, digital platforms, webinars and online events. We had to adapt to the needs of our audience and our business had to be agile. When our magazines were unable to be displayed in hotels, airport lounges and planes we resisted the temptation to save on print runs and partnered with Gulf News and, for the first time in 40 years, switched to a controlled free distribution model.

Fast-forward 12 months and that strategy is paying off. Keeping content alive and fresh while delivering it to our audience through their preferred medium has made us stronger. The recent announcement by the National Media Council allowing magazines and newspapers to distributed to hotels and cafes will further strengthen our visibility and brand recall.

That’s just print, though. A year ago I wrote for this same issue of Campaign on the subject of ‘print’. This year, that narrow title seems out of touch with all that we offer. Even ‘publishing’ doesn’t do justice to the many arrows in the quiver of a modern media house like Motivate. In our Media City offices we have an influencer marketing company, a cinema advertising firm, an art gallery, a book shop, an events division, a fully-fledged photography and film production arm, and more. And our digital platforms are growing apace. Anyone who wasn’t online before the pandemic is now. Luckily, diversified media groups like ours were there to welcome these new or converting customers.

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With the ever-evolving digital landscape, our platforms have witnessed exponential growth. Our targeting capabilities have allowed us to deliver desirable, locally relevant content, to regionally engaged audiences.

One thing we have witnessed, particularly in the luxury segment, is brands needing to re-engage with their local audience as they are no longer able to rely on tourist shoppers. This has put home-grown brands such as Emirates Woman back in the driving seat as they continue to champion and celebrate a more local voice by engaging with the incredible women in the region. It is important as a UAE publisher to support local and regional companies as we work our way through these difficult times.

Gulf Business has continued to support SMEs with its SME Revival campaign that saw the provision of a million US dollars of advertising support to 20 local companies. It is extremely important that the local media support and partner the events and exhibitions industry, as it provides a much-needed boost to the economy. DWTC has done a tremendous job showing the world how to provide a safe environment for live events and bring peace of mind to visitors and exhibitors. This safe path to recovery is of great importance to us all as we are now less than 100 days away from Expo 2020.

In addition to many highly successful virtual events in the last year, we staged two live events – the What’s On Nightlife Awards and the What’s On Awards. Both showcased our ability to put on live events in a safe environment.

With an eye on the future, Motivate Media Group has expanded its operations in Saudi Arabia with the launch of WhatsOnSaudiArabia.com, which will complement our growing cinema advertising business (Motivate Val Morgan) and influencer marketing operations through VAMP.

We have continued our strategy, established more than three years ago now, of forging strategic partnerships and joint ventures with new and upcoming companies in related fields. Only this month we signed a new partnership with i24 News, the Tel Aviv-based 24-hour news service. The synergies between our businesses were apparent from the start. Both companies place great importance on the digital space and events, and where Motivate also has a strong legacy in print media, i24 brings broadcast media to the party.

We’re currently in talks to form a partnership with a media content producer and are meanwhile forging ahead with our feature-length documentary film on the 50th anniversary of the UAE and the legacy of Sheikh Zayed with our award-winning partners, Lorton Entertainment, in the UK. Our Arabic websites, Arageek and Menatech, are examples of partnerships focused on fully Arabic content. Such is our appetite for these kinds of exciting opportunities that we launched a campaign inviting people to contact us if they would like us to consider working with them. We set up a dedicated e-mail address, [email protected], for anyone who wishes to reach out.

We have also ventured further than ever into the e-commerce arena, having launched thearabiangallery.com on June 1, offering more than a thousand original pieces of art ranging from sculptures, paintings, and photographs to beautiful handmade timepieces.

Our heritage is print, but the future is diversified. The whole industry has known this for a long time, but has often been slow to evolve and innovate. A year and a half of coronavirus has shown us that the world we have grown comfortable with can change overnight. Companies like Motivate have a choice: to bury our heads and pretend everything will go back to normal, or to tap into the spirit of change and growth that epitomises the UAE and the wider Middle East, and come out stronger and ready for anything.