17 May 2006
News from the Media Scene:
WAN Launches Unique Approach to Media Development in the Arab World

The World Association of Newspapers is launching a unique media development programme in the Arab world in which selected newspapers will work together to share new commercial and editorial strategies with publishers and editors throughout the region.

A team from the Paris-based WAN visited potential partners in Egypt, Jordan and Saudi Arabia in May in the first phase of the WAN Arab Newspaper Development Project (ANDP), which aims to support and promote the collective intelligence that editors, publishers and press managers represent when they act together.

"Newspapers throughout the Arab region face a number of obstacles, including repressive press laws, a lack of editorial independence and numerous commercial challenges, such as attracting advertisers and increasing readership," said Timothy Balding, Chief Executive Officer of WAN.

"Although there have been some changes in recent years, most Arab media still principally act as part of the government process. The absence of cooperation between newspaper executives is one of the key reasons for the lack of 'press power' in Arab countries," he said.

The ANDP project will support 12 selected newspapers from the Arab region in the creation and execution of new commercial or editorial strategies. Experiences generated through the project will be shared among other Arab media executives in an effort to strengthen the viability of independent newspapers in the region.

The Arab Press Network will play a central role in disseminating the experiences of each newspaper involved.

The ANDP will, in its first phase underway now, support three newspapers from the Arab region. Each of the three partners will devise and implement a commercial or editorial strategy, with the support of external consultants. Once the project is completed, each newspaper, in collaboration with the WAN team, will develop a programme to disseminate the expertise and the lessons learned to nine other newspapers in the region, which will use the information to develop their own strategies.

The 12 newspapers will provide material for a practical training manual to be produced at the end of the 15-month project. The backbone of the manual will be monthly written reports submitted by the newspapers, as well as ongoing discussions between the consultants and newspapers, to be published on the Arab Press Network.

"When the three ANDP partners pass on the skills and knowledge they have gained through their own development projects to their colleagues in neighbouring markets, the pyramid effect of the skills transfer begins, and the walls begin to come down," said Mr Balding. "The creation of a practical training manual based on these experiences allows an even greater audience to access the skills gained."

The project is funded by WAN and the Cairo-based Danish-Egyptian Dialogue Institute.

For more on what WAN does to help press development, consult http://www.wan-press.org/article37.html

WAN, with its extensive network of newspaper professionals, is uniquely positioned to undertake newspaper development projects worldwide. As the global association of the world's press, WAN represents 18,000 newspapers; its membership includes 73 national newspaper associations, newspapers and newspaper executives in 102 countries, 11 news agencies and nine regional and world-wide press groups.

Inquiries to: Larry Kilman, Director of Communications, WAN, 7 rue Geoffroy St Hilaire, 75005 Paris France. Tel: +33 1 47 42 85 00. Fax: +33 1 47 42 49 48. Mobile: +33 6 10 28 97 36. E-mail: lkilman@wan.asso.fr