Top 10 media trends of 2013

The series of exposés by former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden began in June 2013. (File photo: Reuters)

From Snowden to the rise of the ‘selfie’, the global media industry witnessed a typically untypical year. Venerable U.S. newspapers were bought and sold; social media and new digital platforms continued to disrupt the industry; and the civil war in Syria meant that 2013 marked one of the most dangerous years on record for journalists. Here is the Al Arabiya News pick of the most prominent media trends of the year.

1. Journalist kidnappings on the rise

It was a dangerous year for journalists globally, with scores of reporters killed and a huge spike in kidnappings.

While slightly fewer journalists lost their lives in 2013 compared with the previous year, more than double the number were kidnapped and many are still missing, Reporters Without Borders said this month.

The Paris-based rights group said 71 journalists were killed in 2013, a 20 percent decline on the previous year. However, at least 87 journalists were kidnapped, a 129 percent rise on 2012. Syria – where at least 10 journalists and 35 citizen-journalists were killed this year – was described a “cemetery” for news providers.

Ayman al-Sahili, a Reuters cameraman, was shot in the leg in Syria on Dec. 31, 2012. (Reuters)

“There was also a big increase in abductions and the overall level of violations affecting news providers continued to be very high,” Reporters Without Borders said in a statement, adding that the majority of kidnappings occurred in the Middle East and North Africa.

The International Federation of Journalists estimates that 108 journalists and media professionals were killed globally, a 10 percent decline on 2012. The group said that global governments need to do more to “stem the bloodbath in the media”, AFP reported. The New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) said 70 journalists were killed worldwide this year, with Syria the most deadly country.

2. Tricky leaks

The series of exposés by former National Security Agency (NSA) contractor Edward Snowden, which began in June 2013, both disrupted and divided the media.

George Brock, Head of Journalism at City University in London and author of ‘Out of Print: Newspapers, Journalism and the Business of News in the Digital Age’, agreed that the Snowden revelations shook up the media more than other stories this year.

The revelations – first published by The Washington Post and The Guardian – were carried by thousands of news outlets across the world. Yet some such as the UK’s Daily Mail voiced objections, saying that the Guardian “helps Britain’s enemies” and acted with “lethal irresponsibility” in publishing detailed from the leaked documents.

Brock observed “reluctance” in the UK press to discuss the true magnitude of the Snowden leaks. “The reluctance of most of the British media to discuss the story's importance – whatever editors thought of the source's behavior - was a truly odd spectacle,” he noted.

Jawad Abbassi, founder and general manager of the Arab Advisors Group, said that the Snowden leaks marked a “major story”. But the case may have had more resonance in democratic societies, he noted. “In non-democracies, unchecked eavesdropping is the norm,” Abbassi said.

3. New media moguls

Rupert Murdoch’s finest hour may be behind him – but there is no shortage of new media moguls emerging.

Several new media owners hit the scene, with two of North America’s best-known newspapers being purchased by non-established media players.

In August, businessman John Henry, the principal owner of the Boston Red Sox, entered into an agreement to buy The Boston Globe for $70 million, which the newspaper said marked Henry’s “first foray into the financially unsettled world of the news media”.

Later the same month, it emerged that Amazon founder Jeff Bezos had shelled out $250 million buying The Washington Post, the legendary newspaper that broke the Watergate scandal. founder Jeff Bezos bought the Washington Post for $250 million. (File photo Reuters)

And in October, the founder of eBay Pierre Omidyar said he was backing a project with investigative reporter Glenn Greenwald which allows journalists “to pursue the truth.” He pledged $250 million to build the new media project, known as First Look Media.

Brock said that such moves marked big changes in the global media industry. “The most significant trend of [2013] was the arrival of a new generation of news media owners who have made fortunes in the digital era. The most prominent of these, of course, are Jeff Bezos of Amazon and Pierre Omidyar, founder of eBay,” he said.

4. Social media becomes mainstream…

“Social media becoming mainstream” is the most prominent media trend of the year, according to Abbassi of the Arab Advisors Group. Indeed, it could be a little too mainstream for some: A study released this month found that Facebook – the world’s largest social network – is “dead and buried” among older teenagers, partly because their parents have worked out how to use the site. Still, Abbassi expects the rise of social media and the “continued fragmentation” of other channels will continue next year.

A boy has his picture taken by his parents outside Facebook's headquarters. (File photo Reuters)

5. … but mainstream media makes its mark

Despite the rise of new media, the mainstream press still managed to pull off some serious scoops throughout the course of the year.

“The most under-estimated aspect of 2013 was that mainstream media, despite its many problems, still managed to make a lot of the running and hit some very elusive targets. One of journalism’s key functions is to disclose information which rich or powerful people wish to conceal but which society needs to know,” said Brock.

Coverage of the aforementioned Snowden leaks “wasn’t quite investigative journalism in the classic sense”, Brock argues in this article. But there were numerous other scoops by the mainstream press that led the news agenda, as this Buzzfeed article points out.

6. More channel surfing

Despite there being more than 650 free-to-air (FTA) television channels beamed across the Arab world, experts say there is room for more.

There are more than 650 free-to-air television channels beamed across the Arab world. (File photo: Shutterstock)

The “continued funding of new channels and the continued rise in FTA channels” had the biggest impact on the Arab media industry last year, said Abbassi.

Simon Spanswick, chief executive of industry group the Association for International Broadcasting (AIB), said that the sector has plenty of room to grow.

“There’s going to be more expansion; I think there will inevitably be more channels,” he told Al Arabiya News earlier this year.

7. Adding to the ad spend

The Arab advertising market was hit hard by the financial crisis and Arab Spring, which saw spending decline by 12.1 percent in 2009 and 10.3 percent in 2011 respectively.

But things are looking up and industry executives and analysts say the recovery continued in 2013.

According to estimates quoted in the Arab Media Outlook, published in 2012 by Deloitte and the Dubai Press Club, the Arab ad market should be worth $5.15 billion this year.

Elie Khouri, chief executive of Omnicom Media Group in the Middle East and North Africa, told Al Arabiya earlier this year that he anticipates growth in the regional advertising market of 5 to 6 percent this year, lower than what he projected in January.

Analyst Thomas Kuruvilla, managing partner at the consultancy Arthur D Little in the Middle East, said he thinks ad budgets could have grown by even more. “It could be up to 10 percent in my opinion,” he said.

Kuruvilla pointed to three factors behind this: the rise of digital advertising, more people buying goods online, and Dubai’s winning bid to host the World Expo 2020. “Expo 2020 will increase [advertising],” he said. “In my view it will start having an impact now.”

8. Online warfare

There was a spate of attacks targeting mainstream media channels throughout the year, with the BBC, The Washington Post, Reuters, CBS, The Associated Press, The Guardian and others all seeing their websites, social media accounts (or both) compromised. In April, The Associated Press’ Twitter account was hacked and tweeted a fake alert that read: “Breaking: Two Explosions in the White House and Barack Obama is injured”, prompting a brief but severe reaction on U.S. stock exchanges. Several of the attacks were reportedly carried out by the Syrian Electronic Army, which supports the Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

9. ‘Golden age’ nostalgia fades

Despite the mainstream media having proved its might during 2013, any nostalgia for a “golden age” of print journalism is long gone, said Brock.

This is allowing the media to reinvent itself for the digital age, he added. “2013 may have been the last moment that the last journalist stopped believing that the ‘golden age’ of print-dominated journalism might come back,” said Brock. “Liberated from nostalgia, journalists will accelerate the rethinking and re-invention of journalism for an age in which information travels down different routes.”

10. ‘Selfie’ enters the frame

Even serious politicians are embracing the ‘selfie’ trend. (AFP)

There was a time when taking a picture of oneself was known rather plainly as ‘taking a picture of oneself’. But in 2013 the concept somehow became a media sensation and allowed scores of A-list celebrities (and many more Z-listers) to hit the headlines with hasty self-portrait snaps. Popularized by singer Miley Cyrus at the MTV Video Music Awards last August, the smartphone ‘selfie’ took on a life of its own as a media buzzword, with everyone from British Prime Minister David Cameron to Pope Francis getting in on the act. ‘Selfie’ was even selected as word of the year by Oxford Dictionaries, based on a 17,000 percent rise in its usage from a year ago. Thanks for that, Miley.

Last Update: Tuesday, 31 December 2013 KSA 16:31 - GMT 13:31

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Top 10 media trends of 2013
From Snowden to the rise of the ‘selfie’, the global media industry witnessed a typically untypical year
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