IGCF 2021: Stellar line-up of media experts examines growing power of content on social media

IGCF 2021: Stellar line-up of media experts examines growing power of content on social media

SHARJAH, 27th September, 2021 – A thought-provoking session on the growing impact of the digital content industry and how content had changed over the years, wrapped up two days of discussions on 26th and 27th September to mark the 10th edition of the International Government Communication Forum (IGCF), organised by the Sharjah Government Media Bureau (SGMB).

Titled “Who defines the rules of the game: Content platforms or creators?”, the session featured a stellar line-up of speakers including Elizabeth Linder, Founder, CEO and Chief Diplomatic Officer at Brooch Associates, and Founder of Facebook’s Politics and Government Division; Caroline Faraj, Vice President for Arabic Services at CNN; Rashid Al Awadhi, CEO of New Media Academy, and Raed Barqawi, Chief Editor of Al Khaleej newspaper.

Moderated by Sherif Amer, an eminent Egyptian broadcaster and presenter of the talk show, “Happening in Egypt”, on MBC Masr, the session discussed modern communication players and offered insights into what companies and entities must do to sustain people’s interest.

Opening the discussion, Linder recalled how at her first job at YouTube 14 years ago, all the conference rooms were named after YouTubers from around the world.

“This was an intoxicating idea, for these were just random people with some talent who had an audience.

But the point that was missed along the way – and is being talked about now – is how platforms grew organically without curation, highlighting why proper curation and planning is essential to take a company’s growth to the next level and to better impact society.

Commending the leadership of Sharjah for the conception of the House of Wisdom as “an extraordinary cultural space”, she pointed out that there should be more considered curation of similar spaces worldwide.

She added that there was a need to “create better leadership across social media platforms to curate, manage and signpost people to where the quality is.

Stating that content and the art of storytelling has remained the same, Al Awadhi stressed, “it is the medium and the method of delivering these that have changed.

We need to understand this to get the message across.

He added: “Content creators – whether they are influencers, governments or media – are not making enough money to continue sustaining great quality creations, and this is a real challenge.

Al Awadhi emphasised the need to create high quality, pan Arab content, especially as people in the Middle Eastern region spend three-and-a-half hours online on an average each day, of which Arabic forms only one per cent of the content.

Faraj noted that the proliferation of social media had introduced new content creators and stated that people go to platforms they trust.

Calling it “the survival of the fittest”, she said CNN had recognised the need to adapt to reach 70 per cent of the Arab population under 30.

“In the Arab region, one has to learn what journalism is from the under-20s,” she observed.

“Change is happening, and we are in the heart of it,” said Barqawi, citing the surging popularity of the fastest growing social media app, TikTok.

He added, “A youngster today has nearly 30 platforms to choose from for information, and content creators must understand that the receiver is a highly intelligent individual.

Reiterating how social media is changing the way news is consumed, he also revealed how his newspaper grew from 100,000 readers to one million, thanks to an engaged readership on social media.

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