The rapid rise of the internet has been one of the defining features of the Egyptian media scene during recent years. The revolution helped accelerate the trend, with social networking and the online versions of independent news outlets grabbing public attention.
GETTING ONLINE: Egypt had 30.94m internet users at the end of March 2012, up 28.15% from a year before, according to the Ministry of Communications and Information Technology, which therefore put penetration at 37.92%. The ministry estimated that 38.87% of households used internet from home, up just over six percentage points on March 2011, while of all internet users, 90.02% had broadband connections. According to the Dubai Press Club (DPC), Egyptians who use the internet spend on average three hours a day online, a figure that may be inflated by those who are connected all day at work, but a sign that those who go onto the internet tend to have a high exposure to it. Egyptians give “getting information” and social networking as the two primary reasons for going online. Facebook tops the list of most-visited sites, followed by a number of news, video and job sites.
PRINT: The DPC estimates that some 4% of Egyptians read a newspaper or magazine online more than five days a week; 7.3% about one to four times a week; 37.1% one to four times a month; 27.9% rarely and 23.7% never. The process of migration from print to online is well under way in Egypt, though the vast majority of readers – around three-quarters – still use print more frequently than the internet, which helps explain why paper circulation remains high and growing.
Egyptian newspapers dominate the most-visited news sites in the country, particularly El Masry El Youm (with 36.4% of those going online for news visiting the site) and Youm7 (32.8%). But while it lags behind these two, Al Jazeera (8.7%) shows that international agencies that offer good-quality coverage in Arabic can make inroads on the Egyptian market. Given that the best foreign media tend to offer broader material than many Egyptian newspapers, the scope for increasing Arabic content targeted at the Egyptian market seems considerable. The DPC suggests that only 1% of Egyptians would be willing to pay to access online news.
SOCIAL NETWORKING: Egypt’s 2011 revolution grabbed international attention largely because of its political significance. But it also helped further enhance the global importance of social networking, as demonstrators, journalists and eyewitnesses took to real-time media to communicate developments, and indeed to coordinate them. Social networks such as Twitter and Facebook were popular among the upwardly mobile young, but when protests started, and were followed by a blossoming of freedom of speech, they really took off. Egypt had 9.39m Facebook users by the end of 2011, representing a penetration rate of 11.4%, according to the UN’s International Telecommunications Union. By the second quarter of 2012, international press reports were putting the figure at more than 10m, which is realistic given the speed of take-up. Local press reports suggest that 2m users were added in the first quarter of 2011, when the revolution took place.
Use of social networking is the most common online activity for 30% of Egyptians, according to the DPC. For some, it is the main reason for going online in the first place. Most major media outlets are attempting to harness the power of social media in order to increase their reach and their profile, particularly among the young and affluent, CBC and Al Shorouk (the latter something of an online champion), for example, have a particularly strong presence on Facebook and Twitter.
While growth has been meteoric, there is plenty of scope for further expansion, not only due to the continuing rise in internet use. Fewer than half of those who go online use Facebook and less than 5% use Twitter. Arabic-language sites such as Maktoob have yet to achieve much of a foothold on the market.
A strong online presence is now a must-have for any serious Egyptian media outlet, and some publishers and broadcasters are playing catch-up having been overtaken by newcomers with bold digital strategies.
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