Interview: Hanzade Doğan Boyner
How is the rise of online media affecting spending and competition in the sector?
HANZADE DOGAN BOYNER: When you look at the Turkey’s online population, a few key dynamics jump out. We are the fifth-biggest country on Facebook and number 10 on Twitter. Turkey has somewhere from 35m to 40m internet users, representing around 40% of the population. Smartphone penetration is increasing rapidly – there are 65m mobile users and 10m are using the internet from their handsets. When you compare Turkey’s economic figures and its online statistics, the numbers make the country look like a more advanced European country. The main reason behind this is, of course, Turkey’s population distribution. We have a young population under-16 year olds represent 26% of our demographic, and the majority is between 20-35. However, the size of the economy does not match internet usage by these young groups. In terms of revenue, the online segment comes in third as an advertising medium, accounting for around 12% of total advertising; some 52-53% goes to TV and roughly 25% goes to print. In terms of e-commerce, only 2% of total retail comes from the internet, which is very low. As for newspapers, Turkey is a unique case. The drive to put content online is continuous, but in Turkey there was a great deal of convergence between print and online media early on. The most visited Turkish websites are newspapers; Hürriyet is the third-most visited newspaper website in Europe, thanks in part to its early online presence. The main problem most newspapers around the world faced was that they were late to realise that online media would pick up early, and then they rushed to defend their territory. Turkish media responded to market demand quickly and went online before it was clear how to earn revenue. In Turkey, unlike elsewhere in the world, newspaper advertising is still growing. It is not expanding at 20-30% like the online segment, but it is moving forward at double-digit pace – 10% in 2011 and, hopefully, another 8-10% in 2012. While long-term website advertising revenues will need enough volume to recover costs, as print goes into decline, the competition is more focused around the content available, and less on the platform. Newspapers have to do two things: first, they have to redesign their business models, as it is unlikely they will be able to afford the same number of people and international offices. Second, newspapers need to let go of their commitment to platform. If newspapers start saying, “I provide content and I build an emotional relationship with my reader,” they become a brand that the reader can depend on. So the newspapers should make their content available in forms their readership uses – online, video, mobile, etc. – and focus on their core competency, which is the emotional relationship with the reader.
What role do leaders in the media industry have in pushing for a more liberal and democratic press?
BOYNER: I believe that the main value of the reporter is trust. There is increasing talk about user-generated content and how the position of the reporter is changing, but in my view, the crucial function of reportage has stayed the same. User-generated content is important – we have seen how the Arab Spring accelerated because of user-generated content over social media. However, we still went to the reporters and brands we trust to understand what was happening. If we one day have a world where we do not have quality journalism and official reporters, there will be informational chaos. The trust and the integrity that a reporter represents are critical. As platform providers and owners, it is our responsibility to make sure that the platform allows the reporters to do what they are obliged to do, report critical information to the public. However, in terms of protecting freedom of press and freedom of speech, the scope and role of media leadership is limited. This issue of press freedom needs to be owned by the intelligentsia at large, because freedom of the press is important necessity for everybody.
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