Financial crisis threatens Saudi newspapers

Financial crisis threatens Saudi newspapers
Five print editions are under threat of closure as the crisis in print journalism arrives in Saudi Arabia.
2 min read
30 October, 2015
Many Saudi newspapers are now reportedly under threat of closure [Getty]
The financial crisis gripping the Saudi press has cast a shadow over the future of newspapers in the country, after falling advertisement revenues and sales has lead to a failure to pay staff.

Sources in the Ministry of Culture and information told al-Araby al-Jadeed that a number of newspapers had asked for financial support due to declining revenues and mounting losses.

The newspapers said to be suffering of a large debt crisis are al-Sharq, Mecca, Medina, al-Watan and Balad, reportedly causing a four-month delay in paying at least some of their staff.

The publications have reportedly been considering switching to online publishing only to avoid the printing and distribution costs which, in Saudi Arabia, are almost twice the price of that in the US.

"Most Saudi newspapers have not found ways to compensate for declining revenues from sales and advertisement and have continued with their old fashioned ways, which are no longer feasible," journalism professor Majid al-Muqrin told al-Araby al-Jadeed's Arabic service.

"Some newspapers have even tried to boost subscriptions in ridiculous ways, such as lowering the annual subscription fee to $27 and giving out gifts to subscribers worth $22, which means the real cost of subscribing is $5."

The former editor of al-Watan, Talal al-Sheikh predicted the total death of the printed press within a few years, unless the industry found extra support from the government.

If newspapers do survive, he said, their impact will be very weak.

"The media business is costly and most newspapers have wasted much of their financial resources long ago. We can see that the newspapers that are suffering financially are the same ones that want to cover all countries with limited resources," al-Murqin said.

"Newspapers such as al-Riyadh, al-Jazirah and Okaz have been successful because they are content with being regional papers, which cover the areas nearby them."