Daily News Egypt is the only independent English-language newspaper in both print and online formats in Egypt. How much traffic does Daily News Egypt attract? How is traffic increasing this year?
During 2015, Daily News Egypt attracted 10 million users to the website, with more than 30 million pages viewed, 25% more than 2014. The newspaper aims at increasing the number of users to 15 million by 2016, viewing 50 million pages.
As for the print edition, Daily News has distributed 3 million copies to its subscribers, with 15 million readers on average, including some very important customers. Our customers are in key sectors, such as tourism, hotels, embassies, huge financial institutions, and the VIP hall at Cairo Airport, as well as Egypt Air’s airplanes. There are also the attendees of the various conferences and exhibitions in which Daily News Egypt participates. We have sponsored more than 95 events in Egypt, the Gulf area and the UK.
What are the demographics of Daily News Egypt readers?
75% of the newspaper’s readers are within the 18-50 age range, with 55% male readers and 45% female readers.
Do you have plans to change your business model?
The business model of Daily News Egypt is clear, with print advertising revenue making 70% of our income and subscriptions accounting for 20%, while the online ads make 10%. We are aiming to increase advertising revenue from the website, with a goal of 20% in 2016 and 50% in five years.
How do you compete with the state-run media? What are your main advantages and disadvantages compared to state-run media?
It is difficult to manage an independent newspaper in Egypt under the slowdown that the Egyptian economy has witnessed since 2011, which at some point became a recession. That is, in addition to the lack of clear mechanisms for the flow of information, and the unfair competition we face in terms of government newspapers getting governmental support.
However, the newspaper has succeeded in navigating these choppy waters, trying to keep the flag of independence flying, in spite of the storms. Independence is one thing that we consider to be non-negotiable.
Through neutrality and credibility, Daily News Egypt has succeeded in becoming an Egyptian voice for the world, which has in turn encouraged our advertisers to invest in space on our pages. Certainly, we have not yet faced any challenges from the authorities with regard to the issue of independence.
How hard is it to be an independent news outlet in Egypt? Have you had problems with governmental authorities?
In the field of the English-language press, the competition with the state-run media is limited. There is only one daily newspaper that acts as a government mouthpiece, as well as another one published weekly. But since they cannot claim to be independent, we have a clear advantage over them.
However, we have the disadvantage in financial terms, because the state-owned newspapers benefit from unlimited support in the form of state funding. We went through some very hard times in recent years before things got better, while the state’s newspapers just keep going, even if they don’t make noteworthy revenues.
How fast is the Egyptian media sector growing in general? What is driving this growth?
I believe that the media market in Egypt witnessed a significant retreat in 2015, whether in visual, written, or even audible media. This was a result of the weak performance of the Egyptian economy after five years since the revolution, which significantly impacted advertising revenue in all kinds of media. This in turn led to workers, employees and journalists being laid-off by some institutions, in addition to the imposition of strict austerity measures in some cases.
How profitable is Daily News Egypt? How do you aim to increase your business?
Daily News Egypt managed to achieve profitability in 2015, after four years of significant losses due to the political and economic instability that resulted from the 25 January Revolution in 2011. The newspaper is planning to expand in 2016, benefiting from the steadiness of the political situation and the economy’s trend towards stability. By the end of 2015, we already increased our staff by 20%, seeking to increase them again by another 20%. This fits with our plans to provide coverage of new sectors, along with the main sectors, such as politics, economy, arts and culture.
How much development are you seeing in the sector in general? Is foreign investment allowed?
The media sector in Egypt is going through a strong correction process, where all the media bubbles, which were not based on correct economic fundamentals, burst. We are witnessing a number of struggling media outlets and the disappearance of others, including some launched after January 2011. These media outlets depended on the direct expenditure of some persons or entities in order to realise certain objectives, whether political or personal.
Some other media were simply failed investments. While the sector is restructuring itself according to the economical realities, only the strongest and the best will survive; those that are not dependent on political circumstances such as elections. Usually, the sector does not allow foreign funding, except for some individual websites, according to the strict laws of ownership and supervision in this field.
In your opinion, what is the role of the independent media in social and economic development in Egypt? How does Daily News Egypt contribute to Egypt’s development?
We have one of the most liberal outputs in this area of the world. The intellectual and cultural diversity of our employees helps us cover a wide range of issues, and to think freely about a number of issues. We are a microcosm of the Egypt that we aspire to, in terms of pluralism, creativity, freedom, and victory for the rights of the marginalised, including women, who represent a large part of our team.
Our papers shine with numerous ideas, insights and free visions. We have the ability to answer many questions that circulate in people’s minds, as we are able to reach a number of the most significant information sources in our country.
In addition to the intellectual side, our independence allows us to discuss issues and news neutrally. Of all Egyptian media organisations, largest sources of foreign currency after exports and remittances. The recovery of the national economy mainly relies on the ability of the government and the Central Bank of Egypt to provide as much foreign financing as possible to save the country from a currency crisis that has already impacted important sectors, such as exports, and threatens to cause more price hikes than those we’ve already seen.
The government should apply its proclaimed plans to increase revenues and rationalise public expenditure as much as possible, plans that have been put aside many times for political reasons.
We can say that the recovery is threatened many factors, including: the currency crisis; the possible decline of the credit rating; the high budget deficit of more than 9%; worsening tourism conditions; and a possible rise in unemployment; as well as the difficulty of realising the planned 5% growth rate this fiscal year, which experts anticipate to drop to 3%.
What do you see as the key measure taken to increase FDI flow into Egypt? How far is the implementation on schedule, and what more needs to be done?
The government has recently been relying on a combination of promotion and amendments. However, neither paths were followed to the end. In March, the government held a global conference to attract investors and promote a rich portfolio of infrastructure, tourism and services projects. A number of MoUs were signed with local and international companies.
In addition, the largest legislation amendment governing investment was issued following a long period of ups and downs. Those amendments affected over 40 projects that were included in one law that mainly we also have what could be described as the most keeping interests separate, and this means that any significant news will be published in our pages and no information will be hidden.
Egypt has experienced a sharp polarisation in views in recent times, but I am proud to say that readers will find honest news in our pages, rather than articles that either cheer for or show hostility toward the government. This has become extremely rare in our country.
On a more general note, how do you see Egypt’s economy recovering?
The Egyptian economy hasn’t taken a straight line since January 2011. Over the past four years, we have been able to follow these developments closely. We have seen many successful attempts to stop the economy falling off a cliff, but we have also seen many set-backs at times when we thought things were getting better.
The past year-and-a-half was the longest positive period since 2011. The growth rate finally jumped above 4.2% for the first time since 2009. Unemployment is still above 10% but has fallen for the first time in four years. Foreign investments are flowing in at rates similar to those before the revolution. Egypt’s credit rating has improved several times, even though it is still bad – but credit markets have finally welcomed us back. In terms of energy, the crisis has been partially resolved, and many infrastructure projects have been launched.
However, at the end of October, the world was shocked at the downing of a Russian plane in Sinai. This immediately impacted the tourism sector, which contributes by over 12% to the national economy, employs millions of Egyptians, and is considered the third rigorous policy of unified all entities dealing with investors into a single organisation. However, the law that was issued in March was disabled until July awaiting its executive rule. What happened next was not expected.
The General Authority For Investment and Free Zones (GAFI) was named by law the agent for investors, but it is still in chaos, trying to adapt to the new tasks it was assigned. The minister of investment talked about developing its human resources, but that is still far from being achieved. Egypt’s ranking in the Doing Business report reflects a gap the size of the Atlantic between what we aim for and the reality. The report indicates many area that need to be worked on to improve the business environment, such as the difficulty of obtaining permits for construction and operations, arbitration to resolve problems – which can take more than 1,000 days – imposing contracts, developing electricity facilities, and the taxation system.
In order to improve the investment climate in Egypt and make it more competitive, the problem of permits should be prioritized. In addition, land should be provided for industry, the long-awaited law for exiting the market should be issued, labour laws should be improved, and technology should be introduced to replace the inefficient bureaucracy.
Transparency should also be improved, and government projects should be put through tenders and not awarded directly. Moreover, laws to protect intellectual property should be reinforced. But the main element is to solve the shortage of foreign currency and establish a CBE trend that follows an exchange rate that provides liquidity rather than targeting a specific price.