Forty-one-year-old Saudi daily Arab News has signaled the beginning of its global and digital expansion by hiring Al Arabiya English’s editor-in-chief Faisal J. Abbas in the same role. Ever since his move from London to Dubai in 2012, Abbas has become known as ‘Mr. Arabiya English’. Under his leadership, Al Arabiya has grown to target the English-speaking demographic as well as digital-savvy audiences through new offerings such as blogs and original subtitling and transcript services for the Arabic channel.
“Al Arabiya will always have a special place in my heart and I cherish every moment I spent there,” says Abbas. However, he has now stepped down to go back to Jeddah – where he grew up – in his newest role as editor-in-chief of Saudi Research and Marketing (SRMG)’ flagship English daily, Arab News. While he doesn’t openly admit to transforming Arab News the way he did with Al Arabiya, he does say, “Editorial integrity can’t be promised, it must be proven and all that I ask is that the Arab News team and I be given some time to demonstrate what we can do together.” His plans include always keeping content at the core, but having said, he points out, “There is no such thing as a local paper anymore. We are all global whether we like or not.” In this digital age, Abbas believes that “creating captivating content and effectively distributing it” are the two things that matter. In fact, he adds, if you offer information that is “exclusive, relevant and important,” people may forgive the look and feel.
At a time when attention spans are shorter than ever and digital consumption is faster than ever, the role of media and journalism, in particular, is more crucial – a sentiment that is best articulated by Abbas: “We definitely need to cater to a new generation of news consumers who need to be better informed if we are to trust them to make important decisions in the future.”