This week has seen Northwestern University in Qatar’s (NU-Q) host the Fresh Global Media Players conference, which has gathered together local, regional and international academics, commentators and practitioners to discuss the radical transformations of news and entertainment over the last decade. Experts were joined by students, Qatari media entrepreneurs and government officials, including from Qatar’s Ministry of Culture, Arts and Heritage.

Digital disruption in the global advertising industry and the dizzying growth of online search as a profitable review stream were key themes throughout the two-day forum.

Yaser Bishr, executive director of strategy and development at Al Jazeera Media Network, urged delegates to reconsider how content producers can make money in the age of Google and online search. Meanwhile, Anne Geniets of the Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism presented strategies that international broadcasters are exploring to connect with a younger, digitally native population in developing countries – a group she dubbed ‘the next billion.’

Fresh Global Media Players is the brainchild of two NU-Q faculty members, Joe Khalil and John Downing, who are experts on the Middle East and global media, respectively.

Khalil, NU-Q associate professor in residence, was impressed with the exchange of ideas and level of debate:

Our speakers brought groundbreaking new information and unique perspectives to the table, and I was particularly interested in the level of engagement from the audience. Our guests came from diverse backgrounds – news, government, business and the academy – yet all have a stake in the changing media landscape.’

NU-Q places a strong emphasis on the research of media and communication in the Middle East. Later this spring, NU-Q will release Media Use in the Middle East: A Six-Nation Survey that tracks the habits and behaviour of news and media consumption in the region. The survey will, for the first time, include information about the use of platforms like WhatsApp across the Arab world – an area many feel should be given higher priority in the study of media and communications.