Dubai is fascinating — who wouldn’t want to create a modern world from scratch, a place where architects design 94-floor skyscrapers to resemble flickering candle light? This city in the sand is home to a multibillion-dollar expansion, fueled by oil profits from the United Arab Emirates and what some say is a long-term ploy to turn the economy of the Arabian Peninsula away from oil dependence (yes, someday we will run out) to commerce and entertainment.
American Public Media’s popular Marketplace program is delving into Dubai this week, and uncovering some old-school business models. Last night radio host Kai Ryssdal interviewed Hassan Fattah, formerly of The New York Times, over the launch of a new English newspaper in Dubai at a time when most of the newsprint world is evaporating. Fattah said, This is the fastest growing country in the world. Internet penetration is not that strong here so by definition the old model of the newspaper still exists and it’s still thriving. And, in fact, there is a reason that newspapers like the Times of London are now jumping over themselves to publish here.
The media opportunities in Dubai are sweet. Part of the city has been renamed Dubai Media City, a tax-free regional media hub with huge fiber optic infrastructure. Some restrictions apply — Pakistani channels are mostly shut down, and internet content is filtered for anything related to sex, the Baha’i faith, or coming out of Israel. But Marketplace notes the huge, burgeoning population of English-speaking expatriates creates a sweet growth model for old-school print and other media. If you don’t mind state rules, Bollywood films and cricket fans, Dubai is open for media business.
Al Gore wins the Nobel Peace Prize today, pointing to a world of ever-rising climate turmoil that will change agriculture, sea levels, pollution controls, water supplies and consumer preferences. Gore has been writing about global warming for decades. While he still gets knocked around by the Wall Street Journal editorial board who type away in denial, the evidence compiled by 2,000 U.N. scientists over 20 years shows that eventually, yes, New Orleans Mardi Gras will be held under water.
We don’t have a solution, but think there is a lesson here for any business who denies their environment will change. Whether you are a utility selling air conditioning or heating supplies, or a marketer wondering why print results have declined but internet is up, the lesson is this: the world doesn’t stand still at any level. Yesterday’s approach to marketing, business, or the environment does not work today. Consumers shop differently. They use more web and less print. They drive further. They tune out more. If you don’t learn to adapt to changing media markets, it may get hot.
You probably heard a year ago about a global initiative called One Laptop Per Child. Well, it’s arrived, and David Pogue says the $100 laptop, meant to boost tech literacy among children in developing nations, is a brilliant piece of machinery. It’s dirt-proof. Water-proof. Has a $12 solar panel. It runs Wi-Fi, and if no wireless is available, it syncs with other laptops in a “mesh network” so kids in a classroom can work together. The six-hour battery can take 2,000 recharge cycles — a bit better than your iPhone, eh?
It’s amazing — even if the price came in at $188 — and illustrates that all computer hardware is becoming a commodity. As software moves online and screens get smaller, content and viewers will eventually outweigh Seattle-based licensing fees.
U.S. consumers get a brief window to buy this cool green thing for two weeks starting Nov. 12. You’ll have to spend $400, because the deal is, you buy one, you also give one to a poor child somewhere in the world who is waiting for technology. Nice. Visit One Laptop Per Child at www.laptop.org.
Communications gurus planning campaigns abroad now have an easy test for how problematic the local media market may be in carrying the messaging. Researchers at Cambridge, Harvard, Oxford and the University of Toronto have mapped the filtering of internet content in 41 nations around the world, and found 25 countries either block some topics completely or screen it.
Blocked communications included human rights, religion, politics, sex, gambling and drugs. The largest barriers to social topics such as gambling arose in Eastern Africa and the Middle East; China scored highest on political censorship. At least China doesn’t have robocalls.
Update: You can find the research at MIT’s online pub, which requires registration and is free.