New media for a new generation discussed at the Abu Dhabi Media Summit

The future of youth television and digital and social media 'natives' key topics

A series of enlightening panels and discussions explored the ways in which youth consume media in a rapidly changing digital landscape at the Abu Dhabi Media Summit 2012.

The event, being held at the Yas Viceroy Hotel from October 9-11 under the general theme of 'Redefining the Digital Frontier', is an invaluable forum for the analysis of trends, the sharing of insights and the identification of opportunities for everyone involved.

Mark Gerhard, CEO of Jagex, gave a sneak peak of the new online Transformers game, Transformers Universe, and talked about the development of 'browser gaming'. He said Transformers Universe allows for "far more intense but shorter gameplay sessions", and predicted that the makers of platforms such as Xbox, Playstation or Wii would eventually "liberate their consoles and make them more accessible to the browser".

He added: "We have 2,000 players in the UAE; and 700 of those are paying, so we have a presence. But we have to come up with something that works culturally in the right regions and I think the opportunity will be with sci-fi games."

In a wide ranging roundtable session about how news reporting and the news cycle have changed unrecognisably in the digital world, Nart Bouran, Head of Sky News Arabia, Greg Beitchman, Global Head of Multimedia for Thomson Reuters, and Yousef Gamal El Din, Middle East Correspondent for CNBC, talked with Bill Spindle, Middle East Bureau Chief for the Wall Street Journal.

Bouran talked about the usage of social media as a fact of life and how Sky news Arabia has had to make social media part of their DNA with a big focus on technical and editorial integration across the organisation. On the issue of verification and accuracy he talked about the need to build relationships with trusted third party sources, especially in locations which are difficult to access.

In a global new report sponsored by Google, Booz & Company's Karim Sabbagh, Global Leader for the Communications, Media & Technology Practice, talked about the Millennial generation and what he termed "ADG'ers" - the Arab Digital Generation.

Sabbagh highlighted key findings of the report including the fact that 83% of this new Arab generation use the Internet daily; 40% watch short videos online for entertainment daily; and 80% would give up their TV in favour of the internet if they were forced to choose.

Four out of five 'ADG'ers' do not engage in any transaction activity online, showing very clearly that the commercial web has not yet kicked off in the UAE region.

In a conversation session entitled Learning Curves, Melvin Ming, President & CEO of Sesame Workshop, joined the Summit via a live satellite link from New York to discuss the future of pre-school education and the role of media in education.

Ming used the session to stress the importance of the work Sesame Street does in educating pre-school children and talked about its commitment to getting children "school ready and life ready" by using media to help them grow and learn.

When asked about the international reach of Sesame Street and the possibility of expanding its global reach to include the Middle East, Sesame Workshop's VP International Robet Knezevic said: "We are very much looking forward to launching a new version of Sesame Street in the Gulf soon," he said. "There is a tremendous need here we can fill with Arabic language content to help on a number of issues including Arabic language learning, health issues, respect and understanding."

During a roundtable discussion entitled Youthquake, HRH Princess Rym Ali of Jordan, spoke about the positive effect of social media driving civil society debates, but said that freedom of expression is still an issue in the Middle East. The Princess said there is a need to look at content to help build a more open society and that digital literacy is important - as is the overhaul of education system - so that citizens can make informed, moral decisions.

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