Mainstream papers — once the mainstay of our daily news fix — are languishing behind social media as a source of information, entertainment and — perhaps most importantly — instant digital communication. Gone are the days when broadsheets and tabloids kept us up to date — relatively speaking — on the goings-on in the political, business, sporting and international arenas. Social media has revolutionised the way we consume information, communicate with relatives and friends, and generally live out our human and virtual lives.
Digital platforms in the form of Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat, and so on, have an outsized influence on our professional and personal lives corresponding with the size of our digital presence in cyberspace.
Hatim al Taie, Editor-in-Chief of Al Roya — the well-known Arabic language business daily — makes a sobering revelation in a tweet posted on his official account. The formidable growth of digital media, the tweet warns, poses one of the biggest challenges to the survival of the traditional print industry. In this regard, the veteran publisher calls on print media professionals to take the lead in shoring up the mainstream media by embracing innovation and adapting to change.
Examples abound of digital news channels and dedicated social media sites that have usurped traditional service providers in the delivery of information, news, analysis and entertainment to consumers via mobile and online platforms.
A hugely popular homegrown example is @WeatherOmanya, which provides updates on forecasts and weather events of significance to the local population and regionally as well. Founded by Jamil al Saadi and launched in 2004, @WeatherOmanya also offers a steady stream of interesting updates on the tourism, sports, entertainment, and leisure fronts as well.
“It is the channel of choice for those who love to browse for information on topics of interests,” says Nasser al Riyami, an avid member of the team behind this highly regarded digital service.
As the name of the social media site suggests, @WeatherOmanya primarily serves as a one-stop information service on all things weather-related. “Thus, in addition to forecasts, it also posts details about the weather situation in wadis potentially impacted by showers in the catchment areas, and so on. We provide safety-related information as well, on precautions to take when venturing into areas that may have witnessed heavy rains, flooded streets, waterlogging issues, and so on.”
Underpinning @WeatherOmanya’s long-standing appeal is its factual projections and accounts of weather forecasts, says Nasser. “We work very hard to source inputs for our reporting on trusted sources. Regular updates on developing weather situations are also our forte.”
Buoyed by its runaway popularity, @WeatherOmanya has established a presence on a wide variety of social media platforms, including Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and more recently, on WhatsApp.
Subscriber numbers have burgeoned as well, with as many as 196,000 followers on Instagram and an impressive 335,000 on Twitter. Given its appeal, the site is generating advertising revenue, which is being utilised to improve its overall offering.
Significantly, @WeatherOmanya also doubles as a platform that promotes Oman’s tourist attractions. “We tweet about places of interest, posting images with our tweet, and things that visitors can do while in Oman. We also get queries from people eager for specific information about the Sultanate’s tourism product and places they wish to visit.”
Not surprisingly, @WeatherOmanya has a sizeable number of followers from outside Oman. “It’s amazing what social media can achieve in disseminating useful and up-to-date information on the weather and other topics of interest. Users have the latest information on their fingertips, thanks to digital media,” he added.
Hammam Al Badi