Research Matters

Media-use study shapes agendas in newsrooms, classrooms, and life-and-death affairs

Media-use study shapes agendas in newsrooms, classrooms, and life-and-death affairs

Arab Spring inspires act of border-crossing brilliance in the media world.

Back in 2010, the Arab Spring brought forth many chains of events, some of which were at the heart of the border-melting upheaval, yet others were standalone acts of border-crossing brilliance.
In a quiet office, at Education City’s then-newest school on the block, that same loud and sweeping change – and a scarcity in media research in the region –inspired a project that went on to shape communication agendas and decision-making in newsrooms, classrooms, and various organizations that deal with everything from arts to life-and-death affairs.
“As the Arab springs/uprisings of 2010-11 were closely associated with the internet and social media, those events were a substantive inspiration for the project”, lead investigator on the project and the Dean and CEO of Northwestern University in Qatar (NU-Q) Dr. Everette Dennis recalls.
Dr. Dennis worked on the project, titled “Media Use in the Arab Gulf: A Longitudinal Study” (NPRP 7-1757-5-261), with Dr. Justin Martin and Mr. Robb Wood. The goal of the study was to monitor and track media developments in the Middle East, including people’s attitudes toward media, censorship, and regulation.
The insights and trends captured by the longitudinal study, however, went far beyond what the average media consumer could tell of the changing media landscape in the region.
For instance, the project chronicled, in black and white, the evolution of social media influencers from quasi-public figures to primary news curators. Similarly, various data captured the fading gap between TV and the internet (including mobile access) as Arab citizens’ medium of choice for daily news.
Other surprising findings of the study include Gulf nationals’ preference to watch a professional sporting event on TV or online rather than in-person, which underscores the importance of seamless streaming of the 2022 FIFA World Cup, for example.
With these and many other valuable insights, the study quickly became an indispensable source of information for data-driven decision-making at many leading organizations spanning various spheres and disciplines.
While Al Jazeera and AJ+ use relevant data to help support and inform their media initiatives, academics in many renowned universities have reported citing the study while teaching political science, journalism, communication, and many other courses.
Beyond newsrooms and classrooms, the study is also playing a supportive role in communication from movie theaters to the ‘world stage’ at large, with one shining example being UNICEF officials using the study to better communicate life-and-death matters affecting women and children throughout the MENA region.
Thanks to its rich insights and the long list of eminent institutions relying on its data to tailor their communications and steer initiatives, the study earned the spotlight of major news organizations over the years, including CNN, the BBC, The Washington Post, The Atlantic, The Guardian, Fast Company, The Wall Street Journal, Agence France-Presse, and many more.
“The Media Use Project has been one of our proudest achievements at NU-Q as the work has gotten world-wide attention as an important source of information and inspiration”, Dr. Dennis noted. “Now, after nearly a decade of this work, it is time to refresh and consider the next phase”, he concluded.

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