Aurora Magazine

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A Forever Young Population

Facing an increasingly young population, the media in Pakistan will need to innovate and adapt to stay ahead of the curve.
Updated 23 Jan, 2024 12:49pm

The ways in which digital technologies have influenced and continue to shape behaviours and habits across individuals, societies and industries are multifaceted and complex. 

Covid-19 had a significant impact on the advertising industry in digital media. As the pandemic caused economic uncertainty and reduced consumer spending, many brands have cut back on their advertising budgets, leading to a decline in overall ad spending. This has been especially pronounced in traditional media such as TV, radio and print, all of which have seen sharp declines in ad revenue.

A study by the Pakistan Press Foundation reported that over 20 newspapers had closed in Pakistan since the start of the pandemic, advertising revenues have fallen by an average of 30%, and an estimated 2,000+ journalists have lost their jobs. Speaking to Aurora about the future of newspapers, Sarmad Ali, Managing Director, Jang Group and Secretary General, APNS, explained how the Covid-19 pandemic affected profitable revenue streams of the print media including circulation and advertising. However, Ali believes that newspapers are still a relevant medium and have a place in the media ecosystem. According to him, the readership of major Urdu newspapers is likely to go up by 10 to 15% as consumers seek authentic and truthful political news during election time. Most political parties are likely to deploy significant funds for advertising and promotion in the print media. However, he is of the view that to attract new and young media consumers, the newspaper industry will have to reinvent itself by creating content that resonates with them.

As a result, advertisers are under pressure to reformat their strategies and re-evaluate who their audiences are and the pandemic proved to be the perfect time to do this, considering how markets and algorithms are changing, especially when people are stuck at home.

There has been an acceleration in the industry’s shift towards digital channels and consequently, a more data-driven approach to advertising, with long-term implications. More than two-thirds of the world’s total population uses a mobile phone and as of Q3 2023, there were 5.19 billion internet users worldwide, equivalent to 64.5% of the world’s total population. People can now access what they want, whenever they want, thanks to technology. This includes film, television and music. The number of social media users globally grew from 4.62 billion in January 2022 to 4.72 billion in January 2023, accounting for a three percent growth. Statista forecasts that in the social media advertising market, $247.30 billion of total ad spending will be generated through mobiles in 2027.

The digital media market worldwide is projected to grow by 8.39% (2023-2027), resulting in a market volume of $797.10 billion in 2027. Digital media users worldwide are projected to grow from 2.5 billion in 2018 to 3.6 billion in 2027. However, earlier this year PwC in its Global Entertainment & Media Outlook 2023-2027, reported a decline of the E&M industries, pushing them to ‘reset expectations, focus inward and seek ways to recharge growth’ by exploring new markets. In this context, Generative AI is being viewed as an ‘engine of productivity for the creative process’.

Five years from now Pakistan will turn 81, with an estimated population of more than 250 million and with the number of internet users projected to be more than 190 million, inspired by the popularity of social media and online services, as well as the increasing affordability of smartphones and internet access – core components that are shaping the future of media and entertainment in the country.

As of 2023, Pakistan’s digital landscape has undergone significant transformation, driven by the increasing adoption of mobile phones and internet connectivity. According to the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA), as of June 2023, Pakistan has over 200 million mobile phone subscribers and over 90 million internet users.

Based on the data from Statista, digital media in Pakistan is forecast to see an increase of 12.3% between 2023 and 2027, ultimately reaching a market value of around $ 986.3 million by 2027. Jerjees Seja, CEO of ARY Network, highlights the importance of being in the business of content, emphasising how it is shaping the competitive dynamics. He predicts that beyond 2025, the industry will undergo a massive digital transformation blurring the distinction between traditional TV and OTT platforms, despite the subscription model being in its infancy stage. According to Seja, during this transformative phase, three significant factors will come into play. Firstly, the integration of e-commerce, creating new opportunities for monetisation. Secondly, the implementation of interactive and transmedia feedback mechanisms, enhancing viewer engagement and participation. Thirdly, the use of social media to amplify the industry’s reach and impact. ARY has deployed several AI functions for content management and to generate user insights, which then inform the market strategy including incorporating several social media platforms. Streaming services like Netflix and Amazon Prime already use algorithms to recommend content based on viewing history, and this trend is likely to continue.

Although forecasting what media will be like is difficult, some trends and technological advancements do suggest that labour and services will be automated and AI will be integrated at every level of production. The rise of mobile video, virtual and augmented reality, data analytics, AI and social media are all expected to shape the future of the industry.

In close collaboration with industry experts, Aurora’s research shows remarkable developments within the digital advertising sphere, indicating a surge in revenue share from Rs 16.8 billion in FY 2020-21 to Rs. 19.95 billion in FY 2021-22 (Facebook Rs. 9.2 billion, Google & YouTube Rs. 8.1 billion, other websites/platforms Rs. 2.6 billion). This trend suggests that an increasing number of advertisers are directing their investments towards digital channels, potentially in response to the expanding online presence of their audiences. With the existing network connectivity, consumers are experiencing the delivery of high-quality video content and live streaming – the launch of 5G spectrum in 2024 in Pakistan will further enhance user experience.

The increasing popularity of digital payments is transforming the way Pakistanis pay for online news and entertainment subscriptions. The McKinsey Global Institute estimates that the market potential of digital finance services is likely to cross $36 billion by 2025, creating four million new jobs. Telecommunication giants in Pakistan have also ventured into OTT platforms of their own, whether it is Jazz’s Tamasha app or Telenor’s Drama Station. This indicates market potential for content creation and curation. Aamir Ibrahim, CEO of Jazz, whilst commenting on Pakistan’s evolving mobile data trends, anticipates that by 2028, an average Pakistani mobile user will be consuming around 12 GB of data monthly. This data-driven surge underscores a larger transformation in Pakistan’s media consumption. Traditional media avenues, such as newspapers and TV are increasingly making way for digital platforms. This shift is not unique to Pakistan but mirrors a global inclination towards digitisation.

The changing media landscape is being shaped by Pakistan’s young population, with over half being under the age of 25 and several research studies show that the new generation is consuming news and entertainment differently, favouring social and digital news formats and desiring diverse news agendas as they tend to be suspicious and sceptical of news organisations’ agendas. In the coming years, news and entertainment consumption in Pakistan will be shaped by a combination of factors, including changing consumer behaviour, new technologies, and evolving business models. As consumer demands change, the media industry will need to continue to innovate and adapt to stay ahead of the curve. And although paper is unlikely to become extinct, it will become irrelevant. Pakistan will remain young for decades.

Puruesh Chaudhary is an award-winning futures researcher and strategic narrative professional. She was featured amongst the World’s top female futurists and works for AGAHI.