Zawya.com is a financial and business news website owned by Refinitiv Limited, an LSEG company. Founded in 2000 in London and relocated to Dubai in 2002, Zawya.com pioneered the concept of online subscriptions in the Middle East and has created profiles of thousands of companies, financial data, and projects. The company developed a large client base over the years before Thomson Reuters acquired it in June 2012.
Since its start as a company directory, Zawya has provided real-time and up-to-date financial data and free aggregated news, while the premium data and content were offered through premium membership. After its merger with Thomson Reuters in 2012, it began to produce its own non-aggregated original news stories, industry insights and analysis, which expanded over time with the addition of more journalists, freelance writers and subject-matter experts.
Zawya is now a leading financial and business news and insights provider in the Middle East, with over 2 million page views from a global audience. Its coverage spans the GCC countries, mainly Saudi Arabia and the UAE, as well as Egypt and the rest of the Arab world, in addition to India, China, the US and Europe via two websites, one in English and another in Arabic, with further plans to expand into other languages.
A new challenging world
Among the challenges facing online news publishers is competition with social media and citizen journalism. Zawya needs to maintain credibility and reader trust as a reputable publisher; Zawya’s principles, inherited from Thomson Reuters, and its strict rules for impartiality and neutrality in all coverage mean that rumours never influence its stories. A story can go online only when its accuracy has been verified 100 percent, even if, as on many occasions, this translates into publishing after social media has broken the news.
Another challenge was the reduced attention span of the digital audience. Zawya realised very quickly that over the last decade, the general audience has been flooded with information and news and that the average attention span is shrinking by the year: according to a study by Microsoft, human attention has decreased from 12 seconds to 8 seconds. Keeping visitors engaged enough to read the whole story has become a real challenge. In response, Zawya has moved to shorter stories with lower word counts and created more engaging content such as videos, infographics and animations while heavily leveraging social media to engage its audience. These content types have proven to be very popular but are also expensive and time-consuming to produce.
Zawya has also realised that technology is paramount for a news publishing company. Being able to reach readers with a stable and agile platform is vital. The way a publisher engages with their audience and appears on social media can really drive the success of a media company.
Changing technology: build or buy?
The various acquisitions and shifts in Zawya’s history have resulted in the need for technology upgrades, migration onto new servers and shutting down of old ones. Zawya’s legacy content-management system wasn’t built for news publishing. Though a highly customised system with many features, it was developed with what is now considered obsolete technology, which meant that it was difficult to add or change anything or to find developers who still could work with this code. In addition, everything was hardcoded. Hence, adding or implementing new features was a real challenge and a time-consuming process.
For these reasons, Zawya needed to migrate to new technology and to find someone who understood their editorial needs.
A scouting process started, and Zawya identified a few solutions and possible partners. Many didn’t have an off-the-shelf solution but offered to build a Content Management System (CMS). Given its previous history with a custom-built solution, this was a route Zawya didn’t want to pursue.
Walid El-Tigi, Head of Editorial Content, Refinitiv, said. “Finally, we came to find Atex and discovered that they are specialised in publishing and have ready platforms that need minimal modifications.”
Purchasing an off-the-shelf solution like Atex, Zawya didn’t need to hire a technical team; instead, it could focus on content and quickly customise a highly scalable CMS. After six months of intensive work and daily meetings between the Zawya editorial and product team and Atex engineers, the new platform was live.
“The move was seamless,” said Walid El-Tigi.