x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 27 July 2017

Mobimag puts newspapers on the phone

Free service lets users browse magazines and papers, and firm hopes to sign up 20 UAE titles.

A Dubai-based company has launched a digital application that allows users to browse newspapers and magazines on their mobile phones. Mobimag hopes to offer 20 UAE publications by the end of the year on its new application. It is compatible with more than 240 mobile devices and available free to consumers, with the backers hoping to make money from advertising on a revenue-share basis with publishers.

The 7DAYS newspaper, Gulf Business magazine and Campaign Middle East are already available on the platform and the developer claims to be in talks with "most" UAE publishers over launching further titles. Mobimag displays newspapers and magazines in the same format as their print versions, with users able to open articles to view the text in mobile-friendly format. "While web-based news services have been available in the region for some time now, accessing news content on your mobile phones as it appears in print is a new concept," said Ibrahim Darraz, the general manager at Mobivision, the media company behind Mobimag.

"We are talking to most of the publishers in the UAE. The feedback has been very positive." Mr Darraz declined to name the other publishers the company is in talks with. The platform is available in English, Arabic and some Asian languages. It offers capabilities such as video, audio and animations, and users are able to respond directly to advertising through a "click to call" button. Mobivision said the application would provide an "effective and intuitive advertising platform".

"It provides advertisers with rich and interactive advertising," said Feras Younes, the product manager at Mobimag who added the adverts could be in the form of small applications, animations, games or videos. "The media agencies are hungry for such a platform." Mr Younes said Mobivision and its publisher partners would sell advertising on the system. He said the application was available on mobile devices including most Nokia and Windows Mobile phones and some Sony Ericsson, Samsung, LG and HTC handsets.

BlackBerry and Android applications will be ready in August, followed by a version for the Apple iPhone in September. "We're planning a very special version for the iPad but that will come later," said Mr Younes. The company said the revenue-share model was the preferred option but the software was also available through licensing. Fees vary but a licence for an 80-page monthly magazine would cost Dh30,000 (US$8,167) a year, and between Dh2,000 and Dh3,000 for each issue uploaded.

"We expect to see 20 titles before the end of the year," said Mr Younes, adding the company would be focusing on UAE publications this year but would later approach publishers in other Arab countries. Mobile phone penetration is high in the Middle East with consumers in the UAE having an average of more than two SIM cards each - one of the highest rates in the world. The use of mobile applications is popular among young consumers. A survey of 2,587 internet users in the MENA region conducted this month by Effective Measure showed 54 per cent of respondents said they used a mobile application every day.

@Email:bflanagan@thenational.ae