One of the reasons I planned to base this company in the Middle East is because at present, there is no other company that actively searches for and provides internships to journalism students and media graduates.
The reason this is so is because all of these nations have only recently developed, as opposed to First World countries that have long-established institutions of journalism that are today well-known and instantly recognised throughout the world.
Because of this, journalism in the Middle East is still very much a word-of-mouth business. Given the manner in which companies are growing, though, they will sooner or later begin and maintain their own internship links.
Potentially, should this company get off the ground, it could, when the time comes, handle their internship divisions for them.
That being said, however, there are still three primary sources of competition for this company.
Company internship portals
Most companies in the Middle East have internship portals where they advertise internships that people can apply for. This, however, pertains primarily to companies that have a widespread presence in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA), such as oil and gas companies (like Shell and British Petroleum) and financial firms such as KPMG.
However, at present, no media firms have online internship links, which I feel is extremely important given the manner in which the Middle Eastern media industry is growing. The industry is expected to grow by about seven percent in the next five years, with its value growing from $16 billion to $24 billion by 2019.
Much of this is because of the availability of high-speed internet connections over computers and mobile telephones. There are over 196 million registered SIM cards in the nations of the Gulf Cooperation Council, which is twice the population of the region.
This upswing in mobile connectivity has actually seen CNN Arabia re-engineer its website for better adaptation to phones and tablets. While this restructuring is seen as a pilot project, should it turn out to be successful, other CNN sites could follow suit.
A study by Abu Dhabi-based data firm Strategy& revealed that the younger generation of Arabs are searching for better local news. It is here where it would help for the natives of these Arab nations to report news themselves, because it is journalists who live among the people who best capture their sentiments, which is what they must be conveying in their news stories.
In addition, many Arab nations are now actively pursuing programmes to provide jobs to many of their own people. The unemployment rate in the Middle East stands at about 15%, and the reason this number is so is because of a recent population boom in the region, which saw a growth of 42% in population, as compared to a growth around the mid-twenties in the rest of the world.
That this growth in media would automatically absorb some of the unemployed would nominally be a win-win situation, but the Arab youth at present do not have the requisite technical skills to be competent at their jobs. While some of them will have journalistic contacts in companies, plenty of them will not, and this is where my company would come in.
The internships my company would find these people would tick several boxes, chiefly the ones listed above. Having helped these media organisations during their latest expansion phases, and more importantly, having helped their resident nations successfully achieve the transition from immigrant to nationalised labour, will help the company gain instant recognition and assist in its future growth.
Online Job Application sites
While media organisations in the Middle East themselves don’t have internship opportunities listed, there are many online jobsites that list media openings and work experience vacancies at companies throughout the Gulf Cooperation Council, a collective of six Arab nations: Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Bahrain, Oman, Qatar and the UAE.
It is sites such as these that will be the biggest competitors to my new hypothetical company, as they will have several listed internship opportunities that people will apply for. However, in order to maximise the number of applications for a particular role, it is quite common for companies to advertise the same opening on several jobsites.
But, most companies have no listings when it comes to vacancies at media organisations, which is quite surprising, as there are always people required to replace those who leave. This is unlike companies in the First World, who regularly advertise media positions on jobsites.
Moreover, a majority of jobs listed on such sites are to do with full-time vacancies, not internship opportunities. The primary reason for this is that unlike in the First World, the practice of students going to intern at companies is not yet institutionalised in the Middle East.
Seek.com.au, for example, caters to Australia, while journalism.co.uk has many national and international postings. Naukrigulf.com, however, does not have many.
However, based on my experiences living and working in the Gulf, it is very evident that companies need talented interns on board in order to ensure the smooth running of the day-to-day aspects of publications. With the current job market the way it is, interns will be glad to have access to an online database that lists creative posts that have been categorised for their convenience.
In order to gain access to an available list of internship opportunities available at a company, it will be important for me and my potential colleagues to intensely network with the concerned people at these companies, so that the aforementioned opportunities can be listed on the site.
For this reason, it is important that I expand my list of contacts using my existing ones, so that the site in question can list as many available internship opportunities from a maximum number of companies.
By providing a steady stream of competent interns who excel during their time at these companies, my company will be able to make a name for itself in the market, thereby gaining more clients, paving the way for growth, expansion and recognition.
At present, there is only one direct competitor to the idea of a dedicated company that finds internships to students, but, as I found out on further exploration of this site, there are no media and/or creative internship listings on this site, which is called Interns ME and caters to jobseekers in the UAE.
The idea of therefore developing a site wherein media internships are provided would therefore be my USP. Given the expansion that the market is currently set to undergo and the ongoing desire by young Arabs to slake their thirst for more local news and this company provides fertile ground for both parties to meet their needs.
In addition, investment in media is one of the many portfolios the Gulf nations are currently pursuing as they attempt to divest from the traditional fossil fuel-centric economies that one associates the Middle East with.