Google Industry Head for Gulf: The future is in digital multimedia, led by an explosion in online video

February 16, 2012

NU-Q student Yara Darwish scores exclusive interview with Alfonso de Gaetano of Google on media trends and opportunities in the Gulf region

DOHA, QATAR –Digital multimedia is set to explode in coming years, with experts predicting that 90% of all content on the web will take the form of video by 2015, said Google’s Industry Head of the Gulf in a recent interview.

Alfonso de Gaetano of Google spoke with Northwestern University in Qatar student Yara Darwish in an exclusive interview about the rise of digital multimedia—a combination of text, audio, still images, animation, or video delivered electronically—and its social and business implications during a visit to Doha earlier this month.

“Being digital needs to be a key part of your strategy whenever you want to communicate something,” said Gaetano, adding that simply having a blog or website no longer guarantees that your digital voice will be heard.

With nearly 8.7 billion pages of content currently on the Web, “it has become more difficult to be visible on the web,” Gaetano told Darwish. Individuals and companies must develop digital literacy and fluency across media platforms to cut through the clutter of information available to audiences and consumers today.

Dean and CEO of Northwestern University in Qatar, Dr. Everette Dennis, commented, “Our mission is to create a talent bench for Qatar and the region as we prepare our students for leadership in the digital, global 21st century economy. Engaging the leaders of the media industry is one of the most effective ways for our students to gain insights into the exciting opportunities that await them.”

“As a media student I am inspired rather than intimidated by what Alfonso had to say,” commented Darwish, adding, “At Northwestern we are trained to operate across a variety of mediums, and I feel well prepared to navigate the competitive media environment that we will face upon graduation.”

As part of her Journalism major at Northwestern University in Qatar, Darwish was required to take a Visual Journalism class during her sophomore year that had her report complex stories with still and video cameras and the latest editing software. She thinks this is one of the key NU-Q courses that help students begin to develop the digital media skills and knowledge that will be in such high demand in the region over coming years.

Mohammed Rezwan al-Islam, an NU-Q Communications student who will graduate this spring, is already putting those skills to use as a social media expert at Fuego Digital Media, one of Canada’s leading internet application development companies, with an office in Qatar.

“The approach, curriculum and facilities at NU-Q are geared towards creating the next generation of story tellers who can deliver a message tactfully, with evidence, and with great aesthetics. This background in media and communication studies coupled with an extensive technical and production education are the main drivers in my daily responsibilities as a Social Media Specialist,” says al-Islam.

During his interview with Darwish, Gaetano also highlighted the need for expanding quality Arabic content on the web, saying, “We need to make sure people in the region have access to relevant content in the language they speak.”

Although 50% of people’s media time is spent on the web in the Gulf region, only about 1.5% of all content on the Internet is in Arabic.

Darwish, who is a Qatari national, sees great potential for her and other young people in the region to fill this gap.

“This is why Northwestern’s programs are here, it’s what our studies are preparing us for – to create quality content for Qatar and the region that engages people’s interest and is relevant to their lives,” Darwish added, a conviction that she says was only deepened by last semester’s visit from Her Highness Sheikha Moza bint Nasser with NU-Q students.

At the September 2011 session, Her Highness Sheikha Moza expressed her support for growing media professions in Qatar, and encouraged students to create their own outlets for delivering content in Arabic and English where they see opportunity.