Saturday, October 17, 2009

English Newspapers in Oman

With the launch of the Muscat Daily a week ago, the number of English language dailies in the Sultanate has gone up to 4. Always great to have more choice. But sadly the new addition hasn't really set itself apart from the older trio. Expect in price, perhaps. A short & POV look at the dailies that we have.

Pros: Possibly the leading daily in terms of circulation. This gives them some other benefits. Many ads, for instance, appear only in the Times. They also seem to have a pretty good coverage of the local news surrounding the expat community. Plenty of supplements: such as H!, Thursday Mag, Entertainment on Wednesdays, Faces... Also have an e-paper. Not very user friendly though. And of course, they organize the Open Quiz annually.
Cons: Annoying viewpoints & editorial pages. Some regular & irritating letter writers. A few other verbose columnists pontificating on life, the universe & everything. Some of the local reporters are good, but most don't do any spadework. They're content just to copy-paste the press releases. Overall not much quality content.
Was subscribing to this. Twice, just stopped receiving the paper. Had to call up to get it restarted. Otherwise was getting it before 06:00, which was quite fine.

Pros: Oldest daily. They carry the only decent cryptic crossword among all four. Probably copied from some British daily, as the clues sometimes indicate. Some good columns in their business section.
Cons: Nothing much to distinguish it from the rest. The only one that doesn't seem to be making an effort to boost subscription. No discount offers etc. Local news is usually very similar to that in the Tribune.

Pros: Unlike the others, relying heavily on the scant local content available, they run some good syndicated columns. Partnerships with the likes of Harvard Business Review & the Hindu Business Line are definite +s. Some good local columns on unexplored picnic spots in Oman.
Cons: Local reporting is probably the weakest of the 4. Not a very happy experience subscribing. Paper usually lands around 08:00. By this time one would have already left for office/school.

Muscat Daily. No website. From Apex Press & Publishing
Pros: Cheapest of the lot. At 100 baiza a copy or OMR 13 for an annual sub. Greater local coverage. Paper's actually landing around 05:00. Good section titled press releases, instead of passing it off as their own write-ups.
Cons: Not much content. Using a lot of self-advertising, big fonts and wide spacing to cover it. Should probably improve with time. One whole sports page devoted to U.S. games such as baseball, NFL & the like. Does anyone actually follow that stuff down here? Local news is more on Omani & govt activities. Not much on the expat scene. Their idea of the local beat seems to be reporting the accident stats from the ROP & covering overflowing drains. Have started with a lot of local columnists, many of whom don't really make the grade. Not available on Thursdays & Fridays.

Doesn't really substitute a regular newspaper. But at the price, a good supplement.

On a general note, none of the papers' websites really appeal. Too cluttered, too slow. Perhaps all could pay a bit more attention to engaging the subscriber a bit more.

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