Watani’s second challenge

24-10-2018 02:13 PM

Youssef Sidhom

Problems on hold
On 15 April 2018, I wrote under the title “Watani faces the challenge”, citing the financial challenges that face Watani Printing and Publishing Corporation—the joint stock company that owns and publishes Watani paper. I cited the steady losses incurred by the paper on account of the decline in revenue and rise in expenses. I explained that the diminishing revenue owed to a number of factors of which Watani was not the only victim; Egyptian and global papers alike suffered on that score. Worldwide, subscriptions and circulation dropped as readers migrated to online media. Also across the world advertising dropped; in Egypt especially it came on the wings of the economic crunch post the 2011 Arab Spring; the economic reform measures that followed were hard and did nothing to improve the advertising market. In addition, the government’s decision to float the Egyptian Pound in November 2016 had the effect of more than doubling printing costs and tripling postal cost in case of subscriptions.

I ended my 15 April Editorial announcing that Watani Printing and Publishing Corporation was aspiring to double its capital, a move later approved by the general assembly of shareholders; legal procedures are currently being taken to that effect. I called for the support of readers and friends to help Watani carry on with its 60-year-old Egyptian Coptic mission through advertising in Watani, and boosting the paper’s circulation by subscribing to the paper or buying it every Sunday.

On 29 April 2018, under the title “Watani rides out the first challenge”, I informed our readers of the shareholders’ decision to double the capital of Watani Printing and Publishing Corporation. I expressed my gratitude to the shareholders who appeared resolute that the paper should live on. But it is self-evident that doubling the capital alone cannot rescue the paper if advertisements and sales do not see much improvement.

More than a week ago, a zealous friend of Watani decided to take the initiative of posting a message on social media to rally the support of readers and advertisers. The message, which ended with a call to spread it, went viral. Written in vernacular Arabic, it read: “Good morning! A question: if Watani paper shuts down, do you think we Christians could obtain a licence to publish another paper? Another question: why don’t people help the paper out of its crisis through putting in ads? Watani is going through a hard financial crisis, and badly needs your help, otherwise it will have to close. Tell the people you know, the businessmen and churches, that Watani is a mission we should maintain. Besides, it is the source of livelihood for scores of journalists and employees.”

The message had the effect of troubling some and rallying the support of many. I print it here to assure everyone of its authenticity, despite my reservation against the ‘warning’ that it might be difficult for Christians to secure license for another paper. Watani’s mission and credit go far beyond being a paper owned by Christians; it is a national Coptic paper that has behind it 60 years of serving national and Coptic causes.
I find myself speechless with appreciation and gratitude before the public response to the message. The outpouring of warm sentiments for Watani and the keenness and zeal to endorse it and help it out of its financial straits has overwhelmed me and all at the paper.
I wish to point out, however, that as a joint stock company in the media field, we may not accept donations. Neither was this the aim of the online campaign. What we aim for is to rally for legitimate means of endorsing the press and media: enhanced circulation, more subscriptions, and robust advertising for us to be able to carry on.

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