BNC Publishing appoints new Group Director

Dubai-based publishing agency, BNC Publishing has appointed Samer Alloush to the role of Group Director. With over eight years of experience in the media industry, Samer previously worked with ITP and then Motivate, where he handled local and international agencies and most recently worked with Plan B Advertising, offering solutions ranging from media planning and execution to project management. In his new role, he will oversee the editorial and commercial growth of BNC Publishing’s hospitality publications and platforms by managing all sales activities and the editorial team for Catering News ME, Hotel News ME, Leader in Hospitality Awards, GM Debate, Leader in F&B Awards, F&B Forum and Executive Housekeepers Conference.

“I am privileged to be part of the BNC Publishing team who have developed well-reputed publications across construction and hospitality – which is now my direct responsibility,” says Samer. ”Hospitality is one of the world’s fastest growing sectors with significant potential to strengthen the economy across the country and the region. Even with all the current challenges that the market is facing and the new trends emerging which affects businesses and consumer behaviour, hospitality will always strive for success and I am now lucky to be part of it.”

ITP Publishing Group reveals new identity

Following the launch of ITP Live in November 2016, the Dubai-based publishing house has rebranded as ITP Media Group. With its growth in print, digital and event divisions, the new title and logo aims to identify the firm as a 360° content creation agency with a multi-platform approach to its publications and events.

“With more than 85 media brands, all with print, digital, video and social platforms, publishing is only part of what we do,” says Ali Akawi, CEO, ITP Media Group. “It’s therefore essential that we reflect this in our corporate identity. Along with the continual evolution of our brands, we have also recently purchased a Data Management Platform (DMP) and launched ITP Live. Collectively, this will ensure that we are appropriately aligned with, and at the forefront of this digital era. Our new name, ITP Media Group reflects these offerings.”

In The Hot Seat – Tom Paye

Tom Paye, Editor at, tells TMN about how he started his career in media and what he thinks about the industry in the Middle East…

Name: Tom Paye

Age: 28

From: United Kingdom

Current job title: Editor,

When did you first arrive in Dubai?

About 21 years ago, when I was just a kid.

Where did you work prior?

I’ve only ever worked in Dubai since coming back from university in the UK. Before joining, I was a freelance journalist and before that, I’d worked at some of the region’s major publishing houses, including ITP and CPI Media Group.

What were your first impressions of the media industry in the Middle East?

 I think the first thing I noticed about publishing here was just how well small teams can put together high quality titles. My first job here was as an intern and soon after a Staff writer, at a small editorial agency and that company is still going pretty strong, at the time, I was fresh out of university with no real-life experience and I had these grand ideas about working in a big newsroom full of journalists getting big scoops on the latest stories.

But when I turned up, we were just four writers and a designer in a small office! That sort of brought me back down to earth and I came to realise it’s possible to put together pretty good magazines with just a few solid team members. It was a bit of disillusionment, but the heads of the company really put a lot of effort into training me to not only write great stories but also to project manage multiple magazines. It was nothing like I expected but I wouldn’t change it for the world.

Has your opinion changed much?

Well, I continue to see great magazines produced by tiny teams, so not really. That being said, I’ve worked on weeklies and dailies since then and so I’ve been part of more traditional newsrooms too. I guess now I’m pretty much in awe of the breadth of print media in this region – there’s something to fill every niche and these titles are produced by teams ranging from just a few people in size to full-on publishing houses.

Tell us about your current role…

As Editor at, it’s my job to pretty much handle all the written material that the company puts out. That includes creating relevant and high-quality press releases, guiding the executives on their written feature responses and looking after Your Money, the blog section of the website dedicated to personal finance. I also handle the company’s Twitter account, but that’s mostly because I’m on Twitter all day anyway.

What challenges do you face?

I think the biggest challenge is continuously coming up with relevant PR content that editors (and their readers) will find useful. Luckily, we enjoy really good relationships with the media here and our editor friends are always happy to provide us with a few pointers on the type of content they need from us.

I really subscribe to the view that, if you’re going to send something out to the press, it had better be worth reading. That means providing timely, relevant content that’s actually newsworthy not some small bit of company news that no one outside our office cares about. Keeping up that standard all the time is quite difficult. It can be so easy to just put out some inane announcement just to get something out there. I’m trying not to do that. And if any of my journalist friends are reading this and I don’t live up to the above, feel free to send me a snarky email!

How do you overcome writer’s block?

For me, the quickest remedy is to simply step away from my desk for 15 minutes, grab a coffee, have a look on Twitter and just mentally disconnect from the story. Nine times out of ten, I’ll come back to my desk with a fresh idea and that will help me get going again.

What’s the most rewarding part of your job?

Where to start! I love the range of stories that I cover – from car reviews to in-depth analysis on the finance industry. I also love the office atmosphere – people are always playing pranks on one another, skateboarding around the office, playing ping pong or just coming up with ridiculous games.

I think the most important thing from a long term job satisfaction point of view, is that the service is genuinely useful for people in the Middle East. We’re actually saving people money on their financial products – honestly, I’m not just saying that because I work here. I had someone come up to me at GITEX this year and she told me about how our mortgage comparison portal had helped her find a home loan and that she wouldn’t have found such a good mortgage without the service. It’s immense when you hear people explain that the company you work for has helped them achieve big life goals.

How would you rather be contacted at work?

No preferences, really – shoot me an email or give me a call.

What do you think of the media ethics in the UAE?

I don’t think that media ethics are very different here to anywhere else in the world. The majority of journalists and publishing houses I’ve come into contact with here are simply looking to get to the heart of a story and to then relay something informative and entertaining to their readers. Of course, you hear stories of bloggers or whoever trying to exchange coverage for freebies, but they stick out like a sore thumb on both sides of the media industry.

On the other side of it, I think we’ve all been in situations where a certain brand may be trying to buy good coverage with their advertising dollars. And to be honest, who wouldn’t be tempted to just allow it, given the struggles in the print industry? But again, I think that, these days, this is pretty uncommon – even publishers that might have indulged in this practice before now want to bring the reader’s trust back. And so they’re doing things like selling native advertising where the content is marked as sponsored. In my experience, journalists and publishers have been working hard to reconcile the coverage-advertising struggle and we’re starting to see a reasonably ethical balance come out of that.

What do you think of publishing houses in the UAE?

I think they do an incredibly tough job with dwindling resources, but that they are really important for the local economy. No big international title is going to cover the UAE in the detail that residents and business people here want, so it’s down to the local publishing houses to offer proper reporting, comments and analysis on what’s happening here.

Unfortunately, as we all know, ad spend on print titles is on the decline, so that has put the traditional publishing business model in jeopardy. There have been a couple of high-profile closures this year and that’s never good to see. That being said, there are publishing houses looking for new revenue streams and new business models, and from what I can see, this is starting to pick up some of the slack. Hopefully we’ll see more out of the box thinking that allows publishing houses to continue distributing high-quality regional content.

If you can change something about the media in the UAE what would it be?

Adding to the above, I think smarter media selling is needed to ensure the survival of the local media industry. Brands want to go through local media to reach targeted, local audiences, but the traditional advertising format simply doesn’t provide enough of a return on investment. The thing is, media companies here have these fantastic assets in the titles they carry and these can be incredibly valuable to advertisers. Advertisers and media companies just need to work out, between them, how to maximise that value without compromising the integrity of the media.

How would you describe yourself at work?

I’m pretty chilled, I guess. I turn up, get my work done and try to be part of the team. I like to think I’m pretty helpful – if anyone needs something doing, I like to put myself forward if I can help.

Describe yourself in five words…

Charming, good looking, super-smart, rich and none of the above.

What’s your most overused saying?


Five things you can’t live without?

My iPhone, my MacBook, my Fiat 500, my dogs and my wife (to whom I’d say these are in no particular order!).

If you weren’t in your current role, what would you be doing?

I’d probably still be a struggling freelancer, working from home, taking the dogs for long walks and occasionally getting work done in between PlayStation breaks. I wonder why I struggled?

What’s your favourite form of media?

I love, love, love magazines. My wife is a magazine designer, so between us, we have hundreds of titles stacked up around the house. We actually did a clear out a few months ago and still ended up keeping boxes of magazines. If we’re out and about, and we see a magazine, we’ll pick it up and analyse it – its design, the quality of its paper, the copy and the brands advertising in it. There’s something so nice about a properly done magazine.

What advice would you offer to someone looking to start a career in the media industry in the UAE?

 I’d say be prepared to work really, really hard. When many of us started out six or seven years ago, the whole media revenue decline thing wasn’t being felt that much. Sure, we’ve all worked really hard to get to where we are, but now things are even tougher and organisations are a lot leaner, meaning everyone has to work that much more. If you’re not put off by that, then, for god’s sake, enjoy it. If you love creating things, there are few more rewarding jobs to be found anywhere in the world.

Penelope Walsh leaves Time Out

Penelope Walsh has been appointed as the Online Editor for Hotelier, Caterer and Arabian Travel News magazines. Previously Eating Out Editor for Time Out Dubai for the last three and a half years, Penelope will continue to cover restaurant, bar, hotel and travel news across the region more in depth and with industry-relevant perspective.

She will focus on new openings of hotels and restaurants, industry appointments, new hotel and F&B operational features and relevant on-trade developments.

Masala! welcomes new Editor-in-Chief

Sonya Rehman has joined Masala! magazine as Editor-in-Chief, heading the weekly publication in print and online. For over 12 years, Sonya has been writing on Pakistani art and culture for a host of publications and newspapers, as well as international websites and magazines such as The Diplomat MagazineThe Wall Street Journal – Scene Asia and Al Jazeera.

Sonya is a Fullbright scholar and has an MS in Print Journalism from Columbia University’s Graduate School of Journalism in New York.

Stylist Arabia welcomes new editorial team

Fashion and lifestyle weekly Stylist Arabia has welcomed the new members of its editorial team. In addition to Devinder Bains as Editor of the magazine, Laura Chubb joins as Acting Deputy Editor, with Dina Yassin as Acting Fashion and Beauty Editor.

Set to launch this October, the weekly ‘freemium’ magazine will start with a circulation of 50,000 across Dubai and Abu Dhabi, offering a mix of high-end fashion, beauty, entertainment and thought-provoking features to smart, sophisticated and successful women in the region.

ITP Publishing to launch Arabic women’s website

ITP Consumer Publishing has announced plans to launch a digital-only, high-end, Arabic women’s website – AnaEmra’a. The site will be the first digital-only offering to join the company’s rising portfolio of lifestyle titles, and is set to officially launch in October 2014, with a series of events and bloggers’ teas across the GCC region.

Geared towards a savvy, internationally-educated, fashionable, Arabic speaking female audience between the ages of 20 and 45, AnaEmra’ aims to be a stylised source of information for women-on-the-go, providing up-to-the-minute content from the latest runway shows and fashion buys of the moment to luxury travel destinations, with the latest beauty trends and tips, health and fitness news and more.

“We are very excited to announce the launch of the first Arabic portal coming out of ITP Consumer Digital,” says Ali Akawi, Managing Director, ITP Consumer. “ is designed to be the imminent guide for Arab women living a stylish life in the Middle East. It encompasses the vibrancy and diversity of this region’s population and packages it into a contemporary platform.”

The site will be led by Nadine El Chaer, ITP Consumer Arabic Group Editor, and Ola Kseroof, AnaEmra’ Editor-in-Chief. With the expertise of Ola and Nadine, the aim of is to reach a discerning Middle Eastern market. With an aggressive promotional online and offline campaign throughout the Gulf region, including Saudi Arabia, will reach a digitally active audience that current print circulation does not touch.

Arab Woman Awards Qatar 2014 judges revealed

For the third consecutive year, Arab Woman Awards will pay tribute to the high achieving women of Qatar. Launched by ITP Publishing Group in 2009, the Arab Woman Awards recognises Arab women’s achievements in different fields of business, arts, medicine and charity. The 2014 Awards will by hosted by Al Jazeera Anchor, Fairouz Ziani, and will take place on October 20, 2014, at the Intercontinental Doha – The City.

This year’s judges board members will be chaired by Bothaina Al Ansari, HR Director for Ooredoo and Board Member of the Qatar Businesswomen Association, and include Dr. Elman Al Ansari, Director of National Development at Sidra Medical and Research Centre; Mishael Al Ansari, Marketing and Communication Director at Anti-Doping Lab Qatar; Aisha Al Bedded, Creative Director for DarzDesigns; Amal al Athem, Visual Arts Expert at Ministry of Culture, Arts and Heritage and Nadine El Chaer, Chief Editor of Ahlan! Arabia.

The winners of Arab Woman Awards Qatar 2014 will be announced from a shortlist selected by ITP Publishing Group, based on the nominees’ integrity, expertise in their particular field and as respected members of society. The judges board will follow a strict criteria which includes the nominees’ achievements in the past twelve months, as well as the impact of their work to Qatar.

Duha Abbas joins MBC

Duha Abbas has been appointed as Associate Continuity Producer for MBC. Duha joins the team from Ahlan! Arabia, where she held the position of Features Writer for the past year, working on health, beauty, travel and society. In her new role, Duha will prepare menus and graphics for a number of channels on MBC, with her primary focus on creative writing and creating unique promos.

“I’m excited about joining MBC, as it was the opportunity I was looking for to expand my expertise having studied and practised video and TV production,” says Duha. “With the chance to do what you enjoy everyday alongside other talented people, who wouldn’t be happy?”


Alison Tay joins Grazia Middle East

Alison Tay has joined ITP Publishing Group as Editor-in-Chief of Grazia Middle East. Having previously held the role of Style Editor at British celebrity weekly Now magazine, Alison brings over 15 years of experience interviewing and styling international celebrities, a nomination for Fashion Journalist of the Year 2014 by UK’s industry portal Fashion Monitor, and her expertise as TV opinionista for BBC News,  ITV1, Sky News and Channel 4.

Alison joins the team to head up the Grazia portfolio of titles across the Middle East, taking in Grazia Middle East, Grazia Bahrain and Grazia Luxury.