Digital Marketing Researches & Reports

Media Use in the Middle East, 2017 | Northwestern University in Qatar

| Middle East

There is a noticeable rise in the internet penetration in all countries in the Middle East region with KSA, UAE & Qatar are reaching near saturation levels between 91% & 99%, while Lebanon, Jordan & Tunisia – which had lagged behind – reveals impressive gains. As internet penetration rises, nationals are less likely to be using offline media platforms.

Traditional media (TV, radio and newspapers) remains important in the MENA region although it is seeing declines in its use. But even small gains or losses in media attention can significantly impact a competitive marketplace.

Find out more extensive insights into what audiences in the Middle East region  – especially in KSA, UAE, Qatar, Lebanon, Jordan & Tunisia – use and prefer:

An Overview of Internet Use in the Middle East:

  • Smartphone penetration in UAE, Qatar, KSA & Lebanon exceeds the threshold of 90% in 2017, compared with 83% in Jordan and 65% in Tunisia.
  • Smartphone ownership is fairly consistent among educated nationals and also who are under the age of 45 years.
  • 83% of all internet users in the 6 nations use smartphones to connect to the internet.
  • Nationals are less likely to be using offline media platforms. The youngest ones are most likely to read books but the least likely goes to listen to the radio or read newspapers.
  • The youngest nationals (18-24) are spending 16 hours a week online socializing with friends compared with the oldest age group (45+ years old) who are spending 5 hours online.
  • The Arabic online usage still dominates access to the internet at a rate of 78% in 2017, compared with English (28%). Using the internet in English increases gradually with education.
  • 47% of all internet users surveyed are watching sports online.
  • In terms of time spent online, nationals new to the internet (1 year) are spending about 8 hours online weekly. This jumps to 14 hours weekly for those who have spent 2 years using the internet and about 21 hours each week among those who have been online for 3-7 years.

What Internet Users in the Middle East Do Online?

  • 77% were making or receiving calls online, 77% watching or downloading videos and 80% were checking what friends and family are doing.
  • 73% were gathering news, 74% search for information – especially about health – and 68% listening to or download music.
  • 56% were using the internet to check email. It’s almost similar to playing games (54%).
  • In terms of the daily online activities, sending/receiving calls comes at the top with a rate of 54%, followed by downloading/watching videos (43%).
  • It worth to be mentioned that, 14% of Saudis took an online course and 15% participated in online job training in 2016.

Using Social Media in the Middle East in 2017:

  • WhatsApp tops the list of social media usage by nationals across the Middle East region with a rate of 67%, followed by Facebook with 63% and then YouTube with 50%.
  • Facebook usage is the highest everywhere in the region except in Qatar and KSA. Lebanon has the highest dependence on Facebook.
  • YouTube is the top social media platform to get/share entertainment content with a rate of 81%, followed by Instagram with 72% and then Snapchat (69%).
  • 66% of all nationals in the Middle East are getting news and information on social media every day.
  • Facebook is the top social media platform for getting news in Lebanon (54%), Jordan (41%), UAE (40%) and Tunisia (39%).

A Comparison Between Media Use in the Middle East and the USA in 2017:

  • 88% of Americans are using the internet, compared to nearly 99% of Emirates.
  • Nearly all nationals in UAE (99%), Qatar (95%), KSA (93%), Lebanon (91%) and Jordan (83%) are owning smartphones, compared to only 77% of Americans.
  • 85% of internet users in the USA check email every day compared to 30% in the Middle East.
Media Use in the Middle East 2017 Northwestern University in Qatar

Graph Shows the Use of Media Platforms by Education Level in 6 Nations in the Middle East, 2017


Data were driven from over six thousand (N=6,169) face-to-face and telephone interviews across 6 countries. The survey was conducted among the general population 18 years & older in 6 Middle Eastern countries (Jordan, Lebanon, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Tunisia and the UAE). The survey took place between February 1 and March 29, 2017.

Data were driven also from 2,250 US adults (18+ year-olds) who were surveyed during April 6-10, 2017.

Northwestern University in Qatar


Founded in 2008 in partnership with Qatar Foundation, Northwestern University in Qatar draws from its parent organization, Northwestern University (Evanston, Illinois, USA). NU-Q is one of the top 20 universities worldwide by the Times Higher Education World University Rankings and the 11th in the United States by US News & World Report.NU-Q provides a framework through which students explore the world to shape their future and provides excellent preparation for a career anywhere in the world.

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