Today’s Zaman hailed as indispensable window into Turkey for world

Today's Zaman was launched on Jan. 16, 2007. (Photo: Today's Zaman, Kürşat Bayhan)

January 15, 2012, Sunday/ 17:57:00

Marking its fifth year in Turkish media on Monday, Today’s Zaman gets more thumbs up every year for serving as an indispensable reference and source of information for both those inside and outside Turkey who wish to have a better understanding of Turkey.

On Jan. 16, 2007, a new English-language daily -- Today’s Zaman -- hit the newsstands in Turkey. Within a year of its launch, Today’s Zaman became the most widely circulated English-language newspaper in Turkey, developing a substantial lead over its closest competitor. And since May 2011, when the daily adopted a more Internet-oriented publication policy with a strengthened web team, Today’s Zaman has been reaching out to tens of thousands of people every day across the world through both its web and print versions, in what many observers say fills a huge void in Turkish media.

“Today’s Zaman has become the leading English-language resource on Turkey that filled a much needed gap in news being reported from one of the most dynamic and fast-paced environments in the world. With its cutting edge design, internet visibility and reporting, todayszaman.com has become like a gateway to Turkey that has changed tremendously just like this paper. Now when I interact with Turkey-analysts or enthusiasts they often reference TZ and when I talk to neophytes or visitors to Turkey I see them reading TZ, this combination is a rare feat anywhere, but particularly in Turkey. I hope TZ continues its phenomenal growth in its next five years and continues covering the changing times of a country that is destined to become ever more important,” says Joshua W. Walker, a Transatlantic Fellow at The German Marshall Fund of the United States.

Turkey’s history of English-language dailies dates back to the 1960s. However, Today’s Zaman has brought a brand new perspective with its high quality in terms of content, language and design as well as differing from its rival in terms of the values it takes as a basis for its reporting.

“I believe Today’s Zaman has increasingly assumed the role of being a window into Turkey for the rest of the world. It has become one of the main sources of information and commentary for Turkey’s foreign observers and foreigners living in or visiting Turkey,” says leading intellectual and Today’s Zaman columnist Şahin Alpay. “I feel privileged to be one of the columnists for this newspaper, which has helped me reach a growing readership outside of Turkey,” he adds.

Today’s Zaman, which serves as a source of information and a reference for everything related to Turkey, has become a window into the intellectual diversity of Turkey with a strong team of approximately 50 writers from every segment of society.

One of these columnists, İhsan Yılmaz from İstanbul’s Fatih University, stresses Today’s Zaman “great contribution” to Turkish democracy in the past five years. Noting that Turkey’s image in the world was “monolithic” until recently, he says the outer world used to know Turkey only “through White Turks or orientalists.” This monochrome picture presented a group of Kemalist elites who were trying to modernize the country and an ignorant and uncivilized mob who was laying all sorts of obstacles before modernization. This picture brought about acceptance for authoritarian regimes and military coups with the understanding of ‘bon pour L’Orient’ (good enough for the East). Being among the most powerful alternative non-Kemalist new sources despite its limited resources and difficult conditions, Today’s Zaman conveyed to the English-reading world that this mob was in fact in favor of EU norms and democratization as opposed to the elites and that they read the spirit of time better than elites did and had contributed much to Turkish democracy in the past five years, which is a fact that has yet to be analyzed thoroughly. “I would like to congratulate all who heroically contributed to this for five years,” he said.

“I interpret the void Today’s Zaman fills in Turkish and world media as such: Today’s Zaman has assumed a mission of opening, presenting and marketing Turkey to the world,” says Professor İbrahim Öztürk of Marmara University, who also writes regular columns for Today’s Zaman’s business pages. Öztürk says before the establishment of Today’s Zaman, there was not an English-language Turkish paper publishing almost on an intellectual level as the daily does. “Now, there is a paper that presents Turkey in all its color. It has been an indispensable reference and source of for those who wonder about Turkey. Today’s Zaman represents a magnificent lobbying power that enables a better understanding of Turkey in the world,” he added.

Today’s Zaman’s readers outside of Turkey also hailed the paper and its website on its fifth anniversary.

Joost Lagendijk, a senior adviser at İstanbul Policy Center, said Today’s Zaman is the best English language source of information on Turkey. “Great layout, fine mix of columnists from all walks of life,” he added.

Internet-oriented Today’s Zaman

Due to the rapid shift from print media to digital technology in providing real-time, instant news reporting, Today’s Zaman has also reoriented itself since May of last year by particularly focusing on improving its almost round-the-clock coverage of developments from Turkey and all around the world.

The newspaper’s website, todayszaman.com, has since been one of the most viewed English-language news outlets in the region, providing instant reporting in English of events about which it could be hard to obtain information elsewhere. The website, with its altering face and layout, receives nearly 3 million page views a month, eight times more than when it was first launched.

With nearly 600,000 visits and more than 300,000 unique visitors, Today’s Zaman’s website has been successful in attracting readers from across the world, ranging from Chile in South America to India and from South Africa to New Zealand. Most of Today’s Zaman’s readers access the website from Turkey, the US, United Kingdom, Canada, Australia, Germany and several other countries have a significant amount of Today’s Zaman readers as well.

More than 150,000 people access the website directly per month, which are mostly “loyal” readers. More than 50 percent of Today’s Zaman’s readers are new visitors. More than 30,000 readers visit the website more than 200 times a month and nearly 50,000 readers spend up to 30 minutes on Today’s Zaman’s website. With the hundreds of insightful comments Today’s Zaman articles receive online, the website is also highly integrated into social-networking sites such as Twitter and Facebook.

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