During her visit to the region, Yahoo!?s Chief Executive Officer Carol Bartz shared how the premier digital media company sees huge opportunity in the growth of the Web in the Middle East.
?When we look around the world, the Middle East and North Africa is one of the most exciting markets for us at Yahoo!, with a combination of rapid user growth and a very attractive advertising market with incredible potential,? said Bartz.
?Arabic is also one of the fastest growing languages on the Internet, yet only 1% of online content is in Arabic today,? Bartz added. ??Part of Yahoo!?s investment in MENA is to facilitate the growth of the Arabic language online.?
During her remarks to media assembled at Yahoo!?s offices in Dubai, Bartz discussed four topic areas: Yahoo!?s local teams and commitment to the region; the company?s commitment to growing Arabic content online; new products the company has planned for the region; and the growing online advertising opportunity.
Local Teams and Investment
Yahoo! acquired Maktoob in November 2009, and since this point the company has invested in fully staffed offices across Dubai, Amman, Cairo, Riyadh and Casablanca. ?The offices are home to nearly 300 employees who work in editorial, engineering, sales, marketing and customer care.
?Because our teams are local, we understand what people need and in turn develop our products accordingly to serve up the right content. This is a big differentiator for us. We are not just a technology company, we create deeply personal digital experiences,? said Bartz.
?You can?t deliver ?deeply personal? unless you are deeply local. We combine that expertise with a global scale, global content, and the best from around the world.?
Growing Arabic Content Online
Bartz cited that the thirst for high quality and relevant content in Arabic can be seen in the company?s engagement on its properties.
In the past year and a half since Yahoo! acquired Maktoob, the combined reach of the company has grown from 30 million unique users to 50 million. The Arabic Yahoo! Maktoob homepage launched last November and it is already the fifth most popular Yahoo! homepage in the world today. Only the U.S., Taiwan, India and Indonesia have more readers.
Six months after the launch of the homepage, Yahoo! Maktoob has become the second biggest news destination in the region after Al Jazeera, and has established leadership in a number of content areas. For example, the company is number one in the region?s online Entertainment with omg Arabic.
The women?s property, Helwa, is the region?s favourite lifestyle destination for women?s news, health and family tips, as well as fashion reviews.
Yahoo! Maktoob has also established content deals with the likes of Al Jazeera, BBC, Reuters and the Saudi Publishing & Research Company, and continues to look for more Arabic language content partners. The company continues to recruit writers, bloggers and editors to make its original content in Arabic broader and richer.
?We are making our content mobile, since mobile penetration for this region is growing at an incredible rate,? said Bartz. ?This month we will introduce our Yahoo! Maktoob homepage for mobile in both Arabic and English. Also look for mobile versions of our media properties, like news and sports.?
Video is also an important area for Yahoo! as broadband penetration continues to rise in the Middle East. Bartz said that Yahoo! has plans to invest more in Video On Demand service to deliver content from popular Arabic TV series, movies and music videos.
Bartz also shared details of Yahoo!?s new Ramadan product. Under the theme ?Ramadan Around the World, Ramadan Where You Are?, Yahoo!?s Middle East editorial team will personally select lifestyle and religious content from its News, Women, Video and omg properties, and popular forums.
?No one else has the ability to draw from such a rich selection of content, and make it so personally relevant to users,? Bartz said about the upcoming Ramadan site.
Growth in Online Advertising
Bartz emphasized the opportunity these new Yahoo! experiences ? along with the growth of the Internet in the region ? create to extend the company?s lead in online advertising.
Already, Yahoo! Maktoob is the number one in the Middle East and North Africa for display advertising, with 40% market share.
Online ad spend for the region is currently only 2% of total advertising spend for the entire region. ?By way of comparison, online spend in France is around 15% and in the UK it?s 25%.
However, Bartz noted that the region is host to the fastest growing advertising market in the world, with average year-on-year growth in digital spending around 25-30%.
?We envision the online ad market in MENA to reach at least 5-7% of the total ad market by 2015,? said Bartz. ??And with our strong agency and client relationships ? along with our leadership in Science, Art, and Scale ? I am confident we?ll be there to deliver the benefits.?
?Advertisers in the region ? just like anywhere else ? want to tell their stories in beautiful, immersive and personal ways,? Bartz added. ??And it?s a big reason why Yahoo! has great partnerships with some of the leading local and global brands, from P&G, Unilever, Etihad and Emirates airlines, and GM, through to Chanel, Dior and more.?
The company also recently introduced a host of new products that are available to advertisers in the region for the first time. These include Smart Ads, Enhanced Behavioral Targeting, direct response, front page options, and new research products.
?We know how to optimize campaigns across traditional demographics, using a tool we call the interest graph,? said Bartz. ?We can apply this to different countries whilst applying distinct tastes and cultural norms, which is clearly important and gives us a head start in a region as diverse and interesting as this one.?