The Arab online advertising market is set to expand as much as 60 per cent next year to about US$100 million (Dh367.2m) amid a surge of interest in the Middle East internet sector. "We're very optimistic about where this market is going to go. Considering the market went up 30 per cent in a really bad time, going into a 50 to 60 per cent growth is not unrealistic in 2010," said Ahmed Nassef, the managing director of Yahoo Middle East. "The signs are very positive after talking with our agencies and clients."
This year's online advertising revenue in the region reached about $60m, with Maktoob, the internet portal bought by Yahoo earlier this year, taking a "large" slice of it, Mr Nassef said. He declined to provide a specific market share level for Maktoob. Dimitri Metaxas, the regional executive director of digital media at the advertising group Omnicom, said that all of the elements were in place for the regional digital advertising market to grow.
"There's become an increased focus over on the digital arena," he said. "Clients are facing a number of challenges that digital can play a strong role in solving, combined with the fact that a lot of businesses are underutilising it. "On the other side of the coin, the amount of enablers is growing. Advertising agencies are taking up the mantle and there's become a lot more digital specialists working in the field."
Maktoob will probably continue its dominance in the regional media market as it targets access to 35 million unique users compared with its current base of 18 million users by next year, Mr Nassef said. There are roughly 60 million Middle East residents with online access. "We've grown Maktoob's business over the past year by more than 60 per cent and we're seeing the overall trend in the market growing 30 per cent this year, so we're way ahead of the market trend," said Mr Nassef.
"There's very little Arabic content for people to find online. The big challenge for us is to develop really strong Arabic content and build strong relationships with regional and local offline publishers." Mr Nassef also pointed out that Yahoo owns Right Media Exchange, an online advertising auction and exchange market that provides reselling services for advertisers. It will probably merge its business to Maktoob's existing clients, he said.
Maktoob was purchased by Yahoo in August in a historic deal estimated to be worth as much as $100m. It was the first Arab company to be acquired by a major internet player and has generally been accepted by industry observers as being at the forefront of a new era of internet entrepreneurship in the Middle East. Mr Nassef plans to expand the company's editorial and sales departments by as much as 20 per cent and to focus on creating Arab versions of Yahoo's e-mail, games, search and messaging services.
A completed branded website that will automatically display the unified Yahoo-Maktoob portal will be in place by the end of the first quarter of next year, Mr Nassef said. "It will probably be some time in April or May when the transition is done and everyone know exactly where they're going to end up within the organisational structure of Yahoo," Mr Nassef said. @Email:email@example.com