As du steps into the world of social networking the interim managing director of its digital portal Anayou said it had received strong interest with tens of thousands of users registering.
Winning entrance for du's Anayou portal
The digital portal Anayou has registered "tens of thousands" of users since its launch last month by the telecommunications operator du, says its interim managing director.
Anayou - the name is a combination of "ana", the word for "me" in Arabic, and the English word "you" - will include services such as video, social networking, applications, games and music when fully operational.
Raghu Venkataraman, the chief strategy and investments officer at du and interim managing director of Anayou, says the public's embrace of the site is "ahead of expectations".
The site has "more than tens of thousands of registered users", Mr Venkataraman said.
Total traffic on the site, which includes pages that do not require user registration, was even higher. "There are much bigger numbers when it comes to [uses such as] reading the sports news," he said, declining to give specific numbers.
Mr Venkataraman said a full marketing campaign for the site would be launched next month.
"We'll have the beginnings of a more traditional digital marketing programme in a couple of weeks from now. It will be everything from spending money on Google Adwords, on various websites and mobile ad networks across the region," he said.
Anayou has formed partnerships with media companies including Rotana, MBC and Eurosport to provide it with content.
It also has a content deal with the music and video download site Getmo Arabia, a joint venture between arvato mobile Middle East and the Abu Dhabi Media Company, which also owns and publishes The National.
Mr Venkataraman said the portal was in talks with "lots" of other third-party content owners in pursuit of similar deals.
"The core thing for us in terms of audience growth will come from the announcement of new partners," he said. "Progressively, the services that are enabled by that content will start going live."
Planned services include downloads of music and discount shopping coupons.
The site, which will be funded partly by advertising revenues, is not yet in revenue-generating mode, Mr Venkataraman said.
"The focus in our first year is very much about how many millions of people spend how many millions of minutes on spaces that we have created. It's not about money," he said.
"The money game starts when you reach a certain critical mass with the audience … We're still in the phase of building a significant audience before the revenue-generation becomes significant enough for us to talk about."
Mr Venkataraman was speaking on the sidelines of the release of a social media research report compiled by the media agency UM.
The report, entitled Wave 5 - The Socialisation of Brands, was the agency's fifth annual analysis of social media, and surveyed 37,600 active internet users in 54 countries, including in 10 markets in the MENA region.
It found that more people in the region were creating pages on social networking sites, with almost 60 per cent of respondents having signed up to sites such as Facebook in the preceding six months, a higher proportion than the global average.
But Zubair Siddiqui, the managing director of UM Dubai, said that advertising revenue for digital products was still relatively low, because clients were reluctant to embrace new media.
"That inertia and that apprehension is one of the reasons why money is not being driven," he said.
"Within UM, comparing 2009 to 2010, the growth [of digital advertising spend] is 800 per cent from our clients. But then that tells you how small the base was in 2009."
Mr Siddiqui said UM, which buys advertising on behalf of clients, allocated about 4 to 5 per cent of the total advertising spend from its Dubai clients to digital media.
"From a UM regional perspective, that figure would come down to about 2.5 per cent," he said. "We're expecting 100 per cent growth [in 2011]".