x Abu Dhabi, UAE Friday 21 July 2017

Yahoo to launch mobile website for Middle East

Internet giant Yahoo plans Arabic mobile site as it looks to cash in on region's smartphone boom.

Yahoo plans to sell advertising specifically for delivery over mobile phones. Reuters
Yahoo plans to sell advertising specifically for delivery over mobile phones. Reuters

Yahoo plans to launch a mobile website in Arabic as it looks to cash in on the booming smartphone market in the Middle East.

The US internet company plans to sell advertising specifically for delivery over mobile phones, after the regional launch of its mobile site this month.

"In June, we're planning to roll out our Yahoo front page for mobile in both Arabic and English, in addition to our media properties," said Ahmed Nassef, the vice president and managing director of Yahoo Middle East.

"Via mobile devices, our users will be able to connect to the latest news and sports … from the UAE or Egypt or Saudi, with relevant content," Mr Nassef said.

Internet users in the Arab world are currently redirected to the UK or US mobile websites when they visit the Yahoo home page on their phones.

But they will soon be offered a regional site with Arabic support, and news stories geared towards the region, Mr Nassef said.

"This is going to be much more relevant to what people here are looking for," he said.

Mobile websites are formatted specially for smaller screens and less data-heavy internet pages.

Yahoo's revenue is driven by advertising, and Mr Nassef said ads would be sold specifically for the regional mobile site.

According to the intelligence firm International Data Corporation, global smartphone shipments should grow by 25 per cent annually, reaching 926 million in 2015.

An estimated 1.7 million smartphones were shipped to the UAE last year, a 46 per cent increase on the previous year.

"We're just at the very early stage of growth of smartphones in this region. You'll have millions of people that are going to be accessing the internet via [smartphones] rather than via PC," said Mr Nassef.

"Already, without [the Arabic-language mobile website] we have over 4 million users that are accessing Yahoo today on mobile devices from the region," Mr Nassef said on the sidelines of the GMR Marketing to Women Conferencein Dubai.

"So we think we're going to experience a big growth there," he said.

Yahoo acquired the Middle East web portal Maktoob in 2009 for US$164 million (Dh602.3m). The site is branded Yahoo Maktoob in the Middle East.

bflanagan@thenational.ae