DUBAI: Leading online media players such as Google and CNN are investing in Arabic content creation as the number of active Arab internet users grows and regional consumers demand more relevant material.
CNN reported a 70% increase in unique users and visitors to its Arabic language portal, CNNArabic.com, during 2013 and has now revamped the site. "With the new redesign, we're hopeful the website will generate further traffic [and] that growth will help drive interest from advertisers trying to reach that audience," Peter Bale, vice-president and general manager at CNN Digital International, told Gulf News.
There are estimated to be around 90m Arabic speaking people online out of a total of 350m spread across 20 countries, but only 3% of online content is in that language according to market researcher Common Sense Advisory.
That situation is changing, however. "There has been a lot of improvement in Arabic content creation in the last two years," Dr. Fayeq Oweis, Google language services manager for emerging EMEA, told Gulf Business. And Google itself has played a part with its Arabic Web Days initiative, the most recent of which was at the end of last year.
This month-long event involved a series of online and offline events and activities across the region, with Google working alongside several regional and international partners to inspire users and businesses to collaborate and create Arabic content.
Google-owned YouTube is also active, having launched its monetisation policy last year in the UAE, Saudi Arabia and Egypt, enabling users to earn money on content uploaded. "We have 310m views a day and have two hours of video uploaded every minute and most of it is in Arabic," said Diana Baddar, YouTube video partnerships manager – MENA Region.
Bale also said CNN offered original reporting from the region, with only a small amount of material translated from other company sources.
Mahesh Sundaresan, CEO at Ikon Advertising & Marketing, said that the region had "a voracious appetite for news content in the native language". He added that Al Jazeera, MSN Arabia and Yahoo Maktoob were driving growth in the news genre, while koora.com was doing the same in sports.
Data sourced from Gulf News, Gulf Business; additional content by Warc staff