JEDDAH — With almost 40 percent of all Arabic tweets, half of Wikipedia’s Arabic content and 35 percent of all Arabic content on the web coming from Saudi Arabia, the Kingdom represents one of the largest digital markets in the Middle East.
“There is serious demand for online content in Arabic, the 7th most popular language on the web, and yet this content is severely lacking. We are beginning to see an increase in Arabic content production initiatives across the Arab world and especially Saudi Arabia”, said Omar Christidis, founder of ArabNet, the hub for Arab digital professionals and entrepreneurs. More than 70 percent of Internet users in Saudi Arabia conduct their searches in Arabic, and almost 60 percent of the Kingdom’s users access Facebook through Arabic accounts.
Against this backdrop, Arabic digital content will be one of the main themes to be addressed at the ArabNet Riyadh conference, taking place at the Four Seasons Riyadh on Nov. 21-21 and hosted by the Badir Technology Incubation Program, part of the King Abdulaziz University of Science and Technology. More than 50 expert speakers and 600 attendees will gather to discuss the latest trends and opportunities in the Saudi Arabian web and mobile business.
Arabic online video is one of the hot sectors in Saudi Arabia, which has the highest per capita daily consumption of YouTube in the world. Young Saudi production studios, like UTURN Entertainment and C3 Films are disrupting the media industry, with releases on YouTube garnering more than 1 million views per episode.
Abdullah Mando, CEO of UTURN, and Abdulaziz Al-Shalan, Marketing Manager of C3 Films, will be at ArabNet Riyadh to discuss monetization models for online video businesses as well as how to build and grow audiences and produce original and effective video content for web. Similarly, the rapid uptake of tablets has also opened new opportunities for mobile content publishing and has increased demand for e-books. Global revenues from e-books are forecast to grow to $9.7 billion by 2016, according to Juniper Research, and the percentage of revenues generated by publishing houses and book retailers from e-book sales is on the rise.
In the Middle East, companies like Flagship Pro and Ertiqa are working closely with publishers to ensure that Arabic books and content are available for Arabic tablet users. Seventy percent of the titles in Rufoof Online, a digital library app developed by Flaghsip Pro, are in Arabic, and the company is working with English publishers to translate exclusive and original content into Arabic. The availability of these apps is opening new markets and possibilities for Arabic content developers and publishers which will be explored at ArabNet Riyadh by Badr Ward, CEO of Ertiqa, and Shadi Hassan, founder and Managing Director of Flagship Pro, among others.
The growth in demand for content via mobile, be it apps, games or e-books is in turn leading to an increase in demand for mobile advertising. This year alone, global mobile ad spending is expected to rise 62 percent to $6.4 billion.
In the Middle East, many clients are hesitant to venture into mobile advertising, but this is starting to change with the successes that mobile advertising campaigns are achieving.
In addition to the themes of Arabic content on web and mobile, ArabNet Riyadh will also explore the latest in e-commerce, social media, and gaming. The conference will also highlight the most promising Saudi and Arab entrepreneurs, who will compete in ArabNet’s signature competitions, the Ideathon and Startup Demo, and have the chance to pitch their ideas and companies in front of investors and the media. “There’s no doubt that Saudi Arabia is now living a new beginning in terms of entrepreneurship, especially in the fields of web and mobile, and I think this is the right time to encourage Saudi youth both financially and morally,” said Faris AlRashid, Chairman of Oqal, an investor network based in Riyadh. The Ideathon Competition, sponsored by Qualcomm, is targeted at individuals with promising ideas for a web or mobile business, while the Startup Demo targets nascent digital companies with strong business potential. — SG