The Arabic content gap in the market

“There is a lack of high-quality, well-structured websites managed…[for Arabic-speaking users]” – Wael Ghonim, Google MENA

In recent studies Arabic has been ranked the “8th language in terms of growth and usage on the internet”. At a whopping yearly growth rate of 2500%, the MENA online audience is currently one of the fastest growing online segments in the world.

Then how is it that the number of localized Arabic sites with original Arabic content online boils down to a mere 3%?
“Arabic speakers, or people who’d benefit from Arabic content, are 6-7 percent of the world population” – Fayeq Oweis, Lanuage services manager, Google MENA & Europe

There is quite obviously a significant gap of both quality and quantity when it comes to Arabic online content specifically catered to the region. According to a study conducted by the Wamda Research Lab, three key challenges face Arabic digital content: monetization, governance and talent & quality. In this article, the focus will be shifted to two of these challenges: monetization and talent & quality.
“There’s a huge gap between the number of people who speak Arabic and the amount of content available online” – Maha Abouelenein, Head of communications at Google MENA
With such an increase in the need for online content in the Arabic language, it’s surprising that advertising agencies and clients have only began to realize the importance of shifting budgets from offline to online to be able to keep up with the outpouring of online consumers. According to a CSA report in 2012, only 1 in 4 top 100 global brands offered Arabic versions of their websites and only 1 in 20 Fortune 500 websites even had Arabic content. The inability to properly recognize this need has led to few opportunities for content creators to generate revenue.
Additionally, the limited availability of local talent to satiate the need for digital Arabic content has proven to hinder the industry’s growth significantly. Lack of talent directly affects lack of quality content, but not necessarily quantity as user and machine generated and translated content are on the rise. According to the Wamda Research Lab, 48% of Arab youth are not satisfied with the quality of local websites.
“There is a regional need for real local content and generally users in the region prefer Arabic today…as the internet goes to the masses, people want it in their native language. People want Arabic content” – Ahmed Nassef, Yahoo Maktoob
So where do we go from here?
Head of communications at Google MENA, Maha Abuoelenein urged that people put more importance on the creation of Arabic content to make the internet more relevant to Arabic speakers. With more Arabic speakers than English in the region, the growing need to offer content that caters to the needs of the vast majority in the region is now more important than ever. According to the Wamda Research Lab, understanding the value of contribution to the Arabic content industry needs to be a high priority and “any initiative that seeks to improve conditions for creating Arabic content online must take [writers, editors, filmmakers, producers, investors and advertisers] into account”.

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