Rumors and Face-offs at the Internet Show Middle East

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The Internet Show Middle East held its second annual event in Abu Dhabi this past week in what is one of a number of events and conferences aimed at sparking regional Interest in the industry. The show, which showcases Internet vendors and websites in the region, attracted 3,000 attendees to the Abu Dhabi National Exhibitions Centre to enjoy seminars on the usual topics of digital advertising, social networking, social media, e-commerce, and content managemen.

The headline sponsors for the event were Yahoo! Maktoob and the Telecommunications Regulatory Authority of the UAE.  Other companies participating in the event included a mix of websites, advertising and social marketing agencies, ad networks and your typical slew of vendors and service providers.  The ratio of exhibitors, however, seemed to favor the B2B vendors, as only a handful of consumer websites were making their mark.

In what is perhaps a signal of the next internet rush for the region, ikoo and Yahoo! Maktoob were front and center, making the largest splash with exhibits showcasing the reach of their ad networks.  ikoo touts itself as the largest advertising networking in the MENA region, with a publisher network of over 120 websites and a user base of network almost 40 million monthly unique visitors.  Y! Maktoob claims 55 million users in MENA, which they say results in an overall reach of 75% of all MENA users.  In true competitive spirit, their exhibits were side by side. The word on the street, however, is that while Y! Maktoob has the largest reach in terms of users, ikoo delivers more targeted advertising and a better conversion rate, with one caveat– ikoo only serves ads in Arabic.   

Speaking of Arabic content, however, it was totally missing from the exhibition.  For example, TwoFour54, while spearheading Abu Dhabi’s effort to break into the Arabic online content race, was a no show. 

One newcomer that stood out was, who showcased its Amazon-like shopping portal and e-commerce platform.  Logta claims to be the  “first online mall” in the Arab region.  The demo at their exhibit, however, was constantly interrupted by a group of people running around in oversized outfits spelling out, which also claims to be the largest online shopping mall in the Arab world.  At least competition is always healthy. Yet when it came to group deals sites, it was a bit surprising that was the only one of many in the MENA region to exhibit, although’s co-founder was tapped for one of the seminars.

The Internet Show Middle East attracted a healthy number of both attendees and companies, making it clear that not only are e-commerce and online advertising are on the rise in the region, but also that competition- the much-needed ingredient for success in a market- was alive and well in the region. Hopefully next year more of the region’s players- especially those working in Arabic content- will join in.

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