mediaME speaks to Mohammed Al-Shaker, co-founder and CEO of ArabiaWeather, the first and largest weather portal in the Arab World. Mohammed discusses the popularity of weather content in the region, growth in digital advertising for lifestyle content, Arabia Weather's multi-platform, multi-country approach and more.
Q.Kindly introduce yourself and tell us about ArabiaWeather.com
ArabiaWeather.com produces weather services and content for consumers through our website and mobile apps. Arabiaweather.com is the first private weather website in the Arab world. Weather content in the Arab world is very popular and needed in many countries. For example, in the GCC, there's a substantial number of search queries regarding the weather everyday. However, there are no reliable, regional sources available in both English and Arabic. We are the first in the Arab world and we generated excellent response, which proves the popularity of this content and its importance in the next two years to three years.
Q. Tell us more about how you started, the response so far to Arabia Weather and the popularity of such contnt in the Arab World?
The great success of JordanWeather.jo, a site that started in Jordan in 2006, motivated us to produce a Pan-Arab service. We now get visitors coming from all around the Arab world, and we are obtaining a loyal audience, in addition to generating B2B customers. More proof regarding the popularity of such content is the traffic directed towards AccuWeather.com and the BBC from the Middle East.
Q.Tell us about new services and features evolving on ArabiaWeather to cater to user feedback and requirements.
We are introducing 'lifestyle weather'. This type of content will touch everybody's life and it is new in the Arab world. As part of this intitaive, new services include relating aspects of healthy lifestyle to the weather forecast, outdoor and sporting activities in relation to the weather and so on. We're also introducing interactive features such as 'be the weather man' to allow users to further communicate with one another and interact regarding their interest in the weather.
Q. With different climates and different lifestyles across the region, what can you tell us about the differences in user habits that you have learned.
Actually these differences are major. These differences mean more diversity in visitor requirements and deliver more knowledge of local habits. For example, people in Saudi Arabia are 'chasing' news about rain while in Jordan most people want news about snow. There’s a difference between two cultures, and threfore two countries in terms of the weather forecast. Our localized products aim to serve every country with its specific needs.
Q. Do you expect to see growth in digital advertising expenditure in the Middle East within your category of content? What are the main obstacles you face in this regard?
I expect a lot of expansion in advertising spending in the weather industry. since it is also attracting advertisers from outside the Arab world, There are two main obstacles. The first is that the content is still very new, which is a big obstacle to convincing advertisers. The second obstacle is the need for more belief among advertisers and media spenders in general regarding the potential of such content which will be definitely big in th coming two years.
Q. Can you give us some examples of successful campaigns that ran on ArabiaWeather and some of your ideas to serve clients and agencies in the near future?
We have worked in the past with Orange, as well as Zain. We have also run a branding campaign with Capital Bank. The campaigns were successful because they were carried out in the winter seasons, when there are more than around 11 million unique visitors.
Q. Tell us about your multi platform strategy covering mobile apps, online video, and more.
Arabia weather will produce content for different platforms; the first one being the website and the second being the mobile application. We will be introducing our third, more taditional approach by going back to traditional media. We will expanding through newspapers and TV. This multiplatform approach helps the company with branding and helps the company to become more popular through word of mouth. This increases the number of visitors, and in turn increases advertising opportunities.
Q. Tell us about your plans for Arabia Weather and your outlook in general towards your industry? Are there any developments that you are working on?
We will increase our services in the GCC and we will establish an office in Dubai. Also, we will be introducing new features on the website and mobile application. Through our multi-platform approach, we will be able to reach most people that need weather information. I expect that our website will experience huge growth in terms of visitors and customers in 2013.