Arab Portals Struggle Despite Online Ad Boom

A fascinating story on the state of Arab online media, and how the sites are still facing problems attracting advertisers, mainly because of the low number of users and a lack of trust from big name companies. Spending on Arab Internet advertisements grew from less than $250,000 in 1999 to between $7 million and $10 million in 2005, says Mustafa Mohamed, managing director of NetAdvantage, a Web ad agency that sells for several portals like news channel Aljazeera.net and Maktoob.com, the region’s biggest e-mail provider.

A key reason, analysts say, is that only around 17.2 million of the Arab world’s 280 million people use the Internet.

So portals are looking at other sources of revenues: Al Jazeera syndicates its online content to other Web sites and will soon allow users to pay and watch a live streaming of the channel online…