Dubai: Gulfnews.com has been ranked the UAE's leading website by the independent research firm Nielsen. Nielsen's numbers show gulfnews.com pulled in an average daily unique browser tally of 87,439 between January and June, with collective page impressions put at 13.58 million.
But in the weeks since, traffic on gulfnews.com has kept on hitting the high notes — despite the subsequent onset of summer and then Ramadan.
Gulf News has not let the season get in the way of telling a good story — in print and on its portal, gulfnews.com.
Readers' interest could be piqued by anything from the state of the economy, the latest update on the Iran-US stand-off to Indian actress Katrina Kaif's outfit for the Dubai premiere of her latest flick. The common thread is their belief that gulfnews.com will provide what they are looking for and in full.
"What a majority of visitors to our site want is to have the immediacy of a breaking news story," said Brian Buchanan, portal editor at Al Nisr Publishing, which owns gulfnews.com. "What we try and do is meet their requirements right through the peak hours of the day and, where necessary, even at 2am if a story does break at the time."
The time spent by each visitor on the portal is more revealing. The average of 6:38 minutes spent during each individual visit shows people are not just skimming the home page and then making an exit. "In Australia, it's considered good if a news portal averages three minutes," Buchanan added.
"What the higher average means for gulfnews.com is visitors are willing to go beyond hard news stories and tracking the non-news channels — the features, the op-ed pieces, the interactive polls, the embedded videos and links to the many magazines in our portfolio — that are posted. It's clear to the site's visitors that we are not just replicating the Gulf News newspaper," he said.
More than 70 per cent of those visiting the site are based in the UAE or the region, but a growing number of visits are taking place from browsers in the US and Western Europe.
"They could be those interested in having a feel of the country and the region as seen through a local news portal, or they could be UAE residents now based overseas on work or studies," said Buchanan.
Within the region, media audit remains a largely under-utilised process among publications and news portals and those who do so are very much in the minority. Eman Mohammad of Nielsen, for one, does not believe a change to this status quo is going to happen overnight.
"We don't have such confirmed information at the time being," Eman says. "For Nielsen to endorse such rankings, we must have all publishers — newspapers and classifieds — in the Mena (Middle East and North Africa) region.
"It is relatively impossible to have every single one listed or tracked in our system as the potentiality for new portals coming in the on-line space is very high."
The sheer number of portals out there without any sort of audits to back their claims is one reason why local and regional advertisers have shied away from a more substantial on-line presence.
But the kind of attention that gulfnews.com — and other audited portals — have been drawing has stoked the interest of advertisers. "The marketing landscape has changed significantly with digital marketing steadily gaining importance," said
Hamad Malek, chief marketing officer at LG Electronics MEA, says: "Online news portals are becoming more popular for a variety of reasons, including its convenience, accessibility, individualism and instantly getting updated or breaking news promptly."
Buchanan, for one, does not think it can be otherwise: "What is being created is a media platform that will hold its own with all the traditional formats. It will not stop with that — there are a number of eyeballs out there who are getting drawn in everyday."