Where is the online advertising market?

Barring spam, the world of online advertising in Pakistan is slowly maturing. Online advertising pioneers in Pakistan was perhaps Dawn with the launch of their online edition of their newspaper, aptly terms DAWN The Internet Edition (circa 1996). At that time, the Internet was relatively new in Pakistan and very few Pakistani websites were on the global map. The biggest market at the time 9and perhaps still today) remains that of knowledge hungry users (especially expatriates, who would like to know what’s happening) – thus, news websites were born. Some of these efforts were homegrown whilst the others were established publishing houses in Pakistan, announcing their arrival on the world wide web.
Today, after nearly a decade, the landscape hasn’t changed much. News websites like Dawn, Jang, Business Recorder and recently Daily Times pretty much remain the core news websites around with significant (noticeable) traffic. If one were to analyze the horizontal space of all Pakistani websites which have serious traffic, very few names come up – if at all. Sure you hear stories of many website owners claiming they had so many “hits”. To start out with – hits don’t count. Hits is a web terminology for the number of read/writes a server does. For example if you were to visit a page with 5 images, you would end up getting 6 hits – one for the page, 5 for all the images loaded. The number of hits become even more if you have a lot many CGI calls or scripts that are running. An average page can easily have 50-60 hits. Today more and more websites have quite a few dozen images, no wonder small website can lay the claim to having thousands of hits.

What matters to the advertisers (besides demographics, etc.) are two core elements: Page-views and Unique Visitors. Page views are the number of pages viewed by the visitors, it gives a solid example of how, which specific pages are being viewed and their frequency of view. This allows the advertiser to better get a feel of the effort and money that they will put in the advertisements that are displayed on these pages. Page views also give some form of semblance as to the popularity of the website itself with respect to its content, which areas garner more views and which areas do not, a fact usually not very well known to advertisers. Page views also let the advertiser know what sort of linkage exists – how a visitor traverses a website.

The second important element in this online equation is that of unique visitors. A website can truly have 10,000 page views per day, but what if these pages are being viewed internally from your organization alone, or only a few handful people are accessing them. To prevent fraud and to truly gauge the expanse (or reach) of a website, online advertisers want so know how many unique visitors are truly out there. Unique visitors can also be determined from checking with the number of Unique IP addresses that are accessing a website as well. Theoretically every computer connected on the Internet has a unique IP address, however, private addressing schemes have changes that. Put a firewall at your gateway, and an organization with 1,000 users accessing the Internet, would only show one IP – that of the firewall. So unique IPs when used in conjunction with the number of unique visitors, give a better picture to the online advertiser as to how well their money would be spent.

If one were to remove the news websites from the Pakistani website landscape, one wonders where the other “high-traffic” websites are? A recent survey asked people to name the Top 5 most visited (high-traffic) websites of Pakistan – 3 out of 5 answers given were news websites, whilst the remaining two were usually incorrect answers (websites that were not high-profile/high-in-traffic). A slightly modified survey showed, internet users in Pakistan could not positively identify the Top 5 non-news traffic websites of Pakistan. Actually – very few people can, and that too is debatable. What is certain for sure, there are no Pakistani e-commerce websites or portals that one can instantly identify as high-traffic website. There are hardly any other entertaining websites for music, arts, history, social endeavor, sports that visitors from across Pakistan can unanimously vote as being high-traffic – this is something seriously wrong with the picture here.

Sure there are efforts by a lot many people and organizations to have their website become more mainstream, but sadly the truth is they are not. Dating portals, Mera-Pakistan This – Tumhara-Pakistan-That, PK-Jobs-Portal to Jobs-hee-Jobs-Portal, Falana-Portal and Falana-Point – they are all just that – noise! ISPs that claim their website are raking in the traffic – get real. Users are merely logging in to check their web mail and verify their account balance! So what does all this translate to? Why have an article titled “Online Advertising Market” in Pakistan – where there is none.

Well, think about it – we have roughly 2-3 million internet users out there. Pakistani spam is on the rise. People communicate more via email than they do with faxes. People chat more online in a day than they write business correspondence in a week. Instant messaging has gained notoriety as that of the cell phone. Web-mail is an absolute must. Having a minimum of two email IDs is considered the bare average. Almost everyone works for or is associated to some Pakistan domain name – your company might own one, you visit a website you received in spam, cars no longer have bumper stickers citing “Make Love Not War” – they have been replaced by URLs. Look at Sunday classifieds and domain names are all over the place. Pick up a fashion magazine, a law magazine, a business magazine and the Pakistani internet scene is all around us. I turn on the FM radio and hear more dot.com announcements than I hear music. Face it – we are being bombarded by the internet – or perhaps just the opposite – we are bombarding it. Surely there exists a great potential for an online playing field for advertising. The answer is still the same. No. Serious usage of the web in Pakistan is still at its infancy (in my opinion) ten years later. Either we are repulsed by Pakistani websites or cannot see them succeed, is the main reason no non-news website has taken off. Perhaps, no one else has put together a website for Pakistanis to seriously visit. There is not a single website that is non-news that has 100,000+ visitors per day. Not one. Not even the news websites can claim that. Here in lies a great opportunity for both the industry and the entrepreneurs to start focusing on building up a high-traffic website. India has hundreds of them. Even UAE has them. Banking websites, airlines websites, investment and finance websites, stock trading website by members, job websites, educational websites, etc. all combined together hardly produce any traffic. Just so that you are not totally in the gloom here – there is just one website that does indeed have 100,000+ visitors per day. It is a non-news website. It has more traffic in a month that DAWN, Jang, Daily Times, and all the websites I have mentioned above – combined together. No – its NOT Yahoo! – it’s the website of Karachi Stock Exchange.

6 thoughts on “Where is the online advertising market?”

  1. There is something seriously wrong with our society. We don’t have a Wipro or Infosys in Pakistan, I cannot think of one (famous) dot.com success story in Pakistan. Besides the news portals, one cannot name portals or websites that generate serious traffic (10 years and counting – is Dawn.com all that we have?), People still don’t widely trust portal websites for e-commerce, only airlines are worthy of this trust it seems. Where’s our eBay of Pakistan? PayPal? or our own version of a localized serach engine? There is none.Something – somewhere – and I’m sure everyone will agree – its quite a few factors, not one singular factor, is going wrong and we need to address it pronto!

  2. As you said in your other articles, when companies like TCS and Citibank get their act together is when online portals will really take off – there is a crying need for a internet credit card, delivery services and so on.That aside, I was leaving this comment because your website is just too thin!! Can’t you make the text wider? And there seems to be something wrong with the theme – Firefox is hanging on this page.

  3. Why can’t brilliant people like you sit together and open an ebay and clickbank like stores on small scale and then gradually improve them.To encourage people there should be no monthly or hidden fees till thebusiness sets its roots in people.I will be glad to participate in such scheme.May I conclude that I am a strong supporter of starting such organizationsin Pakistan.sincerely,Dr.Najam Parvez Anwar

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