A regional pioneer in online media, Jordan has seen internet penetration rise rapidly in recent years, with this translating into a boom in online media consumption. Print outlets are responding by upgrading their websites, but traditional print media still retains advantages. Online media faces challenges, including a proliferation of poor-quality sites and a lack of established models to generate revenue. At the same time, mobile operators are working with regional television producers to provide sophisticated streaming mobile content.

VIRTUAL CLIMB: Internet penetration in Jordan reached 50.5% by the end of 2011. Subscriptions spiked following the launch of the country’s first 3G service by Orange in March 2010. A second operator, Zain, entered the 3G market a year later, and a third operator, Umniah, is set to launch its 3G network in September 2012.

Jordan is the birthplace of the biggest Arabic language media portal, Yahoo! Maktoob, which was born out of Yahoo’s purchase of the Amman-based Maktoob portal in 2009. Yahoo! said that in June 2011 that Maktoob had 50m unique users and a 40% share of the online display advertising market in the Middle East and North Africa, making it the market leader. The company claims that the site is the second-most-visited online Arabic news portal after Al Jazeera and that its OMG! Arabic celebrity news site, launched in 2010, is the most popular Arabic entertainment website.

KEEPING CURRENT: Online news websites are quite popular in Jordan. According to a March 2012 survey by global market research firm Ipsos, news is the most heavily consumed form of online content in the country. Popular online-only news sites include Khaberni and Ammonnews. In October 2011 Jordanian company Arab Media Consultants (AWAN), which was founded by the former editor of the Jordan Times, George Hawatmeh, launched two news websites, ammanxchange.com and Rasseen.com. Ammanxchange.com is Jordan’s first Arabic-language financial and economic news website. The site offers news, analysis and profiles of listed companies on the Amman Stock Exchange. Rasseen.com, which launched later that month, is a news website with a focus on social and political affairs.

Making online new sites profitable is a challenge given the undeveloped local web advertising market, reluctance of some to buy online ads, and infrastructural and cultural barriers to subscription-based revenue models. However, industry figures believe that web media will become profitable, with support from the emerging technology sector. “There is great potential to make money,” said Abeer Al Najjar, dean of the Jordan Media Institute (JMI). “It will take time and improvements in the sector’s infrastructure, but Jordan is becoming a regional ICT hub; combined with its stability, this will help it to emerge as a digital media centre.”

Quality in journalistic standards is an issue in the nascent online segment. “There are at least 100 online news sites, but only around 10 of these actually generate original content, and even among some of these, sourcing and fact-checking is not sophisticated,” Abdul Wahhab Kayyali, senior associate at business intelligence monthly Venture, told OBG. Some sector bodies are taking action to address the quality of online journalism. In February 2012 JMI and the International Centre for Journalists held a workshop on digital media tools and looked at issues such as digital media ethics.

BETTER VIEWS: Rapidly rising internet penetration is revolutionising consumption of television. Streamed TV is a growing market thanks to the proliferation of 3G services. In 2010 Orange Jordan launched Mobile TV, initially an exclusive agreement to allow its subscribers to watch programmes from Dubai-based pan-Arab satellite broadcaster MBC. The service was later expanded to include other channels, and in May 2011 the contract was renewed and launched with a high-definition version of the platform.

The expansion of internet access is helping to reshape Jordan. It provides opportunities for various sectors, including all parts of the media. The greatest lessons and advancements are still to come, as the industry learns to manage growth, profit and content quality.