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Interview: Rich Riley, SVP and MD EMEA, Yahoo!

Interview: Rich Riley, SVP and MD EMEA, Yahoo!

Yahoo! EMEA SVP and MD Rich Riley shares insights including the extent of censorship in Yahoo!-Maktoob sites plus plans for reaching 85 per cent of online users in MENA.

May 15, 2011 3:27 by

What has changed since the Yahoo!-Maktoob deal?

When we look at markets around the world, the Middle East is one of the most exciting markets with a combination of a very rapid user growth and a very large population that comes online, plus a very attractive advertising market. This is a strange combination because there are many markets where you have a lot of users and no advertising market, or there may be big advertising markets where there aren’t that many users.

How many users does Yahoo! Maktoob have?

One of the challenges in this region is that we don’t have any clear data (on user numbers) as we have in some other markets. Today we have 44 million users and that is roughly 65 percent of all the online users in the region, which is a very strong presence among the most popular internet services in the region and the numbers are growing. We would like to see that number increase to 85 percent in the next five years.

Do you have to censor content for the Yahoo! Maktoob website?

Like all of our services around the world, we bring in content from third parties and then we have user-generated content and we monitor those sides. I wouldn’t say it’s different here than what we do in other parts of the world. We are monitoring content of forums to ensure people are not saying inappropriate things or whether it is relevant to the conversation or against the law. So we have to watch out for a lot of things. For us it’s critical for the consumer experience. For example, in the UK, the sport fans who don’t like each other say things that are quite insulting, so we try and moderate that as well. I wouldn’t use the word
censor, moderating is the right word.

Does Yahoo! Maktoob work with the governments to monitor emails and have the governments in the region requested that information?

We get enquiries from governments from all over the world on a regular basis for a variety of reasons. We have a strategy in this region and other regions of working closely with the government agencies, law enforcement bodies and being in compliance with the laws of the country where we are providing our services, while holding users’ privacy and trust as the most important thing for our brand and company. We strike a balance between being compliant with the law and also holding Yahoo! users’ trust.

When do you think you will be able to recover your investment in Maktoob?

I’d say one of the great things about this market is that the advertising market is doing so well that the investments we continue to make through adding headcounts etc. is a pretty instant return.

As our users grow, we have advertisers, sales people. We have advertising revenue. So, it’s a pretty rapid payback, which makes it pretty easy for our continued investments. It’s not a market where we have to make these huge investments and then wait for five years. The quick returns is one reason that we are so excited about this market.

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