Podcasting is one of those things that have recently been on the rise in the Middle East, but what exactly is it? How did it see a rise while everything else started to either saturate or decline?
We’re here to answer these questions and look at the current state of podcasting in the Middle East and how the region continues to react to it so far.
What Is A Podcast?
It’s a platform where audio is king, they’re usually done as downloadable episodes of a show or series that follows a certain theme or format and discusses topics that fall within them.
Achievable in all sorts of ways from interviews, storytelling, a theatrical auditory performance akin to a radio drama, a debate-style show between two hosts, or just one person talking about a specific topic.
Listening to or downloading podcasts at any time is one of the biggest factors that make them unique since they’re released on audio and music streaming services like Spotify or Apple Music, which makes them accessible at any time of day.
Podcasting In The Middle East
Podcasting has been on the rise in the Middle East for some time, with many people taking to social media and Youtube as their main outlets to publish their podcasts, that said, more people are starting to take notice as the industry boomed significantly during and after the COVID-19 pandemic.
People started to stay at home more, where they tried out different things to cure their boredom or get a new hobby, including podcasts. This situation formed two kinds of people, those who created content at home and others who consumed that content.
There’s a large number of people from the Middle East who started to listen to podcasts as a way to escape the lull they found themselves in. According to Amaeya Media, with so much bad news around them, Middle Easterners focused on listening to entertainment and self-help podcasts to get a positive spin on the world around them.
The spread of podcasts within the region was also helped by Spotify opening the floodgates to podcasts both from and outside of the MENA region.
With that boom, companies started to pop up all over the Middle East, focusing on that field specifically, creating content in a medium that wasn’t tapped into before.
What Companies Popped Up?
One of the most successful and well-known podcast networks from the Middle East, Kerning Cultures was founded in 2015, becoming the first venture-funded podcast company in the MENA region.
Based in the UAE, Hebah Fisher and Razan Al-Zayani co-founded the company; the female-led platform shines a spotlight on hidden stories from the region and brings them to life, using the voices of the people that lived them, whenever possible. With podcasts like “Jasadi” and “B’Hob,” the platform has earned several awards thanks to their relatable and larger-than-life stories, creating a faithful following and opening the world’s ears to the fascinating stories the region has.
Claiming to be the largest Arabic podcast platform; Stefano Fallaha established the network back in 2019 in Beirut, Lebanon, with the hope of becoming the Shahid/Netflix of podcasting in the region.
Podeo produces its own exclusive works as well as aggregates a multitude of English and Arabic podcasts from the region and distributes them if need be. These programs can be listened to on several streaming services or their own mobile app. Their shows tend to wander into the world of debates and storytelling, such as folk tales and myths or highlighting certain characters from history.
Moving on to Egypt, There’s podU, founded by Mohamed Abozeid in 2019; like Podeo, they also aggregate podcasts predominantly in Arabic.
That said, podU offered something unique, as it created a studio for those interested in doing podcasts but didn’t have the equipment to make it happen. As for the platform’s shows, podU claims to have shows in over 20 genres ranging from movie reviews to sports, comedy, and marketing.
Saudi Arabia is one of the countries in the region that saw a rise in podcast activity, with Mstdfr becoming the first podcast network in it.
Created when two friends named Ammar Sabban and Rami Taibah wanted to create a talk show-style podcast, the platform quickly evolved into something larger as more people joined in. The network has a handful of shows that cover all the fundamental topics, such as culture, business, entertainment, science, and more.
Lastly, there’s Sowt, an independent company in Jordan founded by Hazem and Tareq Zureiqat as well as Ramsey Tesdell in 2016, before expanding further the following year.
Sowt’s main focus, so far, is on creating high-quality podcasts in Arabic, “with the goal of creating an environment in which dialogue on and discussion of topics important and sensitive to the Arab listener around the world is the norm.” They were able to achieve that with a plethora of different shows, such as “Eib” and “Dom Tak,” which have had a lot of success over the past few years.
The Current MENA Podcast Climate
The Middle East is taking the podcasting medium in stride, with more podcasts launching almost every week, creating competition and diversity. Several countries within the region welcomed it with open arms, such as Egypt and the UAE, each creating their annual Podfests convention in Cairo and Dubai, respectively.
During these conferences, like-minded individuals get together to discuss more about the medium, learn from one another, network for future collaborations, and share experiences.
“The region has the opportunity to create its own narrative. You don’t necessarily have to follow what the US is saying around streaming,” said Richard Fitzgerald, the CEO of Middle Eastern digital media company Augustus Media back in March.
The current climate within the MENA region is fertile for not just podcast creators but investors as well; since there’s a definite interest in the world of podcasting, and more importantly so many stories from different people all over the region.
What To Do If You Want To Start Your Own?
If you’re a person who’s interested in starting your own podcast, there are a few things to make sure you have picked out before you start.
- The name of your podcast
- The topic of your podcast
- The equipment you’re going to use
- The distributing website such as Anchor
- The launch date
After you have all the main five elements, it’s time to start recording.
- Start by making a teaser trailer for your podcast, and record a few episodes ahead of the launch date.
- Once you have that set, release the teaser a few days earlier than the launch date.
- Now it’s time to release episodes based on a schedule that makes you comfortable.
- Share them on social media, with family, and friends to get reviews and with time build an audience.
The world of podcasting in the MENA region looks optimistic, and with time, it’s going to grow exponentially similar to how it’s happening all over the world. The best practice right now is to start before the medium gets too saturated and make your mark in this ever-evolving platform.
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