Is podcasting becoming a new media channel?
By now, most probably everyone has heard about podcasts. A growing new format of content consumption, “audio on demand “ that keeps attracting more and more followers everyday. Apple took podcasting mainstream through iTunes back in 2005. In the last couple of years, podcasts has conquered an audience willing to consume audio differently. Today, the podcast app is just a tap away on your iPhone or iPad, giving you access to thousands of audio episodes to listen to at your convenience.
The Middle East podcast landscape is becoming recently more and more diverse, exciting and giving voice to a wide variety of subjects. Whether you’re looking for talk shows, business inspiration, entertainment, culture, or sports; you’ll find stories that are true to the region and from this region.
Mshari Alonaizy, the voice & brain behind Millennial Mirrors podcast says "I personally started my own podcast, because I thought the medium of podcasting was very conducive to the interviews and conversations that I wanted to have discussing cultural issues affecting our generation in the Middle East.”
Khayra Bundakji, Saudi producer of Azzbda podcast adds "I have always wanted to be part of the podcasting conversation that was hosted by people I felt close to. I remember the first podcast I listened to GeekSpeak and Fresh Air were on the Apple Podcast player. Seven years later, I submitted my very own Azzbda to Apple’s Podcast Connect."
Today, there are 3 main types of podcast categories emerging in our region : The Podcast Networks, The Independent Podcasters & The traditional media Podcast (print, TV & radio)
1. The Podcast Networks:
The Podcast networks are the most popular trend. The network consists of a group of shows all housed in one place tackling various topics under episodes. Think of it as of the “Netflix for audio”. All you have to do is browse through the network shows & find something you’ll love, and get your listen on. Middle East podcast networks like , Amaeya , Finyal, Sowt or Mstdfr to name a few, have gathered thousands of listeners per episodes & have interesting podcasters from different grounds.
Khayra, also a former co-founder of Mstdfr Podcasting Network describes “the community is invaluable, especially on a platform that can feel lonely sometimes. A big bulk of the time has listeners getting in touch months after you worked on a podcast, the social latency can be daunting and it’s easy to forget why you do it. The networks gives you a community & a sense of belonging.” She also adds "I have always wanted to be part of the podcasting conversation that was hosted by people I felt close to. I remember the first podcast I listened to (GeekSpeak and Fresh Air) were on the Apple Podcast player. Seven years later, I submitted my very own Azzbda to Apple’s Podcast Connect.
Mshari, who is also the co-founder of Finyal, a podcast production company admits “We decided to start a podcast production company because we thought there was a gap in the market to create a lot of interesting content for the region from the region. Me and my partner, both, love the format of podcasts and since we as a people in the Middle East come from such a rich background of storytelling why not go back to those roots in a modern way."
One of the main benefit of joining a podcast network is notably free hosting. High audio quality production can be costly; a network will usually provide its podcasters with proper recording environment & equipments allowing them to focus on their content creation. Moreover, podcasters willing to elevate their shows for bigger exposure or looking for funding opportunities for their growing audience might have better chances to achieve so by joining a network which will allow them better connection.
Mshari comments "The major benefit of starting our company, which is a network of podcasts, is that you create a structure around your podcasts that helps support them; from recording, to editing to marketing and release." He also adds “We as Finyal Media sell advertising on our podcasts which is how we monetize them."
Khayra Bundakji, emphasizes“I am so grateful for building the Mstdfr Network, joining Arabic Podcasts network, and arranging the Middle East Podcast Forum. They have brought up constant learnings that directly fed into the content I created, and I was able to share awesome podcasts with our listeners who were hungry for regional shows”.
2. Independent Podcast:
Another type of podcast in the industry is the independent podcasts that refers to individuals or shows not associated to any networks or companies such as Abajora or Looking forward with Laila Faridoon
A lot of them have found a loyal audience & even sponsorship opportunities thanks to their attractive content and the fact that storytelling is king in this medium. In addition to attractive content, podcast forums are becoming popular among independent podcasters. The Middle East has seen its first ever podcast forum organized by a team of independent podcasters who meet on monthly basis, providing an important touch point for the industry players to connect, share and grow together!
Laila Faridoon a corporate executive, business coach & author of 'Looking forward to the bright side' admits“I was introduced to podcast by a friend as I just had published my book and he suggested me to extend my thoughts & advices in a podcasts, as the book is about self-love and wellbeing. Additionally Apple Podcast is very easy to use and self-explanatory from creating the account to posting the audio file, I felt proud that my podcasts were finally added to apple podcasts.” Laila finally shares "Apple podcast has the biggest podcast directory and being listed there helped me access global audiences"
3. Media Podcasts:
Classic media outlets have also adopted the medium and expanded their existing media channels to podcasts for more reach & cross-platform awareness. In addition, for publishers, the podcast industry represents an opportunity for exclusive content and better engagement thanks to a more dedicated & valuable audience comparing to other channels.
Although radio & podcast have lots in common, radio shows are sharing their episodes in the form of podcast understanding the need of “audio on demand”. Known TV broadcast networks such as BBC and CNN are also joining the market trend and providing their regular program as podcasts.
Khayra comments "The offering podcasts give to listeners is a sense of intimacy that hasn’t been around before. Radio shows are orchestrated to be catchy, with melodic intonations and music, meant to catch the attention of many listeners at once. A podcast is meant to be inside your head via earphones, just you and the speaker. It’s a very personal affair that is reserved for phone calls”. Mshari emphasizes " Also because it is only audio it allows people to do other things while engaging with the content which video does not allow”
Everyday, more & more people are experimenting with podcasts and discovering its capacity to reach new audiences thanks to its accessibility & tailor made format. With so many voices waited to be heard specially in a region where not everyone is given the opportunity to speak, the podcast industry in the Middle East is yet to be further explored. This heaven for content consumers with unlimited amount of stories & no boundaries is undoubtedly on its golden age and is transforming the media landscape.
Finyal media team