Podcasting gains traction in Mena Filed on October 25, 2020

Roberto Croci, managing director of Microsoft for Startups MEA.

Ally Salama.

A third of podcast shows are in Arabic and 93 per cent of people who listen to a podcast finish it.

Podcasting is gaining incredible traction in the region, especially during the Covid-19 outbreak due to the increase in demand of listeners having more time to consume content.

Ally Salama, a youth mental health expert and host of Empathy Always Wins, recently organised a webinar on how the podcast industry is growing in Mena region. The panel speakers included Leila Hamadeh, co-founder and CEO of Finyal Media; Cheryl King, Mena managing director of Markettiers; and Roberto Croci, managing director of Microsoft for Startups MEA.

"The pandemic has accelerated virtual communications, providing a boost to podcasts, which have provided an easily deliverable platform to further amplify thought leadership across industries. There is now a healthy competition between UAE podcast platforms, which is raising the standard across the board. Podcasts are a particularly engaging format for those from younger generations, partly due to their accessibility and ease of mobile consumption," said Croci.

The Markettier 4DC branded UAE Report states that podcasting is, among regular listeners, now the most trusted form of media despite its relatively young existence, with 16 per cent of the population now tuning in at least weekly. Over half of UAE listeners who describe themselves as regular listeners are very regular. But even for those who don’t describe themselves as regular listeners, one in 19 people in the UAE still tune in at least once a week. A third of podcast shows are in Arabic and 93 per cent of people who listen to a podcast finish it.

"One important thing podcasting has helped entrepreneurs to achieve is improved engagement and connection with their respective audiences, serving as an engaging medium to explain their ideas and philosophies," added Croci.

Currently, podcasting has proved to be one of the leading marketing tools when it comes to generating leads to a very specific market demographic - the highly-educated demographic, especially for those who own an iPhone, as Apple podcasts and iOS are the market-leading platforms.

Salama said: "I personally have seen my show’s listernership grow significantly by almost 30 per cent during Covid. My predictions are that many more independent ‘bedroom’ podcasters will emerge from Mena talking about subject matters that are very niche and relevant to the Arab community, especially around culture and society."

Arab talk shows are very famous for their styles and conversations, with young concepts and shows coming up, like the Dukkan Show that will keep on growing more and more, added Salama.

"There’s nothing quite like a bond between the listener and the podcast host. I believe Spotify Arabia will also be making in-house podcasts following the trend in the US - empowering Arab creators in the region as a great tactic to gain market share in the podcasting market after investing over $400 million dollars in their podcasting business," added Salama.

According to Markettiers Mena, the UAE podcast gender split is roughly equal and penetration actually increases with age, hitting a peak of 60 per cent in over 45-year-olds. While brands need to see that podcasting is a solid and successful way to reach plugged-in, active and worldly customers, the spending power bubbling away within UAE listenership enforces what a remarkable opportunity this is.

King said: "Very soon, the UAE could lead the way in world podcasting. In listenership, the UAE is at par with the UK, and creeping up behind the US, which is for now the world’s premier podcast market. There is a long history of the oral tradition in the Middle East – hence why radio reaches more households here than television. And as a nation where digital progress is moving at warp speed, the medium is well on its way to becoming a new media powerhouse."



Sandhya D'Mello

Journalist. Period. My interests are Economics, Finance and Information Technology. Prior to joining Khaleej Times, I have worked with some leading publications in India, including the Economic Times.

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