There was a time when radio listeners didn’t have much choice about who and what they listened to on their way to work. A simpler time when they would listen to the same hit chart song three times in one drive.
Apple took podcasts and made them mainstream by building it right into iTunes way back in 2005. It had the vision that podcasts would be the next generation radio and that’s serving to be true today.
Globally, in recent years, podcasts have emerged from their niche status and found wider audiences. They have gained steady traction and popularity. More and more podcasters across the region are seeing the value and freedom in the “do it yourself” format that podcasts offer to create original content across categories like news, business, entrepreneurship, culture, comedy, and entertainment.
They’re particularly popular with younger listeners and especially well-suited to deep dives into topics that that just don’t get attention in traditional radio formats. But adoption rates vary wildly across the world.
The popularity of podcasts in the Arab world is hard to gauge. The landscape appears to still be in its pre-industrial phase, relying on a handful of passionate and driven creators across the region to keep moving forward.
But what is really driving the upward trend in podcast culture regionally and internationally?
Podcasts are perfect for ‘on-demand content consumption’. There’s something for everyone which makes it personal, and you can listen to what you want, when you want. Just as people will sit and watch Netflix for hours, they’re finding that listeners will listen to hours of podcast in a single sitting.
Podcast production in the Gulf region has grown from self-entertainment to a form of creative outreach. Despite the challenges still facing podcast production, the enthusiasm of khaleejis in particular to spread podcasting culture is encouraging collaboration and the passionate embrace of podcasting across the Arab region.
The podcast medium is being taken seriously in the Middle East and its value for listeners and users is clear. Podcasting is the future of media. Hebah Fisher | Podcast host
The reason podcasts aren’t yet getting quite larger numbers in the region is because the Arabic-language offering isn’t there. Entrepreneurs in the sector are seemingly more comfortable with focusing on English-language content, despite indications that the appetite for Arabic content is huge.
However, a trend is taking root in the Middle East that echoes one of the ways podcasts elsewhere have been able to thrive: networks.
The Gulf, in particular, has become an Arabic podcast hotspot, with platforms such as Mstdfr Network in Jeddah. Beirut also remains a traditional media and cultural center in the Middle East.
“Podcasts in Arabic are a new thing that came about in the past three or four years,” says Sabreen Taha, head of podcasts with Sowt, one of the region’s pioneering podcast platforms and a company that operates in Amman. “It kind of exploded. It’s everywhere in the Arab world ”.