UAE-based podcast network Amaeya Media, launched in 2017, has become a key player in the region’s audio space, with 16 different shows and the UAE’s first audio-dedicated agency. Founder and CEO Chirag Desai explains how this industry is slowly but surely moving forward.
In which markets are your podcasts listened to?
We now have individual listenership in over 140 countries in total, but it does vary from show to show. The first branded shows that we launched, the DeCluttr Me Podcast, has a large listenership from the US, because that’s where this topic is more popular. But for most of our other shows, between 50% and 60% of the listenership come from the UAE.
What kind of advertising formats and solutions do you offer to clients?
First, there’s the pure advertising model: an existing show has an existing audience, and we can work with the client to create audio messaging around the brand that can run across one or multiple episodes or a season. Second, there’s branded podcasts, where we take a brand’s overall strategy and distill it down into a show that runs much more long-term and helps with overall brand value.
What are the advantages of advertising on podcasts?
Podcast advertising has a very long tail. Advertisers run a campaign on an episode, and that episode stays online for a very long time. Episodes produced two years ago are listened to even today, which means that very long-term value can be created for an ad.
The other advantage is that podcast advertising is very native. In a majority of cases, podcast advertising is read out by the host who has already established a very intimate connection with the listeners. It tends to have a stronger hold, reach, and brand retention.
And what are some of the challenges advertisers are facing in this medium?
Podcasts are an extremely decentralized medium. The decentralization is great from an empowerment point of view, but it brings a lot of limitations. In terms of being able to really understand the scope of the audience and where they are [based.] On YouTube, you can very easily set your benchmarks and metrics. That’s very difficult to do in podcasting because everybody’s on a different platform. I’m able to tell you about our audience profiles because we ran a survey last year and we have information coming from a couple of publishers. We’ve recently started to see platforms like Chartable in the US grow, which act as aggregation platforms on top of the distribution channels to help consolidate the data. But this continues to be one of the big issues we see in the industry.
What solutions are available to address the issue with access to data?
On the tech side, solutions like dynamic ad insertions (DAI) help podcasters advertise programmatically. DAI allows targeting, geographically, and by show. The ad is actually stitched together when you request the download, as opposed to predefined and ready to go.
On the data front, there’s a very clear need for us to understand our audience profiles, and we do that independently.
How would you describe awareness around podcasting in the region?
We’re still at a very nascent stage, and there’s a lot of education needed. We’re still doing podcasts 101: what’s a podcast, what’s a feed, and so on. However, this means that there’s tremendous potential for growth.
From a client point of view, this is a space that’s growing very quickly. Because, in the region, we still don’t have all the categories covered, you can become dominant in a field pretty quickly; you can create subject matter expertise pretty fast. It becomes an easy entry point for companies and that’s why most of them get excited about branded podcasting vs pure podcast advertising – the reverse of what you see in more mature markets like the US, where companies predominantly play in the advertising space.
However, because there’s a lower barrier to entry for podcast creation than for video, for example, too many people think that creating audio content is easy; you put a mic in front of somebody and just record. That’s a misconception globally, and the reason why almost 40% of shows don’t make it beyond episode 10. People jump on podcasting without a plan, but podcasting takes time, effort, and money. As a brand, it takes a lot more synergy to make sure that your marketing goals get translated the right way. Brands have to look at overall strategy, production value, and have the commitment to do this week after week.
How do you see the regional podcast ecosystem evolving?
The pieces are starting to fall into place. [Music streaming platform] Anghami, for example, with millions of subscribers, started looking at the podcasting space as an additional offering almost two years ago – that’s exactly what Spotify did abroad. Podio is a new tech platform focused entirely on podcasts. Once the chain is complete, we’ll start to see more mainstream adoption.
What about podcast monetization?
In the US, multiple monetization models already exist and are doing really well. Data indicate that putting money in podcasting actually gets you better returns than anywhere else, and brand association tends to be very positive. A majority of podcasts there are individual shows that hustled their way into creating an audience, and then leveraged that audience for sponsorships or other means. Here, many shows are homegrown and are creating their own niche audiences. So, monetization is definitely going to take time to build.
Once the brands start advertising on podcasts, it will really foster more content creators. This is something that I’m hoping will start soon. Omnicom Media Group said that they will spend $20 million on podcasts on Spotify in the next six months alone. That’s a very encouraging sign that companies are willing to invest in podcasting, which is actually a lot more cost-effective than other media, especially coming out of a crisis like this.