[Image credit: Middle East Podcast Forum]
For all the negative press that social media receives, progressive minds are harnessing the power of online platforms to foster creative collaboration and productive discussions at the grassroots level. An informal Twitter chat over a month ago led to a few of the region’s early podcasters to rally together and organize the very first Middle East Podcast Forum 2018. The Forum took place on September 29 – the eve of International Podcast Day – at In5 in Dubai Production City, which features creative state-of-the-art facilities including fully equipped recording studios and editing suites.
Who was there?
The 100+ attendees included a varied mix from established podcast creators in the region such as Rana Nawas of When Women Win, to budding podcasters and enthusiasts as well as avid listeners from the UAE, Saudi Arabia, and Oman.
The biggest news that afternoon came from Rami Zeidan, vice-president of partnerships, Anghami, who for the very first time publicly announced that the homegrown music streaming platform now supports a podcast network exclusively for the MENA region.
Through a packed agenda of talks, panel discussions and animated interactions between speakers and the audience, an appetite for a cross-pollination of ideas was palpable.
Experienced podcasters shared their tips and techniques
The Forum kicked off with Omar Tom of The Dukkan Show generously sharing tips to starting a podcast. Not being fussy about the mic, experimenting with test recordings and structuring show formats were some of the themes he covered. But, he stressed on the need to stay committed to the mission of consistently sharing stories through the podcast medium.
Tom’s talk was followed by a panel discussion where show creators voiced contrasting views on podcast techniques that work best for them. While Mohammed Al Shamali of Zofi Podcast strives for post-production perfection in his shows, Alaab Podcast’s Ahmed Alrashed propagates sticking with the basics and doing the bare essentials in taking listeners through a sonic experience so long as storytelling lies at the heart of the show.
The presence of women voices in the podcast scene was apparent with an all-female panel on mastering storytelling moderated by Khayra Bundakji of Azzbda Podcast. Kerning Culture’s Hebah Fisher divulged how ambient noises form an essential layer to the show while Emirati illustrator Fatma Almheiri spoke passionately about the genesis of her character Emara, a hijab-wearing female Arab superhero. And The Hamburger Generation host Isra Abu Zayed unabashedly revealed how she uses food to ease her guests into opening up to her with their stories.
They also talked monetization and legalities
The Forum also addressed the significant but often sidestepped matter of monetizing and protecting IPs. Founder and partner of SME Law Suhaib Hammad recommended keeping track of costs incurred, researching names before zeroing in on one for a podcast and getting guests to sign a NOC release as some simple safeguarding measures for podcasters.
And of course, marketing
But good stories need amplification, and a panel discussion on marketing and growing the podcast audience addressed just that. Moderator-cum-filmmaker-cum-Forum food sponsor Mohamed Al-Awadhi emphasized on the medium’s relevance by quoting powerful statistics on the podcasting industry. Basel Antabawi encouraged podcast creators (whom he also interestingly refers to as “anti-vanity Instagrammers”) to celebrate even the smallest of PR wins and Ed Clowes of Gulf News’ Dirhams and Dollars recommended creating short video trailers for podcast shows to further drive cross-platform awareness.
So where does the industry go from here? “I really believe we’re at the start of what will be the wave of new media for the Middle East: audio is the media’s next growth market, and this Forum was a clear manifestation of that,” says Kerning Cultures’ Fisher.
Ammar Al-Sabban, Chairman, MSTDFR Podcast Network says, “Our action plan involves using Mepodcastforum.com as a platform to unite podcast enthusiasts. We are discussing the possibility of hosting two forums annually for Arab and non-Arab speakers. To keep the momentum across the region, we encourage mini-forums in other cities that will allow for a more inclusive future for the Middle East’s podcast industry.”
It goes without saying that podcasting requires hustle and hard work. But for those with a desire to tell a story, the barriers to entry into the region’s podcasting industry have never been lower.
By Hanisha Lalwani, multi-award-winning communications professional and current marketing manager for the Middle East and Africa at PageGroup