AMAEYA Media, UAE’s largest podcast network, conducted a survey in November 2019, to understand the key trends and challenges for the podcast medium in the region. The findings revealed three key trends that are dominant above all others. The survey was open to the general public but targeted residents of the United Arab Emirates, who formed 90% of the respondents.
There’s a clear disconnect between local listeners and locally produced content:
- While nearly half of those surveyed expressed an interest in listening to local shows, less than 30% actually do.
- Apple users have IDs registered to their home countries which makes it difficult for users to find locally produced content in their browsing tabs.
- Non-Apple podcast listeners such as those on Spotify and Google Podcasts are usually directed to globally trending shows or work with algorithms that tend to suggest similar shows to those already selected.
- Less than 4% of respondents browsed on Anghami, the only regional streaming service, which carries over 300 shows that are predominantly from the region.
- There is also a perception that locally produced content would not be of the same quality as internationally produced shows. Among non-listeners, 39% noted that the ability of good local and relevant content would make them try the medium. The high percentage of respondents who are looking for good content seems to imply the above-mentioned perception.
However, research carried out by Dr. Sabir Haque, professor of New Media and Broadcast Media at Manipal University of Higher Education (MAHE) indicates that local content is continuing to diversify across categories. His study, titled Podcasts in the UAE: narratives reinvented and re-casted argues that not only is the region starting to thrive with stories across tech, culture, music, and local affairs but also has content with high production value. It further notes that podcasters have been able to open dialogue on previously untouched topics in the Middle East and its diaspora.
Podcast discovery is still a challenge:
- Social media and word-of-mouth are still the biggest ways to discover podcasts.
- 95% of survey respondents confirmed that they would share podcasts with their friends.
- Anghami’s data revealed that 67% of their users subscribe to podcasts via searching for them directly.
- The difficulty in discovery by the audience only adds to the disconnect present between locally produced podcasts and listeners.
Local listeners prefer shorter podcasts that allow them to multi-task while doing other activities:
WHAT LISTENERS WANT
- Comedy and Entertainment ranked highest in terms of listener preference.
- Some local podcasters seem to be aware of the popularity of these topics. There are a few active shows that cater to this genre.
- The Hangout with Rushdie is popular within this category11, while Rami Zeidan collaborated with celebrity host Big Hass to launch 7awwil about the history of hip-hop in both Arabic and English.
THE CASE FOR BRANDS IN PODCAST
- While 70% of respondents listen to an ad message during an episode, 15% of those listeners actually use the ads as a way of discovering new brands.
- In comparison, 30% felt negatively about ads in a podcast.
- There is a stark contrast for branded shows, where only 6% of listeners state that they would never listen to a branded show.
- Among those willing to listen to branded content, 71% said they would listen, as long as the content was well-produced, while 21.8% said they would do so only if they identified with the brand in some way.
- Hence, the motivation for creating shows and for brands to use them effectively still relies on the same tenets that work for non-branded shows: a strong focus on the content.
Brands should view podcasts as part of a long-term communication strategy. Whether through creating entire shows or advertising and collaborating with existing shows, there is a lot to leverage on brand awareness and messaging.