Kerning Cultures announced recently that they have raised $460K. This news makes them the first venture-backed podcast network in the Middle East with this capital. The seed round was led by 500 Startups, a global Venture Capital firm that has invested in companies.
Podcast industry has been rising in the region and global wide. The seed money will provide the firm to expand its broadcasting shows in 2019. Kerning Cultures which began as a single podcast show telling in a documentary-style, long-form stories from the Middle East is targeting a potential listening audience of 110 million people between the ages of 15 and 35.
We spoke to both Hebah Fisher, Co-Founder, CEO of Kerning Cultures and Bella Ibrahim, the Brand Marketing Director of Kerning Cultures to understand the importance of the investment.
Hebah Fisher, Co-Founder, CEO of Kerning Cultures. She cofounded the platform alongside with Razan Alzayani to produce high quality podcast shows in 2015.
Why do you think podcast is needed in the Arab World?
Podcasts are a digital revival of our longtime storytelling traditions in the Arab world. Now, podcasts are making the same stories conveniently accessible whenever you want, on your smartphone. For us, listening to podcasts transforms the mundane moments in our lives: when we’re commuting to work or school, cleaning up around the house, or exercising – it’s the perfect opportunity to let your mind wander into the stories being told by your favourite podcasts.
Do you think through your story format you are telling the stories of people in a way that neither print or TV cannot fulfil?
Yes, there is something magical about audio that captures the imagination in a way that print and TV do not. There is an intimacy in hearing somebody’s voice directly in your ears- our listeners tell us they feel like they personally know the characters in our stories. And, whereas TV and film do a lot of the work for you, with audio storytelling your mind is given room to imagine what the characters and the scenes look like. I still love watching films and reading books, but audio is something magical unto its own.
What does raising these seed money mean for your business?
This seed round enables us to double down on production, expand into more Arabic programming, and grow our audience. We’re planning to launch three new shows this coming year.
Bella Ibrahim, the Brand Marketing Director of Kerning Cultures who comes from a creative background answered our questions on the positioning of Kerning Cultures in the Arab World.
How do you understand the podcast industry is in the Arab World?
Currently, the catalog of audio content in the region is very limited. As a reference, podcasting in the United States has 350K+ active podcasts, meanwhile the Middle East currently only has 400+ active shows. And yet, despite such a limited library of content, Saudis still spend more time listening to digital audio than Americans do. We believe there is a potential listening audience of 110M people; we’re focusing on those in the region who don’t feel represented by local traditional media, and an untapped audience of Middle Eastern diaspora listeners abroad.
Where do you position your brand among competition?
Kerning Cultures is 1 of about 4 major podcast companies in the Middle East. Podcasting is still so young in the region that we don’t really consider one another competition— we’re all building the industry up together. We often work together and cross-promote content as well. What makes us different is that we are the first venture-backed podcast company in the region. Our storytelling style is also unique in that it involves an intensive level of research, production, and sound design; most of our stories take months to create!
What does your brand aim to achieve?
Kerning Cultures initially started as a reaction to the negative media surrounding the Middle East, as traditional media doesn’t properly represent the region. But our mission has grown since then: we are working to raise the bar for storytelling and journalism in the region. And with audio being more accessible than video in the region, podcasting is the perfect space to do that. Our goal is to build up the podcasting industry as a whole and use it as a medium to tell quality stories that capture the spirit of the region.