UAE

Arab Media Forum: New report released in Dubai uncovers podcasting challenges in Arab world

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Representatives from Dubai Press Club and podcasters during the launch of the Arab Podcast Programme at the Arab Media Forum in Dubai on Wednesday
Image Credit: Supplied

Dubai: The podcasting industry in the Arab world needs clear industry standards, financial sustainability, and training programmes, a new “groundbreaking” report, released by Dubai Press Club at Arab Media Forum on Wednesday, has revealed.

Dubai Press Club issued the report, titled ‘Generating Insights into the Podcasting Industry in the Arab World’, on the second day of the Forum, organised as part of the Arab Media Summit.

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As the “first comprehensive study” of its kind in the region, the report documents the evolution and growth of podcasting in the Arab world, offering comparisons with global trends, highlighting opportunities for further development and outlining recommendations for its development.

The report was released at a press conference organised by the Dubai Press Club attended by prominent media professionals, leading Arab digital audio content creators, and representatives of local, regional, and international media outlets.

‘Arab Podcast Programme’

Based on the recommendations outlined in the report, the Dubai Press Club (DPC) announced the launch of the ‘Arab Podcast Programme’, the “first initiative of its kind in the region” that seeks to foster the growth of audio content creation and nurture the skillsets of content creators across the Arab world.

Supported by leading media organisations, podcasting platforms, and media colleges, the Programme provides participants with the opportunity to expand their skills and explore promising career pathways within the podcasting industry.

The Programme will provide specialised training through theoretical and practical courses, workshops, and panel discussions featuring renowned content creators.

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Arab media landscape

Dr Maitha Buhumaid, director of Dubai Press Club, said that the issuance of the report coincides with the beginning of a new phase of regional podcast industry growth. The report reflects Dubai’s efforts to anticipate the future of vital industries and develop proactive initiatives to propel growth and innovation. It identifies the key challenges and opportunities ahead, and the measures needed to advance the digital audio content sector. Reports like this are crucial for preparing the ground for transformation, shaping a better future for the media, and keeping pace with rapid changes, she said.

“The report forms part of our efforts to address the gap for research reports focused on podcasting in the region and provide a reference for Arab content creators to make informed decisions. We seek to turn the report’s findings into actionable steps to develop the industry by closely collaborating with leading players in digital audio content creation and distribution. We will work with our partners to unlock the creative potential of the sector, drive faster growth, and enhance the reach of podcasting in the region. Dubai Press Club continues to work to create a nurturing environment for the growth of creativity and innovation in the media sector,” she added.

Mahfoudha Saleh, Specialist, Media Talent Development, Dubai Press Club, said the report outlines the major challenges and opportunities in the podcasting sector, which gives industry leaders the detailed information needed to take practical steps to give this sector a real boost. She emphasised the importance of anticipating future changes and enabling Arab content creators to make strategic decisions based on credible research. Dubai Press Club will collaborate with stakeholders to forge a new growth path for podcasting in the region, in the process reinforcing Dubai’s status as a hub for media and the creative industries, she added.

Global trends

Podcasting, a relatively new industry that emerged globally in the early 21st century, has seen significant growth since 2014. A recent report revealed that in 2023, the number of podcast listeners reached 464.7 million with 5 million podcasts and 70 million podcast episodes published globally. Global estimates indicate that the number of podcast listeners is expected to rise to over 500 million by the end of 2024.

Methodology

The newly released Dubai Press Club Study study was based on responses to an online questionnaire that targeted a sample of 60 podcasters in the Arab world. The trends and generalisations from the quantitative component of the study informed the qualitative aspect of the study, which featured a focus group of 16 prominent Arab podcasters from 11 Arab countries.

Preferences of Arab audiences

A majority of participants in the study (80 per cent) considered podcasts delivered in Arabic as being more influential in terms of reach in the Arab world than those delivered in English. About 78 per cent considered podcasts delivered in local Arabic dialects as more influential than those delivered in standard Arabic. The report anticipates a significant rise in podcast listeners in the Arab world, particularly in the Gulf region, with the UAE leading in podcast listening hours.

Turning challenges into opportunities

The report identifies untapped opportunities for developing the Arab podcasting industry and highlights several solutions to address challenges, including creating clear industry standards, ensuring financial sustainability, and developing training programmes. It provides recommendations for transforming challenges into opportunities for collaboration, professional development, and growth.

Participants pointed out the need for metrics, data analytics and customised dashboards to analyse podcasting trends, which would support strategies to retain current audiences and grow reach among new audiences. The study also identifies the need for more trained and specialised podcasters equipped with the necessary knowledge, skills, and capabilities to create, produce and commercialise quality content.

The study notes that Arab podcasters are passionate and skilled practitioners striving to set high standards for their profession. Participants in this study were optimistic about the future of the podcast industry in the Arab world.

Recommendations

The key recommendations of the study include the creation of more Arabic podcast content that is diverse, creative, and specialised. It also recommends the establishment of high quality standards and the adoption of best practices. The study highlights the need to create more podcasting platforms and applications that specifically cater to the needs and expectations of Arab audiences.

The report further says that supporting Arab podcasters in creating viable business models and monetisation strategies is critical to promote the growth of the industry. The study also emphasises the importance of collaboration to establish a vibrant community of Arab podcasters.