Dubai PodFest: Podcasts grow in popularity in the UAE, say top creators

Podcasting industry survived, thrived during COVID-19 lockdown

  
Dubai Marina skyline,UAE. Image used for illustrative purpose.

Dubai Marina skyline,UAE. Image used for illustrative purpose.

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UAE podcasters are hopeful an event such as the upcoming Dubai PodFest would provide them with new platforms to identify opportunities in the sector.

The first-of-its-kind event dedicated to podcasting in the region will take place in Dubai on November 14. Top podcasters and media experts in the UAE have called the event a 'fantastic opportunity'.

The Dubai Press Club said the Dubai PodFest would tackle a range of topics, including engaging and attracting subscribers, challenges and opportunities for content creators, and the growth of the MENA podcast market.

Maitha Buhumaid, director of Dubai Press Club, said, "The Dubai PodFest was inspired by the vision of Dubai's leadership to adopt new media technologies and embrace advanced digital trends in the sector. The event, which is set to be the region's largest gathering for podcasters, seeks to generate insights on emerging possibilities and challenges in the sector."

While podcasts have been around for nearly two decades, the format has just entered the mainstream. According to a Forbes report, in 2020, an estimated 100 million people listened to a podcast each month, and it's expected to reach 125 million in 2022.

Podcasting survived, thrived during Covid-19

Chirag Desai, the founder and CEO of Amaeya Media Network, of the first independent podcast companies in the UAE, told Khaleej Times, "Globally, the podcasts industry has seen tremendous growth in content creation."

According to Amaeya Media's State of the Industry Report 2020, people listened to more podcasts this year, preferring shows relating to entertainment, followed by self-help and improvement.

While listenership was initially impacted as lockdowns were implemented to grapple with the pandemic, more than half (55 per cent) of the regional survey respondents stated that they listened to more podcasts since March 2020, read the report.

Desai, whose company produces podcasts for brands such as The Lighthouse, Volkswagen and Azher, said, "From a regional point of view, there's been a sizeable growth." Not only are companies across the region producing podcasts, but there are dedicated podcast companies who are creating content independently, said Desai.

"Arabic and English are the main creation languages in the UAE, and businesses are using it to communicate with their audiences," he added.

Commenting on the upcoming Dubai PodFest, Desai said, "It is always good to have places where we can come together and interact behind the scenes. That's where the value is at, bringing everyone together and fostering that community to become bigger."

'Podcasts connect local communities'

Meanwhile, podcasters such as Courtney Brandt, who hosts the CSR of One podcast on Amaeya Media, said UAE podcasts such as KaramaSutra and DeepFried have done a brilliant job of connecting with the local community. Brandt is a Dubai-based food blogger and novelist.

Commenting on the upcoming Dubai PodFest event, Brandt said, "It is an excellent initiative. Bringing people together is always a good thing." She said given that brands are using podcasts to get in touch with audiences in a different way.

Tatiana Antonelli, the founder of Goumbook Social Enterprise and host of the Forward Talks Podcast, said, "We launched our podcast in early 2018 since we felt the need for producing something that is appealing to people on the go."

She said podcasting has become something of a habit for people. "People are doing their exercises while listening to podcasts. It has become typical of the new way of life," she said. On the creator's side, podcasts are giving a voice to the changemakers.

"People can express themselves and tell their story most uniquely," she added. Antonelli stated, "It is fantastic to have Dubai Press Club onboard for the Dubai PodFest. It makes things more official."

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