Dubai PodFest 2023, the region’s leading event dedicated to podcasting, brought together prominent podcasters, audio content creators and leading organisations in the industry Image Credit: Dubai Press Club

Dubai: Podcasting is experiencing an unprecedented surge in popularity worldwide and the momentum of growth is expected to rise further in the future, speakers said at the third edition of Dubai PodFest 2023, held in Dubai on Tuesday.

Organised under the patronage of Sheikh Ahmed bin Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Second Deputy Ruler of Dubai and Chairman of the Dubai Media Council, the region’s leading event dedicated to podcasting brought together prominent podcasters, audio content creators and leading organisations in the industry, to discuss the future of podcasting in the region.

The event organised by the Dubai Press Club, provided a platform for industry experts to share insights, knowledge and expertise on a range of vital topics, including content creation, audience engagement, monetisation and distribution.

Constructive dialogue

Mona Al Marri, President of DPC, said: “Dubai’s commitment to accelerating the development of the region’s media is demonstrated through fostering constructive dialogue on new trends impacting the industry. Dubai continues to be at the forefront of fostering media development by launching key initiatives to enhance the competitiveness of the regional industry and raise its positive impact on societies.”

Al Marri added that the vision of His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, to make Dubai a major hub for creativity and talent across various fields, continues to inspire new initiatives to develop the media industry. “In alignment with His Highness’s vision, we seek to advance growth, innovation, enterprise and competitiveness in the media sector by facilitating rich conversations among industry players. Such interactions play a key role in building credibility, trust, and loyalty among regional media audiences,” she said.

Tatiana Antonelli Abella, Managing Director and Founder, Goumbook, during the Dubai PodFest 2023 event at Dubai Press Club on Tuesday Image Credit: Dubai Press Club

Prominent conent creators

In her opening speech, Dr Maitha Buhumaid, Director of DPC, emphasised the significance of the event, which brings together prominent content creators to explore strategies for advancing the industry’s growth. Dr. Buhumaid presented data from a recent study conducted by Northwestern University on podcast consumption in the Arab world. The report revealed that approximately three out of every ten Arab individuals are podcast listeners. Notably, among various demographic groups, Arab youth emerged as the most enthusiastic followers of podcasts, with engagement rates ranging from 23% to 33% across different categories in the region. “Such figures show that the podcast industry in the region is no longer an emerging industry, but a well-established one,” she noted.

“We at DPC are extremely proud to organise the largest annual gathering of podcasters in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region for the third year in a row. Dubai PodFest has provided a high-profile platform for the launch of several unique podcasts in the UAE, further reinforcing Dubai’s position as a major hub for technology, creativity and innovation as well as digital media development,” she added.

Keynote speech

In her keynote speech at the event, Michele Cobb, Executive Director of The Podcast Academy, an organisation dedicated to recognising excellence in podcasting and supporting the growth of the industry, shared key data on podcast listening worldwide. Cobb noted that there are over five million podcasts in existence with over 70 million episodes and an estimated 465 million podcast listeners worldwide, according to a report by Demand Sage. Apple hosts more than two million podcasts, but many exclusive podcasts are hosted on other platforms, she said.

“The first thing that we should address whenever we talk about podcasting is growth. We’ve seen remarkable growth in the number of podcasts being produced, the revenue from podcasting and the number of people who are involved in the podcasting industry,” she said.

Cobb presented data from various sources to show that the podcasting industry has seen tremendous growth since its inception in year 2000, she noted.

She shared insights on podcast listening around the world from the same report, noting that the morning is the most popular time for podcast listening, and smartphones are the most commonly used device to listen to podcasts.

On podcast listenership rates in different countries, Cobb explained that Scandinavian countries have a high rate of podcast listening due to their love of the spoken word and high English language proficiency. Countries like Chile, Argentina, Peru and Mexico are among the fastest growing podcast markets, she said. Citing another report from 2021, she said that the UK, Canada, Australia, India and Brazil have seen an increase in listenership, while Japan continues to experience growth.

Dubai PodFest 2023 features a session that brought together prominent podcasters from around the world to share their inspirational stories Image Credit: Dubai Press Club

Inspirational stories

The event also featured a session that brought together prominent podcasters from around the world to share their inspirational stories. The session saw participants talk about their experiences and the challenges they faced in creating podcasts. From personal growth to business success, each podcaster shared their unique story and the lessons they have learnt along the way. Participants in the session included Nayla Tueni, Anas Bukhash, Mohammed Islam, and Ali Najem.

Open Discussion

During an open discussion session titled ‘The Arab Podcast Industry’, participants highlighted the significant digital transformation taking place in the Arab world’s media industry. Renowned podcasters and audio content experts participating in the session also spoke about the promising growth prospects of the digital media sector locally and globally.

Dubai PodFest 2023 also saw a series of side activities including workshops, live podcasts and a fireside chat on the region’s podcasting industry.