Dubai: If local podcasters are to be believed, at least 70 per cent of the UAE’s population is tuned into some podcast or the other today.
Last year, the figure was less than 25 per cent.
Andrew Thomas, managing director at Project NEXA, a digital marketing agency that provides recording studios for podcasters on a rental basis said, “A lot of global brands including banks and financial institutions are now recording advertisements for podcasts at our premises. Our recording studio has been very busy lately. I’ve seen a 40 per cent rise in bookings in the past 18 months.”
Andrew also works on a personal podcast named Sofology along with Dr James Piecowye, who teaches communication at Zayed University. “Two of our talk shows that do really well are: Car Clinic, where we discuss car problems and how to fix them and Hairy Business, which is all about setting up and managing a business in the UAE. We have a total of 80,000 downloads on the business show and the response has been great. Around six months ago we only had about 45,000 [downloads],” said Dr Piecowye.
According to Dr Piecowye, a shift can also be seen among media students who are now looking at alternate ways to communicate with the world beyond the traditional modes like TV, radio and print. “Almost all of my students want to do something online, i.e.: blogging or podcasting are the two most preferred options. Even about two years ago it wasn’t like that,” he added.
According to Thomas, listeners are more selective, attentive and choosy than a few years ago. “It’s like Netflix. You watch what you want, when you want. Podcasts are the same,” he said.
Expats Reem Hameed, Omar ‘OT’ Tom and Mohammad Akkaoui, who host one of the most talked-about shows in Dubai, The Dukkan Show also believe a major shift is around the corner. “We’ve seen a major shift in the last 12 months. We started in January 2016, and by April we had only about 300 monthly listeners. Today around 17,000 people listen to us monthly. Nearly 45 per cent of our listeners are from the UAE and about 20 per cent are from Saudi Arabia,” said Omar.
Omar says theirs is the only show that caters to the ‘neo-Bedouin’ class of society. “Third-culture kids relate to Dukkan’s voice. In this way, it resonates with a large expat community that rarely find a mention in the media,” he said. This week will be the Dukkan Show’s 120th episode.
They aim to become a global voice and help change perceptions about the UAE and the region. “It felt like a pat on our backs when we received a letter from a kid in Arizona, US, telling us how the show helped him understand the Middle East and the people who live here,” says Omar.
Emirati and Jordanian podcasters Hind Mezaina and Wael Hattar’s podcast Tea With Culture claim that podcasts didn’t seem like a great idea when they started in 2014.
But that’s not the case now. “That explains why I quit my job in the corporate world. I am now a full time artist and writer. Wael splits his time between advertising and the world of art.
“With a shared interest in art, culture and cinema, we opened up more conversations on previously untouched topics in the Middle East. In the last one year our listeners from the UAE have doubled,” said Hind.