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The golden age of podcasts – by Ipsos’ Ziad Issa

Podcasting is taking off, and the more people listen the more they want to listen. Ipsos’ chief client officer, Ziad Issa, looks over the numbers

There is no denying that podcasting, which was once considered as a niche industry, is now gaining a lot of traction worldwide and is acquiring popularity rapidly in the MENA region. With the media sector in the Gulf area ushering in a new age of content creation, it is establishing more channels for content creators and media organisations to communicate with their audiences.

Realising the potency of podcasts in the media industry, Ipsos conducted research looking into the listenership and usage behaviour of this prominent channel in Saudi Arabia and the UAE during the
last year.

Results of this research study have shown that about seven out of 10 internet users have listened to podcasts at least once during a year in Saudi Arabia and the UAE, further proving the unstoppable growth of podcasts in both markets.

The breakthrough of podcasts was further proven by the insights collected from the research, where results showcased that podcast listeners in KSA and the UAE are highly engaged, as more than 40 per cent of podcast listeners have said they listen to podcasts at least once a week.

Podcast listeners like to devote specific fractions of their day to podcast episodes. They enjoy listening to their favourite podcasts alone and mostly in the night-time. Early morning hours are also very common hours for listeners to access podcast content.

The evolvement of podcast penetration seems to be only heading upwards, as seven out of 10 people who listen to podcasts in Saudi Arabia have stated that they listen to more podcasts now than when they first started, which opens many opportunities for advertisers to start capitalising on this medium as a way to reach consumers.

The major factor behind the rapid growth of on-demand audio is due to the explosion in high-quality content, as publishers started producing more engaging series and episodes, and offer a variety of genres for the listeners to choose from.

With that in mind, the study’s results indicated that genre preferences completely vary per market. For example, in the UAE, ‘Comedy’ podcasts are the most preferred and listened to (52 per cent). This is followed by Health and Science and News and Current Affairs. On the other hand, Saudi Arabia listeners are mainly into health-related podcasts (47 per cent), followed by Comedy and Sports.

The exponential growth of podcasting embraces a wide range of brands to provide podcast content on their platforms, with streaming sites such as Spotify and Anghami competing to acquire the largest number of podcast broadcasters and ensure exclusivity.

Additionally, the boom in the podcasting industry has resulted in many content creators and broadcasters creating their own podcast series, which consequently made it harder for podcast publishers to catch the ears and interests of listeners due to the large number of players. According to another Ipsos study done previously in KSA, trialling new podcasts is mostly driven by social media posts and word-of-mouth recommendations from listeners’ friends and family.

Results further indicated that podcast listeners are mostly motivated to try a new podcast from the episode or series description (56 per cent) and the artwork used for the series (43 per cent).

In conclusion, it is noticeable that podcasts have manifested itself as both a viable media channel and an effective marketing one. As the field continues to grow, so will the opportunities for broadcasters and content creators. So, what is next for podcasting? How will emerging technologies such as smart speakers, speech recognition and other innovations change the landscape for podcasts? Only time will tell.