The rise of MENA’s ‘heavy’ podcast listeners

By Jalaja Ramanunni

Source: Spotify Newsroom

A notable trend has emerged in the dynamic podcasting landscape of the MENA region – the return of long-form content.

Rhea Chedid, Senior Podcast Manager at Spotify MENA, highlights the region’s growing fascination with extended conversations and interviews.

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According to Chedid, the MENA markets boast the highest proportion of ”heavy” podcast listeners, with Saudi Arabia leading the pack. She says, “The MENA markets have the highest portion of heavy podcast listeners. Saudi Arabia is leading the pack with a whopping 67 per cent of adults listening to at least one hour or more of podcasts a week.”

These findings, based on a recent study conducted by YouGov, come as no surprise, considering the exponential growth of podcast hours streamed on Spotify in the MENA markets. In 2022 alone, podcast streaming on the platform skyrocketed by over 190 percent year-over-year, Chedid shares. The figures reflect the region’s region’s voracious appetite for podcasts and highlight the immense potential for content creators and advertisers to tap into this thriving market.

Chedid says, “One trend we’re seeing is the popularity of long-form interviews and conversations. Listeners are tuning in for extended periods, with podcasts like Finjan#ABTalks, and The Mo Show keeping them hooked. And this interest in longer-form content goes hand-in-hand with the rise of niche podcasts. There are tons of podcasts that cater to specific audiences and cover topics like mental health, business, and self-improvement.”

Chedid shares that these shows are talent-led and offer in-depth conversations and thoughts on important topics around health, mental health, business, tech, and society. “MENA audiences are drawn to global podcasts like Anything Goes with Emma Chamberlain, The Diary of a CEO with Steven Bartlett,  Call Her Daddy, The Joe Rogan Experience, and On Purpose with Jay Shetty. Each host and their guests offer a fresh and personal perspective on a range of topics, drawing listeners in as if they are sitting with them having a conversation. Similar to some of the Arabic podcasts mentioned above, all these shows are mostly tuned in for people seeking self-improvement and a better understanding of the world. These podcasts resonate with listeners in the region because they provide insights that are universal and relatable.” 

Speaking of self-improvement – it is a prevalent theme in the UAE and Saudi Arabia. “Podcasts like Think with HessaAbajorra, and Sawalef Business are helping listeners become the best versions of themselves. The genre, religion and spirituality, has also found a strong audience across the MENA region.”

Overall, podcasts are taking the MENA region by storm, providing a platform for diverse voices and perspectives.