‘There’s a thirst for content and female role models’: Podcasters find niche in Arab world

Rana Nawas (R), the producer of the English-language series ‘When Women Win,’ hosts Saudi Arabian comedian and Hatoon Kadi during a podcast recording session in Dubai. AFP
Updated 12 May 2019
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‘There’s a thirst for content and female role models’: Podcasters find niche in Arab world

  • The English-language series, “When Women Win,” tells the stories of successful women from all over the world
  • It first gained traction in 2017 in Dubai, where it is produced

DUBAI: Rana Nawas left the corporate world nearly two years ago to produce and host a podcast — one that is now considered the most popular in the Arab world.
The English-language series, “When Women Win,” tells the stories of successful women from all over the world and, according to Apple, has become the most listened to podcast in the region.
It first gained traction in 2017 in Dubai, where it is produced, before it started to spread across the region.
Nawas said she created the series “to give women all over the world access to role models” by highlighting the “extraordinary things” ordinary women are doing.
“I’ve been surprised at how the region has embraced ‘When Women Win’,” the 40-year-old told AFP, adding aviation giant Emirates Airline would start airing her show this month.
“There’s clearly a thirst for this content, there’s clearly a thirst for female role models,” said the Briton, who is of Lebanese and Palestinian origin.
“When Women Win,” which is available to download in 144 countries, is the most popular podcast in Saudi Arabia, according to Nawas.
“I’ve been ... surprised that actually my biggest market is Saudi Arabia,” said the former sales executive at an aviation company.
“Everybody tells you (Saudis) only consume Arabic video content, so I was really delighted ... to know that they also consume English-language audio content.”
Nawas, whose show is entirely self-funded, said she hopes to be able to draw financing from other sources.
Nawas gets messages about the podcast from around the world via social media, and believes the podcast will gain even more popularity.
“I think the global future of podcasts is very positive, and the reason is people are not going to get less busy. We are only getting busier,” she said.
She said most people listen to podcasts during their commute, or while cleaning or cooking.
Like Nawas, Sudanese-born Omar Tom and friends created a podcast in 2016 that touches on topics they feel are neglected in traditional media.
One issue his English-language podcast — the Dukkan Show — focuses on is life in the Gulf for expatriates. The hosts chat to guests as if sitting in a dukkan — “corner store” — where it is common culture in the Arab world to socialize.
“I wanted to fight a couple of stereotypes,” said Tom, 30, who is in a Made in Sudan T-shirt. “One was the Sudanese stereotype when I first started, which is the lack of representation in media, and if there is a representation it doesn’t always speak for the diaspora or for the third-culture kids.
“As Arabs we don’t look so good in international and western media. So how do we tackle that? The only way to do that is to speak in a language that everybody would understand, which at the moment just happens to be English.”
Many young Arab people now prefer podcasts over traditional radio programs.
For Rami Baassiri, 26, podcasts allow him to be more productive and do two things at once.
“There’s a lot of downtime in my day, whether I’m commuting to work, driving, in the gym, in queues in the mall, at the airport, so I like to make use of that time,” he told AFP.
“Podcasts allow me to control the radio by choosing whoever I want to listen to, whatever I want to listen to.”
Podcasts have been spreading across the Arab region, including Saudi Arabia, Oman, Kuwait, Jordan and Lebanon.
Hebah Fisher, chief executive and co-founder of Dubai-based network Kerning Cultures, the first venture-funded podcast company in the Middle East, said podcasts are the future.
“Our seed round is a strong signal for the podcast industry in the Middle East: The medium is taken seriously, and its value for listeners and users is clear,” she said. “Podcasting is the future of media.”


Two journalists released in Libya: TV channel

Updated 25 May 2019
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Two journalists released in Libya: TV channel

  • The capital’s southern suburbs have been the target of an offensive launched April 4 by Khalifa Haftar
  • The release of the television journalists followed local and international condemnation of their detention

TRIPOLI: Two Libyan journalists held by an armed group for more than three weeks have been released, the television channel they work for said Saturday.
“We congratulate the press world for the release of our two colleagues, Mohamad Al-Gurj and Mohamad Al-Chibani, who were kidnapped by Haftar’s forces on May 2 while they were covering the assault on Tripoli,” said the private channel Libya Al-Ahrar, which is based in Turkey.
It said they were freed on Friday.
The capital’s southern suburbs have been the target of an offensive launched April 4 by Khalifa Haftar, military strongman of an eastern administration aimed at seizing Tripoli from an internationally-recognized Government of National Accord (GNA).
At least 510 people have been killed and around 2,500 wounded in the fighting, as well as more than 80,000 displaced, according to UN agencies.
The release of the television journalists followed local and international condemnation of their detention, including from media watchdog Reporters Without Borders (RSF).
In a press freedom index compiled by RSF, Libya ranks a lowly 162nd out of 180 countries.