Egyptian media startup rides wave of interest in podcast

Egyptian media startup rides wave of interest in podcast
Ahmed Shehata, right, and co-host Sabreen Hassan experimented with different formats before finally settling on podcast. (Supplied)
Updated 05 July 2019

Egyptian media startup rides wave of interest in podcast

Egyptian media startup rides wave of interest in podcast
  • Kawader started with two graduates wanting to create a media platform of their own
  • While podcasts made sense, not everyone got on board so easily

CAIRO: Just what goes into a media operation in Egypt? Some think success lies with the host of a program, or a certain content creator, but the truth is a lot of work goes on behind the scenes, with the result that many fail to get the credit they deserve.

According to a study by global management consulting firm AT Kearney, the media industry in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region is growing at a rate of 19 percent annually, with the introduction of podcasts to the region playing a major part in the expansion.

Two Egyptian journalists, both recent graduates, wanted to use the emerging medium to create a platform of their own to report on the media industry itself. And so Kawader was born.

“When we were students, we always noticed there was a gap between the market and what we were taught,” said co-founder and host Ahmed Shehata. “We wanted to know about everything in the field. What does this director do? How does this photographer work?“

It was obvious a lot of people had similar questions, but not all would have access to answers.

“We knew most people wouldn’t get the chance to find answers to these questions because the media field in Egypt is a bit insular,” Shehata said.

“We wanted to help people get into this industry by interviewing people working in media.”


Sky is the limit for Kawader’s founders as they reveal plans to expand into cinema and music

A podcast wasn’t their first choice, and they experimented with different options before finally settling on the format.

“We knew it was going to be hard, because not many people are aware of podcasts in Egypt, but that challenge actually got us more excited to go ahead,” co-founder and fellow host Sabreen Hassan said.

“We wanted to introduce this medium to Egypt, and our target guests in the media industry had us believe they would be excited for a new angle,” Shehata said.

While podcasts made sense, not everyone got on board so easily.

“Many people we reached out to started ignoring us when they found out the medium wasn’t video,” Hassan said.

However, previous encounters with the entrepreneurial system in Egypt taught them that beginnings are always hard, so they kept plugging away.

The two graduates had low hopes for their first podcast, but things took off faster than expected. They started out with a well-known TV presenter in Egypt, and it has been hit after hit since then.

They next hosted a content creator working on “SNL Arabia” to explain how a comic sketch is created, followed by one of the country’s leading radio hosts, who shared the secrets of his business.

The head of multimedia of Masrawy, one of the biggest online newspapers in the country, has also appeared, as have cinema and sports critics. Coming up, they have a recorded segment with the lead content writer for the football section on the Bleacher Report website.

Coordinating interview times is not easy, and so the team took an unconventional approach to record as many people as possible as quickly as possible.

“We wanted to leverage technology in all aspects of the project. So we decided to record via WhatsApp voice notes,” Hassan said.

While some admired the ingenuity of the idea, others frowned on recording a podcast via WhatsApp. However, Hassan and Shehata were adamant and stuck with their approach.

As a result they have recorded people from different countries and some from their own — all with busy schedules and at minimal cost.

The podcasts are then aired on Kawader’s SoundCloud channel.

Despite starting out with their focus solely on media, the duo have no plans to slow down and want to help as many people as possible enter the industry.

“We started with media because it’s what we know, but we want to venture into cinema, music and so on,” Hassan said.

Shehata said: “It’s in the works to turn Kawader into a full program, with ads and everything, and we’ve had people reach out to us to do that. But we’re still working on it.”

Watch this space.


This report is part of a series being published by Arab News as a partner of the Middle East Exchange, which was launched by the Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum Global Initiatives and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to reflect the vision of the UAE prime minister and ruler of Dubai to explore the possibility of changing the status of the Arab region.