Podcasts: The future of media in the Arab world?

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Updated 07 December 2022

Podcasts: The future of media in the Arab world?

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  • As the sector evolves and grows, the introduction of video to podcasting might just be just the push the audio industry needs to propel it to ever-greater heights
  • It is not a question of ‘leaving audio behind,’ said one expert; video is ‘unlocking further potential for the content to reach new realms, creatively, and for more people to access the content’

Arabs are among the biggest consumers of media around the world, with many spending hours each day watching and listening to their various devices, from TVs to smartphones.

In the region, Saudis spend the most time watching TV, averaging 5.2 hours a day, followed by Emiratis on 4.2 hours, according to a report by the consultancy Strategy&.

Moreover, it found that Saudis on average spend 14.2 hours a day engaging with various types of media channels. However, long periods spent staring at devices can result in screen fatigue, which is perhaps a reason for growth of alternative media formats, such as podcasts.

“(A podcast) is an easily consumable content (format) and, most importantly, it offers a screen-less alternative to social media and doom scrolling,” Ramsey Tesdell, the CEO of Jordan-based podcast network Sowt Media, told Arab News.

There are estimated to be more than 10 million podcast listeners in the Middle East and North Africa region, who listen to an average of between five and seven hours of podcasts a week, according to Bella Ibrahim, marketing director of regional podcasting company the Kerning Cultures Network. The biggest markets are in Saudi Arabia, Egypt and the UAE, she added, but other countries in the region are following suit. 

The rise of new creators and development of improved technologies have helped to create a burgeoning podcast ecosystem, with special events such as “Ignite the Sound” in Saudi Arabia, and “Sada” and “Podfest” in the UAE, bringing creators together.

Statistics reveal the growth in popularity of the medium in the region and internationally. According to Strategy&, 18.4 percent of Saudis listen to podcasts more than once a week. Globally, Spotify said that podcast engagement on its platform has grown from less than seven percent in 2018 to 30 percent this year.

Although podcasting is still a relatively new medium, the ideas and traditions it emerged from are not.

“Audio has always been part of our lives,” Rhea Chedid, a senior podcast manager at Spotify MENA, told Arab News. “The Arab world has a long history of oral storytelling, and podcasts are a continuation of that.”

Still, podcast listenership remains relatively low compared with the popularity of social media and video streaming. And so despite the clear benefits offered by audio content, including hands-free, screenless entertainment, video is, perhaps inevitably, increasingly becoming a pervasive part of the podcast scene.

“Video is an important aspect of entertainment and podcasts will adapt to that as well,” Tesdell said.

Spotify, for example, first flirted with the idea of adding video to podcasts in 2020 during limited tests, after which it rolled out video-podcast options to selected creators through Anchor, a podcast creation and distribution platform it acquired in 2019. Last month, it expanded it video-podcasting capabilities to most global markets in which Anchor is available, including Saudi Arabia and Egypt.

Does that mean the days of the audio-only podcast might be numbered already? Experts say that this is not the way to look at it.

“It’s not a question about audio or video, or leaving audio behind,” said Chedid. Instead, video is “unlocking further potential for the content to reach new realms, creatively, and for more people to access the content they want, in the way they want.”

Moreover, people consume a variety of content types throughout the day, which means that they are not necessarily choosing video over audio.

“The more people there are consuming audio, no matter the format, is a good thing,” Tesdell said.

Videos have been around as a source of online entertainment much longer than audio podcasts — from the early days of YouTube to the new breed of short and snappy footage on sites such as TikTok and Instagram. As a result, distribution and monetization tools are well-developed across video platforms and creators are more familiar with the format, Tesdell added.

In fact, though it might appear counterintuitive, some experts suggest that video might very well be the factor that propels the podcast industry to greater heights.

Spotify, for example, said it has already seen strong adoption of video by podcast creators in markets where it is available, said Chedid.

Video can also serve as a marketing and promotional tool for podcasters, Ibrahim said, but she cautioned: “With all the buzz around video, it’s worth noting that not all podcasts should be forced into being video podcasts. It’s a great format for talk shows but less so for narrative or fiction shows.”

So, do podcasts represent the future of media in the Arab world? Ibrahim certainly believes so.

“Absolutely; the medium of audio storytelling creates a very intimate listening experience,” she said.

Tesdell and Chedid are also optimistic about the future of podcasting but view it more as an increasingly significant part of the wider media ecosystem rather than its future.

“Podcasts will play an important and significant role in the development of Arab media,” Tesdell said.

Chedid added: “Podcasts will be part of the future of media in the Arab world, just like they have become globally.”

 

 


Backlash for Charlie Hebdo cartoon mocking Turkiye earthquake

Backlash for Charlie Hebdo cartoon mocking Turkiye earthquake
Updated 2 min 11 sec ago

Backlash for Charlie Hebdo cartoon mocking Turkiye earthquake

Backlash for Charlie Hebdo cartoon mocking Turkiye earthquake
  • The magazine shared on the day of the quake a drawing gloating over the death of thousands
  • Commentators described the cartoon as "racist" and "vile"

LONDON: A cartoon scoffing at the deadly earthquake that has killed more than 11,000 people in Turkiye and Syria has received a severe backlash online for its insensitivity.

French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo published a cartoon captioned “drawing of the day” and showing collapsed buildings and piles of rubble with “earthquake in Turkiye” written on top and “no need to send tanks” at the bottom, sparking outrage on social media as well as criticism from journalists.

Many deemed the cartoon “racist” and “vile,” condemning it for mocking the pain of thousands of innocent victims.

“Just vile, racist, and immensely insensitive,” tweeted Islamophobia scholar Khaled Beydoun.

“It is really disgusting to make fun of the suffering of others and far from the ethics of journalism, assuming it sticks to it, and I doubt it,” wrote Abdulla Al-Amadi in a tweet.

Lebanese journalist Giselle Khoury described the cartoon as “shameful,” demanding the magazine explain how this constituted “freedom of expression.”

Rana Abi Jomaa, also a Lebanese journalist, wrote that “there are no limits to Charlie Hebdo’s racism,” wondering “who would defend this abhorrent satirical French magazine after today?”

“Charlie Hebdo is faithful to its famous hate speech, bigotry, mediocre unethical journalism and colonialist scorn,” wrote Tunisian journalist Mourad Teyeb. “Nothing to do with press freedom!”

Khalil Rammal, on social media, denounced the magazine’s “racist” cartoon, namely for “gloating over” the tragedy of thousands.

Challenging the outrageous cartoon, Ouissal Harize shared a video of a rescued toddler who lost his family in the catastrophe, and wrote: “This is the tragedy you are mocking.” 

Another user, Shireen Mazari, wrote: “Hatred and Islamophobia at its peak when a natural disaster draws this kind of reaction from Charlie Hebdo! Sickening to the core.”

Commentators recounted the Jan. 7, 2015, attack on Charlie Hebdo’s headquarters in Paris, reminding the magazine of its demand for global support under the slogan “Je suis Charlie.”

“Mocking a natural disaster with the death of thousands and the complete destruction of infrastructure in an already fragile state with ‘didn't even need to send tanks’ is everything I need to know about ‘Je suis Charlie.’ Inhumane,” wrote Twitter user Yasmeen.

Political analyst Oznur Sirene reminded the magazine of how many Turks showed solidarity following the 2015 attack, only to be rewarded with mockery.

“Today you dare mock the suffering of an entire people,” she wrote. “One must really have some nerve to do this while there are still babies waiting to be rescued.”

Others condemned the magazine for “having a history of mocking victims of catastrophe,” with several resharing the cartoon that made fun of Italy’s earthquake in 2016.

Charlie Hebdo received a backlash for a cartoon it shared in September 2016 mocking the victims of the 6.2 magnitude earthquake that hit Italy at the time. Shortly after, the magazine shared another cartoon demonizing critics.

In January 2016 the magazine published a cartoon making fun of Alan Kurdi, the Syrian child whose body was found on a Greek beach in 2015. 

People in Turkiye and Syria woke up on Monday to a deadly magnitude 7.8 earthquake, which killed more than 11,000 people, according to CNN, and destroyed thousands of buildings.

Syria’s devastated infrastructure and freezing weather conditions are obstructing rescue operations, which have been ongoing since the disaster struck.


Twitter restricted in quake-hit Turkiye

Twitter restricted in quake-hit Turkiye
Updated 08 February 2023

Twitter restricted in quake-hit Turkiye

Twitter restricted in quake-hit Turkiye
  • Platform has been widely used to seek help and establish personal contact
  • Turkish authorities have limited access to social media during previous national emergencies

LONDON: Twitter is facing restrictions in Turkiye as the country struggles to deal with the aftermath of the devastating earthquake, sources reported.

Independent global internet monitor NetBlocks confirmed that the social media platform has been restricted on multiple network providers, including TTNet and Turkcell, on Wednesday.

“Real-time network data show Twitter has been restricted in Turkiye,” Netblocks said in a tweet.

“The filtering is applied on major internet providers and comes as the public come to rely on the service in the aftermath of a series of deadly earthquakes.”

Twitter is widely adopted in the country and its restriction disrupts critical communication for rescue efforts.

NetBlocks Director Alp Toker said that this is the first time the company detected social media restrictions during a natural disaster.

“Twitter has been in use extensively in the aftermath of the earthquakes, both to seek assistance and rescue equipment and by those trying to get back in touch with loved ones,” Toker said.

Turkish authorities have not given any formal explanations, but NetBlocks said that Turkiye often acts to prevent alleged disinformation during national emergencies.

In November, following a terrorist attack in central Istanbul that killed six people and injured more than 80, authorities imposed a 10-hour social media ban.

Some users also reported that TikTok might have been affected by the restrictions.

In a statement, the video-sharing app said it was aware of the technical difficulties and is “investigating the matter and hope access is restored as soon as possible as platforms like TikTok remain a critical way to stay in touch during crises.”

NetBlocks and some Twitter users have reported that users in Turkiye can still access the platforms through VPNs.


Dubai Lynx launches Young Lynx Academy in partnership with Publicis Groupe

Dubai Lynx launches Young Lynx Academy in partnership with Publicis Groupe
Updated 08 February 2023

Dubai Lynx launches Young Lynx Academy in partnership with Publicis Groupe

Dubai Lynx launches Young Lynx Academy in partnership with Publicis Groupe
  • Hosted over 3 days, program will feature keynote talks, workshops, competition
  • Dubai Lynx festival director Thea Skelton: We are seeing an increasing number of agencies from KSA enter and win at Dubai Lynx

DUBAI: The Dubai Lynx International Festival of Creativity has launched the Young Lynx Academy in partnership with multinational advertising company Publicis Groupe.

Aimed at mentoring young professionals in the Middle East and North Africa region, the academy will run from March 12 to 14.

Thea Skelton, festival director of Dubai Lynx, told Arab News: “As we know, the region is using creativity as a driving force for growth.

“We are seeing an increasing number of agencies from KSA enter and win at Dubai Lynx and it’s very exciting for us to watch young talent from the Kingdom grow.”

The academy is designed to support young talent within the creative communications sector by offering them a free mentorship opportunity.

Hosted over three days, the program will include keynote talks, workshops, and a 24-hour hack competition involving participants working on a charity brief.

Skelton said: “Creativity is a key part of Saudi Arabia’s Vision 2030 plan, and the training and development of young people in this sector is very much a part of this.

“We’re excited to see how young creatives from Saudi Arabia will perform this year and pave the way for many more people from the region to excel,” she added.

The academy will be open to professionals aged 30 or younger who have worked for a minimum of one year in the creative, media, digital, or social sectors in the MENA region. Successful applicants will also receive tickets to attend the festival and Lynx party on March 14.

The deadline for entries is Feb. 27. More details are available on the Young Lynx Academy website at https://www.dubailynx.com/talent-and-training/young-lynx-academy


Meta, nonprofit end US lawsuit over infinity-logo trademark

Meta, nonprofit end US lawsuit over infinity-logo trademark
Updated 08 February 2023

Meta, nonprofit end US lawsuit over infinity-logo trademark

Meta, nonprofit end US lawsuit over infinity-logo trademark
  • Lawsuit by Dfinity Foundation said Meta would cause confusion with its infinity logo

LONDON: Meta Platforms Inc and blockchain nonprofit Dfinity Foundation have resolved Dfinity’s trademark lawsuit against Meta over its infinity-symbol logo, according to a joint filing in San Francisco federal court.

Meta and Dfinity asked the court Monday to dismiss the case with prejudice, which means it cannot be revived.

A Meta spokesperson said Tuesday that the company was “pleased with the outcome of the case.” It said Dfinity had dropped the lawsuit after Meta “pointed out the defects” in its revised complaint.

Representatives for Dfinity did not immediately respond to a request for comment Tuesday.

Switzerland-based Dfinity’s Internet Computer is an “infinite” public blockchain network designed to host smart contracts. Dfinity sued Meta last year, alleging the logo Meta adopted after changing its name from Facebook would cause confusion with Dfinity’s infinity-symbol trademarks.

Meta has described its logo as a “continuous loop” that resembles both the letter ‘M’ and an infinity sign to symbolize “infinite horizons in the metaverse.”

US District Judge Charles Breyer dismissed Dfinity’s original complaint in November but allowed the company to amend the lawsuit. Breyer said Meta’s logo was unlikely to cause consumer confusion, citing differences in the logos’ designs and the fact that Dfinity’s customers are “tech-savvy developers.”

Dfinity filed an amended complaint in December.

Meta is still facing trademark lawsuits from virtual-reality company MetaX and investment firm Metacapital over its name change.


YouTube collaborates with Egypt’s National Council for Women on Safer Internet Day

YouTube collaborates with Egypt’s National Council for Women on Safer Internet Day
Updated 08 February 2023

YouTube collaborates with Egypt’s National Council for Women on Safer Internet Day

YouTube collaborates with Egypt’s National Council for Women on Safer Internet Day
  • National council 1st Egyptian entity to enrol in YouTube’s Trusted Flagger program
  • NCW will provide tailored workshops for content creators focused on creating content that is sensitive to women’s needs

DUBAI: YouTube has partnered with the National Council for Women in Egypt to introduce a series of initiatives aimed at promoting a safer experience for women using the platform and encouraging more female content creators to share their stories.

Announced on Safer Internet Day, Feb. 7, the collaboration includes a series of workshops and meet-ups to set up a community of content creators, YouTube experts, and representatives from the NCW.

Council president, Dr. Maya Morsy, said the organization was pleased to partner with YouTube, “especially in light of what women suffer from exposure to various types of cyberviolence via social media that have become an open space for people to engage in violence against women.”

She noted that in recent years, Egypt had been taking steps to introduce legislation that protected women from all forms of violence.

“We are proud to encourage more women content creators and support them to develop their skills, to further understand women’s issues, and promote meaningful and useful content,” she added.

The workshops, which will take place throughout the year, aim to help more women content creators benefit from available resources to grow their channels, and learn about the different tools and features to stay safe online.

NCW will provide tailored workshops for content creators focused on creating content that is sensitive to women’s needs, raising awareness about women’s empowerment, and staying safe from cyberviolence against women and girls.

The workshops will also feature sessions focused on #IamRemarkable, a Google initiative that aims to empower women and other under-represented groups celebrate their achievements.

As part of the collaboration, the NCW will become the first entity in Egypt to enrol in YouTube’s Trusted Flagger program, which allows government bodies and non-profit organizations to directly report content to YouTube and have visibility on the decisions made.

Tarek Amin, director of YouTube partnerships in the Middle East and North Africa region, said: “Together, we aim to continue developing a safe experience for women creators in Egypt by equipping them with the skills needed and inviting them to join a wider support circle of other content creators and experts of the platform.”