Welcome! This is the fourth edition of our monthly newsletter
of all things podcasts across the Middle East.
This month's edition was written by Hebah Fisher of Kerning Cultures 
and Abdulrahman Alomran of تيار and Podcast Arabic.
  • Subscribe to the Arabic version of this newsletter
  • Spotify spends $500M on future of audio
  • Recording Gear Recommendations: Volume II
  • Are you in the podcast business? Or the business of podcasting?
  • Podcast Spotlight: Abaih! | أبيه
  • Out and About, Classifieds

Arabic Newsletter

Are you on it? We release this newsletter in Arabic, sign up for it here

Spotify acquires Gimlet Media and Anchor for USD 500M. 

Here is the blog post from Spotify's CEO Daniel Ek announcing the deals. This is huge news for our podcast industry. 

Of Spotify's 207 million listeners worldwide, their podcast listeners spend twice as much time on Spotify than their music-only counterparts. And, as everyone reading this will know, podcast listeners listen to music, too. Spotify estimates that 20% of all listening will be to non-music content, and its acquisition of Gimlet Media (a commercial podcast network in the US), and Anchor (a podcast distribution platform) will help service that demand. 

Now this is all sort of general information. When we look at how this influences things here in the Middle East, it's instructive to look at what enabled Spotify to make the deals. This past quarter was the first time for Spotify to turn a profit, largely driven by growth in its users. This time last year, Spotify had 71 million paying users and 93 million free users; today, Spotify has 96 million paying users and 116 million free users. And, "Spotify attributes the new users, in part, to its mid-November expansion that included 13 countries in the Middle East and North Africa". 

Our bet is that means there will be a lot of movement in audio in the Middle East in the near future. As Spotify (and, indeed, platforms like Netflix, Luminary, and Slate) ramp up their premium podcast offerings (behind paywalls), and as our region proves to have increasingly attractive consumers (like we are with Snapchat, Youtube, and Facebook because we top their global usage), we'll start to see more interest (and likely money) in the regional podcast space: for production, as well as advertising and sales. 

Does this excite you? Worry you? Let us know your thoughts; we'll publish them in next month's newsletter. 

Recording Gear Recommendations: Volume II

The inevitable decision we all make: what gear do I need? In this series, we'll sit down with podcasters and hear their recommendations. Today, we're getting schooled by House of Zofi, a Jeddah-based pop culture and entertainment podcast. We spoke with Mohammed "Silver Mask" AlShamali:

Tell us about the gear you use. 
Our current gear is MXL 990 mics and the Zoom Livetrak L-12. The L-12 is a mixer, recorder, and audio interface for popular digital audio workstations. All 8 channels use phantom power, so one time we recorded 8 people simultaneously for an episode (the post-production and editing was a nightmare though!). Some may find it an overkill for podcasting, but with our future plans this device is perfect for us. It eases my production process - sometimes I don't even need to apply compression or filters at all.  

We've been lucky because we chose the MXL 990s mics with minimal research, and they are the perfect podcast mics. This mix of equipment has given House of Zofi the best quality of sound, even if the recording environment is noisy (the neighbor's dog makes an appearance sometimes!). Finally, we use Adobe Audition CC editing software and its filters, so our final sound quality is perfect. 

Of course, this recording equipment is a far cry from what we had when we started. We recorded our first season of House of Zofi with a single Blue Yeti USB mic and our laptop (gorilla podcasting style). For our second season we rented MSTDFR studios. It was only for our third season we decided to upgrade our equipment to what we have now. As I became more and more involved technically, I've been helping our local community with recommendations.

For more advice, holler at Silver Mask.

Are you in the Podcast Business? Or the Business of Podcasting?

Excerpt of a full post written by: Lucas Skrobot, Own the Future podcast

Recently I interviewed Khayra Bundakji from the mstdfr network and founder of the Azzbda podcast, on Own the Future, and learned two things:
#1 When two podcasters/interviewers sit down it will be a marathon of an episode.
#2 You should quit the podcast business…
Not the encouraging advice you’d expect to hear in an email newsletter about podcasting.  
Let me explain...
During the conversation with Khayra I asked how Azzbda podcast was going, download numbers, etc. Typical stuff...  Khayra graciously revealed they are producing one episode a month, and receive TEN THOUSAND listens each month. 
I was stoked. “10k while only putting out one episode a month. Epic!” I exclaimed.
Khayra was not as enthused, “Yeah . . .” she said, “I mean I feel like we could have so much more.”
*cue the record scratching* Wait what?? Hold the phone.  
10K people show up a month and you’re bummed?!?
Little did I know my hypocritical judgment was about to become exposed… 

Want to know what happened? Listen to or read the full (15 min) episode /or article.

Holler at Lucas here. 
Own the Future is a podcast dialoguing with creatives and entrepreneurs to better understand who we are, the work we do, and how we will shape and own the future. 

Podcast Spotlight: Abaih! | أبيه


Abaih! is a Kuwaiti podcast launched in June 2018 with a comical twist in its social commentary on society in the Middle East. The hosts welcome guests in their pimped out Abaih! van for a cruise and a conversation that could lead anywhere. We asked cohost Moe Alsaeed to tell us more:

What have you learned since starting?
That the editing matters the most. Our editing style really changed over the episodes: listeners want to get immediately to the point, so we ditched the intro that we usually have and stuck it at the end rather than the beginning. We also learned that episode length matters: anything over 20 minutes was too long for listeners; the sweet spot is usually a good 10 minutes, however we are a hybrid podcast (video + audio) so we are still trying to find the perfect length. 

What is the podcasting scene like in Kuwait?
Podcast culture isn't mainstream yet in Kuwait. We tested out different ways of broadcasting and we keep on evolving based on feedback from people. We found that the most interaction we receive is from instagram and youtube more than anywhere else. Naturally, those are visual platforms so we started putting more effort into the visual aspect (we post videos of our recordings). We will keep evolving which makes it exciting because we don't know what this platform will be like in a year! Also, the topics that got most views and interest were #3aib (shame) and #shar (evil) - during those episodes we talked about the stigma attached to shameful behavior and ideas, and dissected them in a comedic way. 

Watch / listen to Abaih! here and here.

The show is hosted by Manayer AlShami, Aziz AlNasrallah, Fai AlOmran, and Moe Alsaeed.

Out and About

What we're reading:

Podcast production in the Gulf: build it, and they will come, from the Arab Gulf States Washington Institute. 

Spotify's podcast aggregation play, from Stratechery.
No, podcasting is not a small business, from Forbes. 


Where we're going:

Today at Apple: How to Craft Stories with Nothing But Sound
20 February

Dubai Maker Faire
February 26-28

Dubai Lynx
11-13 March

12-14 March


Al Jazeera is ramping up its Arabic audio production. All listings are for positions in Doha:

Executive Producer, Audio

Senior Producer, Audio

Senior Presenter, Audio

Assistant Producer, Audio

Senior Production Executive, Audio

Senior Engagement Producer

ME Podcast Forum is starting an open source studio / gear database. 
How many times have you tried to book an interview but struggled to find the right gear or a quiet place to record? We're on a mission to help make this easier! If you're looking to rent a recording studio or audio equipment around the region, this list can help. If you have gear or a studio, please add your information to the list! The more people add, the richer the list will be for everyone. 

If you have an opportunity or a request you want to include in next month's newsletter, let us know
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