What Afripods is doing to grow the podcast market in Africa

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Hope everyone has had an enjoyable Labor Day weekend. For today’s issue of Hot Pod, I have a Q&A I conducted with Afripod’s chief content officer and head of strategy, Kevin Y. Brown. The African podcasting platform — headquartered in Kenya — is considered the largest in the continent and is in the middle of an interesting partnership with radio stations. I got to hear Brown’s thoughts on the new initiative and — as well as how Afripods is spreading awareness of podcasting as a medium throughout Africa. I also have a lightning round of deals and announcements for today’s issue.

Since I’ll be off for the rest of the week, Hot Pod will be publishing on an abbreviated schedule. So, no Insider issue of Hot Pod on Thursday. But rest assured, Hot Pod editor Jake Kastrenakes will take over Friday’s Insider issue. If you have any tips, feel free to send him an email.

Kevin Y. Brown of Afripods on why the platform is recruiting radio stations

The podcasting market is growing rapidly across Africa, especially amongst its Gen Z population. Afripods, an all-in-one podcast platform, is trying to accelerate that growth. The platform is geared toward African creators and audiences and offers editing, hosting, and monetization tools for podcasters and also serves as a player and podcast discovery tool for audiences.

Founded in 2017, Afripods currently offers Pan-African content in over 50 different languages. Last month, the platform announced it had partnered with over 110 broadcast radio stations to convert their programs to podcast form. Known as “broadcast-to-podcast” or B2P, the company says that African audiences are more familiar with the idea of on-demand radio and sees it as a promising area for growth. 

I spoke to Kevin Y. Brown, the chief content officer at Afripods, about how the platform is tackling markets where both the internet penetration and awareness of podcasting are low.

Many [including Afripods CEO Molly Jensen) say that podcasting’s rise in popularity in Africa is due to the need for a replacement for mainstream media — as well as a way to bring in creators that aren’t represented in mainstream media. Why do you think podcasting is such a vital medium within Africa? 

Well, one of the big things is barrier to entry. There are gatekeepers that exist in all industries, right? And so I think that podcasting allows people to be able to tell stories — no matter whether they’re in major metropolitan areas, more rural areas, on the coast — in a low-cost way. To me, podcasting is a low-cost way to preserve African culture, traditions, and language in a way where future generations can have an authentic experience because their stories are being told by the people who are actually living them. 

Whereas in the past, a lot of the stories that have been told about Africa are by people who aren’t African. So I think podcasting allows people to have that access and be able to tell their own stories. 

“What we’re trying to do at Afripods is make it accessible so that anyone can be a storyteller.”

Can you talk about technical barriers to entry for creators? Obviously being in a city like Nairobi is very different from being in more rural parts of Kenya. 

Yes, I mean, most definitely. I think, number one, access to quality equipment can be a barrier. Access to good and sustainable Wi-Fi can also be a barrier. So, for us at Afripods, in order to address the needs of our users, what we did was create an audio editor inside of our dashboard so that users can edit in Afripods. So all they need to do, even if they recorded on their phone, they can actually edit [the podcast] so they don’t need the external software in order to do so, which also helps them to not have to commute to a studio. 

Other barriers to entry can sometimes be data, and then also, it’s an access thing. Even in the West, podcasting is seen as an upper-echelon activity — whether you’re listening or you’re creating. What we’re trying to do at Afripods is make it accessible so that anyone can be a storyteller. 

You mentioned the work that you and Afripods CEO Molly Jensen have been doing this year to move the company forward and make podcasting more accessible. Can you talk a little bit more about that? 

So what we’ve been working on in stealth mode for almost two years now with radio stations is on broadcast-to-podcast technology. In this year alone, we’ve seen an 895 percent increase in streams for radio stations who are using our product and about 112 percent month over month in user growth. We have over 110 radio stations on the platform from eight different countries. 

We’ve seen something similar happen in the US, with radio stations gradually embracing podcasts. What factors led to this transition in Africa? 

I would say that when you look to Africa, there’s an appetite for digital transformation. Africa is one of the youngest continents in the world, according to the United Nations. Seventy percent of the people in Africa are under the age of 30 years old. As we know, Gen Z and those who are younger than myself are looking to have their content on demand and get it where they want. 

Radio has been king in Africa for so long that there needs, and there has to be, an evolution — just for radio stations to meet their current clients or consumers where they are and where they’re going to be. So making that pitch to radio stations has been very beneficial — and we’re looking to expand [broadcast-to-podcast] to 15 different markets and at least 20 different languages. 

What’s the current state of affairs with the podcast ad market in Africa right now? 

The current state of affairs is that the advertising market is budding — but we’re still having pitch meetings and conversations where we’re trying to make [podcasting] a main staple of media. I was at a radio station yesterday having a conversation with one of the executives there. This station is one that’s really on the vanguard of embracing podcasting. 

We were talking about the challenges, and one of the things that’s happening here — and I’m sure this is happening in the West — is that you might have a good podcast and you can advertise it on digital. But in order for it to take up airspace, like actually take up air, the advertisers have to underwrite both the digital and the on-air version. So if you have a podcast that releases early in the morning, that’s an opportunity for a Nescafé or something like that to underwrite it, like a coffee brand. Or, you know, maybe some type of business tool since early risers tend to be business folk. That’s just the way that [advertisers] were thinking about it and how they’re calculating it. 

I will say that some individual podcasters who have been podcasting for a really long time are seeing some great results in terms of advertisers and in sponsorships and getting their shows underwritten as well. 

There’s a lot of live events taking place throughout the continent where people are selling out shows and events for their podcasts. It’s been happening in several different countries where people are actually doing successful podcast tours as well. So it’s booming, but the podcast industry is still growing [in Africa]. 

What are some recent trends in the African podcasting market? What are some shows that are really taking off? 

There’s a gentleman named James Smart who does investigative journalism. He’s done a couple of really good series, one called Paradise Lost and another called Case Number Zero.  The live event space for podcasts have really taken off, and we have these guys called The Mics Are Open, a group of radio gentlemen. We have another Gen Z group called The Sandwich Podcast [based in Kenya], who have sold a ton of tickets to their live events as well. There’s a group out of Ghana called The Gold Coast Report — they’re a podcast and a network who have done top-tier shows and live events as well. There’s a young lady here in Nairobi called Adelle Onyango who does this podcast, Legally Clueless, and she’s a very powerful woman who’s very vulnerable, honest, and authentic about who she is. She started Legally Clueless Academy, where she’s been teaching young individuals how to podcast here in Nairobi. Last year, she went out into some of the more rural areas and took her show on the road and got some really great feedback. 

Can you talk about some regional variations? Which countries have the greatest uptake? 

Regional variations are interesting because you have some countries that are doing [podcasting] a lot more than others. Look at South Africa. Egypt has a lot going on — Kim Fox, who started PodFest Cairo, is another very powerful woman. You have Kenya. Uganda is making some noise as well. Some of those stations [in Uganda] were the first to jump onto the platform for broadcast-to-podcast technology. And when you go out to Western Africa, you have [the podcast markets] in Ghana and Nigeria. And I think what’s the beautiful part is that people are taking a different approach to things. There’s a lot of opportunity for collaboration among the countries and the cultures. 

Afripods has been trying hard to cultivate that collaboration. Back in February, we had African Podcast Day, where we brought together panels of podcast industry people from different countries to discuss what work they can do together to move forward and expand the industry. 

What would you say is the biggest challenge for the African podcasting market moving forward? 

I think awareness has been a challenge. And a good one. I remember, in 2019, traveling throughout Africa and going to six different countries. People didn’t know what podcasting was. But if you said radio on demand, they did. They grasped the concept. Like, awareness is the biggest challenge. We don’t lack creators — especially Gen Z. Getting the industry to monetize is another challenge at the moment. You have some guys who are breaking through, who are the industry leaders or are early adopters. But it’s gonna be a while before we become extremely mainstream. It’s one of those situations where it’s like, “Hurry up and wait, hurry up and wait,” and then…boom, it takes off. It’s kind of how it was like in the US, right? Podcasting was around for so long, and all of a sudden, it took off and became a billion-dollar industry. And so I think we’re seeing the process of that coming into fruition. 

Lightning Round

Wondery is launching a new podcast, Exposed: Cover-Up at Columbia University, which dives into the story of OB-GYN Dr. Robert Hadden, who was recently sentenced to 20 years in prison for sexually abusing his patients. The first episode of Exposed will be released on September 11th on Wondery Plus, Amazon Music, and all podcast platforms. You can listen to a trailer here. 

CNN Audio will launch Chasing Life with Dr. Sanjay Gupta, featuring the network’s chief medical correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, as host. The podcast will tackle the mysteries surrounding the human brain, including the impact of depression, stimulants, dating apps, and long covid on cognitive abilities. The first episode will premiere on September 12th on all podcast players, and future guests include Stephen King and science writer Michael Pollan.

On Air Fest announced its programming lineup for On Air LA Annex 2023, which will be held in Los Angeles from November 1st–4th. Events will be held at KCRW’s Annenberg Performance Studio in Santa Monica and the headquarters for the radio station dublab. The festival will feature a live taping of Talk Easy with Sam Fragoso, an interactive rendition of Let’s Make a Horror, and a behind-the-scenes look at LAist Studios’ relaunched podcast Imperfect Paradise

Hot Docs Festival is coming back in 2023. The Canadian podcast festival returns for its first in-person event since the pandemic. This year’s fest takes place in Toronto from October 19th–22nd and will include both Canadian and international podcasts, including The New Yorker’s Fiction Podcast, Articles of Interest, and Dinner SOS. The event will include a creators forum with executives from Acast, Bumper, Canadaland, CBC Podcasts, Condé Nast, HBO, Media Girlfriends, NPR, Pushkin Industries, and other players in the podcast space. 

Lotten Skeppstedt is joining PodX Group as its new head of commercial. She previously served as director of books and podcasts at Acast founder Sesamy.

PodcastOne will launch Salty with Captain Lee, a new podcast hosted by Captain Lee Rosbach from the Bravo reality series Below Deck. The first episode will launch on September 6th on all podcast players. 

Originally appeared on: TheSpuzz