The Dawn Of Podcasting In Kenya

Podcasting has arrived in Kenya. A far cry from the early ‘Silicon Savannah’ days six years ago when podcasts seemed to be an inaccessible medium only available to people with Apple devices, now anyone with an internet connection and smart-enough phone can tune in to be informed and entertained by people they probably know personally, talking about subjects they relate to.

In fact, podcasting has arrived in such a strong way that in February 2017, the first podcast live show in Kenya took place, graced by an audience of about 40 (it should be noted that the event took place on Monday night, so an audience of 40 demonstrates commitment!). It was hosted by Afracanah, one of the fast-growing local podcasts.

As a podcast listener myself, I noticed that a good number of high quality, locally produced podcasts came onto my radar in 2016. My curiosity was piqued and I wondered if there was more out there than was on my radar and if so, what the trends were. So I set out to do some digging with the intention of answering these questions:

  • How many podcasts are created in Kenya and what subjects do they cover?
  • Who is the audience and what are they like?
  • From what platforms is the content distributed?
  • What’s the experience like for podcast creators?
  • What is the future of podcasting in Kenya going to look like?
  • What do podcasters need in order to grow?

How I Went About It

I created this survey asking anyone who has developed their own podcast to fill it in. The link was shared on Twitter and email. I also searched Soundcloud, iTunes and did a Google search using the terms ‘podcast’, ‘Nairobi’ and ‘Kenya’ in different variations. I chose to focus on Nairobi only because this is the first such study I have done, so I wanted to keep the scope manageable. From among the six podcasters who responded to the survey, I had conversations with three of them, diving into questions about production, future directions, gaps, distribution and audience.

Through the process, I learned quite a bit about the interesting podcasting landscape. There is a lot going on already and the action will only get more intense in the coming months. Below are highlights of what I learned.

There Are A Good Number Of Podcasts

From searching SoundCloud, iTunes and doing a general Google search, I found there is a good variety of active podcasts coming out of Kenya. Themes range from music, lifestyle, social issues to sports and education.

Kenyan Podcasts

Music is dominant, with podcasts such as Deeper Sounds of Nairobi, Supremacy Sounds, and Kenya Nights. Examples of active podcasts in entertainment, society and business are The Unverified Podcast, She Shapes the City and The Finding Impact Podcast. However, the survey had six responses, and they are the focus of this study. The podcasts I focused on in this study are The Spread, Otherwise, Afracanah, The Benchwarmerz, 2 Girls and a Pod and Kenyan Queer Questions. Their subjects of focus are: sex and relationships, politics, economy and society, lifestyle and culture and sports.

What’s The Audience Like?

As of January 2017, the total number of listeners for all six podcasts is 2,046. Distribution of audiences across the podcasts places The Spread as having the largest audience, followed by Otherwise. Kenyan Queer Questions is third, Afracanah is fourth, The Benchwarmerz is fifth and 2 Girls and a Pod comes in sixth.

There are a several possible factors leading to audiences of some being larger than others. These factors include effectiveness of promotion efforts by podcasters, relevance and quality of content and the duration for which a particular podcast has been in existence. All six podcasts are of good quality by my estimation. Therefore I place the variation in audience numbers on the other factors. On the question of how long they have been in existence, The Benchwarmerz is the oldest at 16 months followed by 2 Girls and a Pod which is 15 months old. The Spread and Kenyan Queer Questions are both nine months old. Otherwise is six months old while Afracanah is the newest podcast being five months old as of January 2017.

Share of Audience

The Audience Is Global

The survey asked podcasters to indicate the proportion of their listeners from Kenya, Africa (but outside Kenya) and outside Africa. The findings speak to vast potential that internet access has brought to the local media industry. While in absolute terms, local podcasts collectively have their highest number of listeners within Kenya, the share of each podcast’s audience outside Kenya is significant.

“There’s one person listening in from Réunion. Podcasting is about that one person in Réunion.”Nomusa, co-host of Afracanah

Afracanah ranks highest in terms of the share of its audience outside Africa. This corresponds with its general theme, being focused on the African diaspora perspective. The Spread ranks lowest, having the smallest share of its audience listening in from outside Africa. In terms of the share of listeners outside Kenya but within Africa, 2 Girls and A Pod ranks highest, while Afracanah and Kenyan Queer Questions both rank second. The Spread has the lowest share of its listeners within Africa but outside Kenya. Geographic spread of the audience is wide, with listeners subscribing from places such as South Africa, Nigeria, U.K, U.S.A, Germany, Canada , Sweden and even Réunion (at this point you probably want to do a search for Réunion). Audiences are urban and relatively young, with ages spread between 18 and 34.

Outside Kenya Audience

How Does Production Happen?

Mostly, podcasters do all the preparation and production themselves. With the exception of Otherwise who make use of professional studio services for recording and editing, the others I interviewed do all production themselves. This is possible because of access to relatively cheap equipment like microphones, smart phones and editing software. Production is a time-consuming and intense process that requires the podcasters to spare time from their other activities to do.

While this is a labour of love that they enjoy, most would like to have access to a full suite of services that includes a producer, editing and studio time, budgets permitting. Such services would free them to focus on generating program concepts and expanding their reach. That said, most podcasters are conscious of the long-term potential for sustainability and view their podcasts as businesses in the startup phase. For some like The Spread and Otherwise, there is an intention to have positive social impact by using the podcast to directly address current social issues.

Podcasters would like to have access to a full suite of services that includes a producer, editing and studio time.

Hosting Platforms

All of the podcasts except Otherwise are hosted on SoundCloud. Otherwise is hosted on Libsyn. SoundCloud is the preferred choice as it is already well-known and easy to use. It also provides good support for podcasts and is affordable, with options ranging between $5 — $9 per month. On the other hand, Libsyn is specially developed to host podcasts and offers extensive support to customers. It is also more expensive with options ranging between $5 — $75 per month.

Sustainability Is A Priority

All the podcasters see potential for sustainability. This is especially in the form of sponsorship, special offline events and merchandise sales. While Otherwise is unique among Kenyan podcasts in having had grant funding to start off, it is also making efforts to generate revenue sustainably. As these are still early days, audience growth potential is high and this provides the basis for sustainability options.

Certainly the audience will be fragmented based on niche interests aligned to each podcast. This scenario presents questions about how advertisers will approach media buying, since the current model will be challenged as audiences move away from mass media towards fragmented, on-demand content. At the same time, new opportunities will arise for podcast advertising agencies like Midroll who can address emergent advertising gaps.

What Direction Will Podcasting Take in the Next Few Years?

There is general consensus that we will see many more podcasts coming up in the next few years. As more creators rise up to make their voices heard, the future looks bright for listeners as there will be a wider variety of choices to suit diverse tastes. In addition to online podcast content, we will see an emergence of offline activities such as shows hosted by podcasters to engage audiences and diversify revenue streams. Merchandising will also take root as a revenue stream.

Advertising will take on new form to adapt to this new landscape. Podcasters will band together and likely form an association to strengthen their industry. All the podcasters I interviewed expressed interest in forming a collaborative collective.

Bridging Between Present And Future

What key factors that will bridge the gap between present-day podcasting in Kenya and the not-so-distant-future? Podcast creators will certainly continue to rise, growing audiences with them. However, in order to scale podcasting as a practice, these are the key factors that need to be in place:

  • Affordable production facilities including studio, editing and production services. At present, these would need to be highly subsidized in order to stimulate growth of existing podcasts and encourage new entrants.
  • Collaboration among podcasters in order to exchange information, resources and benefit from network effects. Collaboration would also increase revenue and reduce costs.
  • Accessible market data through which insights can be drawn that inform growth strategies. This is with reference to data that is not available through platforms like Soundcloud and Libsyn.

In conclusion, it is clear that podcasting is already changing the media landscape in Kenya and will continue to do so. This only the dawn. There are exciting times ahead for bold, innovative creators, audiences and advertisers in the industry.

In conclusion, it is clear that podcasting is already changing the media landscape in Kenya and will continue to do so. This only the dawn. There are exciting times ahead for bold, innovative creators, audiences and advertisers in the industry.

(Warm thanks to Jazz, Kaz, Nomusa, Brenda, Nyambura and Immah for taking time to fill out the survey and engaging. Also special thanks to Nomusa, Kaz and Brenda for indulging me through (interesting) conversation. May you all prosper!)

If you enjoyed this article and would like to join forces to explore trends in African media, design, film and fashion, do reach out to me. MNM Consulting scales businesses in the creative industries through strategy, research and connecting people at the forefront of innovation.

Cover Image Credit: Afracanah Live Show in Nairobi on 20 Feb 2017. | Afracanah

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