How Artificial Intelligence is Transforming the Arabic Audiobooks and Podcasts Industry


As the latest trends in Arabic publishing come to the forefront, industry leaders have encouraged regional publishers to keep abreast of technology or face being left behind. In a recent panel discussion at the International Congress of Arabic Publishing and Creative Industries in Abu Dhabi, experts discussed the growth of audiobooks and podcasts, along with the burgeoning potential of AI technology in the sector.

George Walkley, a publishing consultant and former group digital director at Hachette UK, suggested that publishers had a hidden asset in their back catalogue of titles but needed to consider converting them in order to reach a new audience. This echoed the sentiment of Anghami, the Abu Dhabi-based streaming platform, that subscribers now want all the content they need in one place.

However, as those streaming the content acknowledged, it is not a level playing field. Audiobooks differ from music in that they are longer and require more work for a return on investment so a fair system needs to be put in place in order for creators to be compensated. This is something Karim Beidoun, chief executive of Lebanese podcasting network Hakawati, hopes to see in order for the industry to continue forward.

Helena Gustafsson, chief content officer of Swedish audiobook and eBook subscription service Storytel, suggested that AI technology might not be suited for audiobooks due to their fiction-focussed nature. But it has potential when it comes to podcasts which tend to be fact-based. Yet whether AI technology can replace producers altogether is a matter of debate, with Beidoun willing to accept a role for AI in helping to streamline production but ambivalent of any claims of industry takeover.

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Overall, AI technology will remain a hotly-debated topic in the audiobook and podcast industries. Yet there remains a strong consensus that regional publishers should embrace the latest developments or risk missing out on exploring new audiences and potential profits.

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