When Radio Sawa launched as a network of FM radio stations across the Middle East in 2002, the Arab world had not really experienced anything like it as many countries had state-controlled media environments. Radio Sawa provided an alternative, with a mix of Arab and Western popular music coupled with newscasts and social issue programs.
Twelve years later, Radio Sawa has a lot of competition on the radio dial and has limited radio reach in countries like Saudi Arabia and Egypt because authorities have not permitted FM licenses. To evolve and engage new audiences in the digital age, Radio Sawa needed a new platform to reach closed markets and serve a new generation of listeners; that opportunity lay in designing an innovative audio mobile app for Arab youth.
So the Office of Digital & Design Innovation and the Middle East Broadcasting Networks joined forces to design and build an app unlike any in the Arab market. We focused on building a gorgeously design, touch-driven, mobile-only application which played to the huge popularity of streaming radio on smartphone devices. Streaming radio ranks higher than any other content format as the most popular form factor according to a comScore’s Multi-Platform and Mobile Metrix report released this year:
The application is an audio-first experience, with newscasts and featured podcasts from Sawa’s journalists available on demand. But the crown jewels of the experience are the seven Arabic live-streaming radio stations from around the Middle East and North Africa region. Arab youth can listen to music and news 24/7 and in the background while they read, play or use other applications.
Another fantastic feature of the app is our expanded Sawa Chat functionality. For years, Sawa journalists have asked people on the street questions about social concerns. With the app, users can now respond to weekly questions by recording and uploading their thoughts and sending them to our producers in a couple quick taps. These submissions will feed expanded Sawa Chat content on the air and on the app.
The app also showcases articles from Radio Sawa’s digital journalists with six news feeds rich in original journalism, music news and sports. It also showcases Sawa’s innovative Have You Read This? youth-focused journalism which builds stories around trending ideas and conversations spreading on social media.
Check out the Radio Sawa app now, it’s live in the app stores and available for mobile devices running Android 4.0 and above and Apple IOS 6 and above. We’d love to hear your feedback and if you dig it, please give us a review and rating and share it with your friends!
Davin Hutchins, Editorial Director of MBN Digital, and his rock star team collaborated on this blog post and the Radio Sawa design, development and launch.
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