Audio streaming platforms have gained a significant share of the audience in recent years. These platforms are not only catering to the usual need of music entertainment, but their podcast extensions have created another space for users. This is not limited to conventional usage, but taking the users into education, learning and health among other emerging trends.
According to a December 2021 RedSeer analysis, podcasts have picked up well in India and already constituted one percent of the total time spent. The report suggested that only 12 per cent of the Indians have ever listened to the podcast, indicating immense room for growth.
The potential for podcast platforms to grow more in India can be ascertained from the fact that smartphone users in more than a dozen worldwide markets, including India, spend four to five hours per day browsing apps in a day, says a report from Data.ai. While this data is not linked with the usage of audio platforms, the attention and time spent of the digital-savvy population signals a clear way for podcasters to create a space for themselves.
Platforms are expanding the depth and diversity of podcast offerings while working alongside Indian and global podcasters and publishers.
The RedSeer report also said that India is witnessing a steady uptick in the usage of podcast entertainment over the last few years. Platforms are increasingly devoting more resources to producing high-quality content and bringing on celebrities to narrate and host shows. The rise of DIY platforms has facilitated the emergence of independent content providers, resulting in an increase in the availability of new content.
In a conversation with audio industry experts, ETBrandEquity.com attempts to delve into where the podcasts are heading and what are the trends emerging in India.
Rise of podcasts, pandemic and beyond
Dhruvank Vaidya, head of podcasts, Spotify India, shared that the platform saw a surge in podcast listenership during covid. The platform discovered that people are creating more diverse content. Earlier it was just interviews, now it is also learning, information, fiction, audio dramas and influencer talk.
It saw YouTubers who have come and created podcasts on Spotify.
Vaidya added that expansion in languages is a major trend in the segment and more content is being created across Indian languages.
For Gaana, post covid the podcasts and non-music audio shows consumption grew by 40 per cent YoY as people are experimenting with audio shows in addition to music.
Shashwat Goswami, marketing head, Gaana, said, “We acquired over 40,000 podcasts in the recent past as a preemptive investment on one of the fastest growing engagement avenues for the Indian audience. We feel the demand for audio shows and storytelling has always been there, as more and more innovative content is supplied the demand will get serviced.”
On the other hand, in 2021 JioSaavn witnessed a 22 per cent increase in podcast listeners within the age bracket of 40 and above. A majority of them were above the age of 55 years.
“We noticed that podcasts in 2020 helped us reach out to a wider, more mature audience who use the medium, not only for entertainment but also to expand their knowledge base. Our audience continues to use podcasts as a preferred source of entertainment and information,” a JioSaavn spokesperson said.
The platform observed that low engaged music listeners are engaging more with podcasts, which is contrary to popular belief that highly engaged upwardly mobile music listeners are mostly the ones gravitating toward podcasts.
“Back in 2020, during the pandemic (with the lockdown), we noticed listeners who had historically not tuned into podcasts, experimenting with the medium. Even now, in 2022/23 we are likely to see people turning to podcasts for specific reasons – to learn a language, learn about a particular subject, self-improvement, entertainment, on-demand content, content across various genres etc.,” spokesperson added.
Why inclination for audio content?
“Lots of factors are coming together. More than half a billion Indians on the internet, almost 50 per cent Indians with smartphones, access to cheap data have made a lot of audio content accessible to users. In fact, the Indian context is that demand was always there (rich history of audio stories like dastangoi etc. and lower education levels makes it easy to consume such content). Now the supply of good quality audio content is beginning to reach its audience,” Goswami said.
For JioSaavn, it’s the people, who are increasingly turning to podcasts for multiple reasons. Initially the medium was used only as a source of entertainment, however, in the recent past podcasts have become a channel for audiences to seek education on various topics, in addition to staying informed.
As a background medium, audio content has become an integral part of its audiences’ lives as it is easy for them to tune-in while going about their daily routine. This has also contributed to the growth in the number of podcast listeners.
In addition to this, more and more creators are leaning into podcasts due to the ease and convenience of creating podcasts. This has led to an increase in the supply and quality of podcasts encouraging users to lean on audio content.
Vaidya too felt people are not just listening to stories, but other segments like how to learn another language, which is also a major use case for audio.
He added that devotional content is big on the platform. Spotify has seen the rise of comedy not just in Hindi, but other Indian languages as well.
“When we talk about audio, we talk about music and 50 per cent of Gen Z look to music as a stress buster, or something for them to relax. We are also seeing a huge traction for audio in mental wellbeing,” he added.
Vernacular content and reach in tier two and three cities
Gaana found vernacular content doing well in even metros. “But yes it becomes even more important in smaller centre’s. Regional music like Telugu, Bhojpuri and Haryanvi picked up the pace off late with increased demand for multilingual content,” said Goswami.
“Gaana has the largest vernacular music (regional) catalogue and it contributes more than 40 per cent of streams. Some of the top songs streamed on the app are in Telugu and Punjabi,” Goswami added.
For JioSaavn, vernacular and regional content is gaining more popularity and the demand for regional content has consistently been growing. The platform said that this influx has mainly been from tier two and three cities and it is anticipating this trend to continue.
“In the past years, we have observed huge interest and engagement from our audience in these markets and we are looking at further building our catalogue from a regional perspective. Apart from Hindi and English, Punjabi, Tamil, Telugu and Bengali content have been steadily gaining popularity with our listeners,” the spokesperson added.
Vaidya shared that Spotify has already created 150 shows in various Indian languages and is creating different formats of content in audio focusing on Indian languages.
“Youngsters, while they know their mother tongue, many don’t know how to read it fluently. But they can listen to it. Be it the classic stories, epics, or even news articles, they are able to listen in their mother tongue much more fluently than they are able to read the script. Which is why we see a lot of this content growing in Indian languages as well,” he added.
Moreover, the platforms are also expecting an increase in engagement with podcasts within the Indian market given that there are more creators invested in creating more culturally relevant podcasts for Indian listeners. An increase in podcast consumption, as should be a direct result of increased creation, should also look at a slow but good initial start when it comes to brands investing a part of their advertising spends on advertising within podcasts.