Introduction

A podcast is an episodic series of digital audio or video files which a user can download.

The focus of such audio files is to present content on a specific topic (like cricket or politics), narrate stories (drama or fiction) or even have full-on shows where creators either interview others or speak on a particular issue.

Audio is nothing new for Indians. We have been using radios for decades. Even today, a large chunk of the population listens to FM on their car commutes. According to the Indian Podcast Listener statistics in 2018, over 77% of Indians listen to podcasts on their phones, while commuting.

Podcasting is just pre-recorded format which people can download and listen to anywhere.

Current trends/ growth factors:

The podcasting market, as well as audio space in India, is booming rapidly. That boom is supported by a host of factors: –

  • Rising smartphones/smart device ownership and increased internet users

There is an astronomical rise in smartphones and smart devices ownership in India. The country is projected to have over a billion mobile users by 2020, with 96% being smartphones. Along with this, there is also a huge jump in the consumption of content. Hence, the demand for passive content has risen and podcasts serve the purpose just as well.

  • Demographic divide and vernacular content

India is a diverse country with multiple languages and cultures. And, with increased internet penetration, 9 out of 10 people will consume content in a language other than English in the next five years.

This makes up for a huge uptick in the availability of vernacular content and podcasts serve this need very well. Many podcasts have sprung up in other regional languages like Hindi, Tamil, Bengali, etc.

  • Nostalgic appeal

For a nation that has witnessed generations growing up with radio, audio content naturally strikes a chord. But radio is riddled with advertisements which cause people to get annoyed. Podcasts then serve as the best medium to bridge the gap. Podcasts offer a wide variety of content with the least amount of clutter when compared to other forms of media.

  • Less Data consumption

4G is taking over the nation like a wave. However, there are areas where internet connectivity is not the best.

Audio files take up lesser space than video files and thus, podcast makes sense for a lot of people. Just download an episode of the show you want to listen to on your drive.

INDIAN STARTUPS

  • IVM Podcasts

IVM Podcasts is an Indie podcast network that creates & distributes podcasts based on various topics such as style, fashion, sports, politics, pop culture, and more. Some of their shows include Cyrus Says, Maed in India, Geek Fruit, The Fan Garage, Simblified, and more which it monetizes through sponsorships and ads.

Mode – Content production

Funding – undisclosed/unfunded

  • Hub Hopper

Hubhopper is a free podcast, audiobook, radio and publisher app and website in India. Hubhopper brings free audio content from podcasts, audiobooks, and online radio, from India and around the world.

Funding (according to tracxn): $230k ($156K Largest Round)

Mode – content syndication

Valuation – $3 Million

  • Other unfunded networks include audiomatic and indicast

Hurdles in industry growth

In spite of all the right ingredients in place, the audio and podcast industry has been very slow to gain mass adoption viz-a-viz other mediums like online video on YouTube.

That is happening primarily for the following reasons: –

  • Lack of local/vernacular content

The number of podcasts in India is rising at a healthy pace (no official numbers are available). Yet, it is still lesser than the variety which should be available for podcasting to become mainstream.

It is only when more variety of shows in local languages is available, will more people start listening to podcasts.

Presently, the scenario is – either people listen to podcasts from outside India or people are mostly focused on cricket or politics.

  • Lack of monetisation options

In the US, the podcast market is dominated by advertisements. In China, it is driven by subscription revenue where the podcasts are behind a paywall.

In India, the listenership is not high enough for advertisers to take an interest. Moreover, podcasts are mainly entertainment-based rather than information-based, which is why people are unlikely to pay for them.

This, in turn, makes up for a chicken and the egg problem. There needs to be more content to drive monetisation. There needs to be more money flowing in order to generate interest of the people to make more content. The question then becomes, what next?

  • Discovery problem

There is a chance that the topic you’re looking for already has a podcast on it. But, it is difficult to discover such content. It is neither a simple text that search engines can crawl, nor does it have any visual components like videos.

Hence, content discovery is also a problem as there is no major hub for podcasts to get discovered. This is a fragmented market. Podcasts are just RSS feeds with mp3 links which can be distributed to multiple platforms across the web.

Conclusion

This was a general overview of the podcasting in India.

From here on, it could be that the medium can obtain mass adoption, or it could go the other way, where only people who make podcasts are the ones who are listening to it.

How it plays out will depend on what content gets produced for the entire medium and also, what advertisers would want before dipping their feet (and also money). That is what will drive people to podcasts.

The whole industry needs a big trigger, like youtube for online video, facebook for social media, etc, for podcasting to become mainstream. Is Spotify’s acquisitions in February 2019 the trigger? Only time would tell that.

Written by Jotpreet Singh for The Connectere

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