During the second year of the pandemic, people moved to audio out of blue screen fatigue like never before. And, undoubtedly, podcasting stood out as the breakthrough content medium of 2021. Witnessing explosive year-on-year growth, podcasts are inarguably the fastest-growing, relatively inexpensive, and extremely effective medium of entertainment. According to the recently released RedSeer report, it is estimated that there will be 95 million monthly active users for online audio content by the end of 2021.
Along with the ability to tell a great story and hold a conversation, the future of podcasts lies in its ability to get monetised. Through well-thought-of strategies, a tipping point is around the corner.
The sudden explosion of podcast popularity has naturally caught the eye of avid advertisers. The number of brands that are showing interest in using podcasts as a means to reach their target audience is growing. The reason? Podcasts are very personal and offer an intimate experience. And it’s this personal nature of podcasts that helps create elevated states of engagement receptive to brand mentions. By having the podcast themed around a subject in relation to their product or service, brands can establish themselves as authorities as they reach out to the right audiences at the right time.
Advertisers will see value in podcasts based on key metrics like time spent, listener location, demographics and, of course, volume that any content is driving. A lot of podcast content continues to be learning and knowledge-heavy; and categories like finance, self-help, and mental health continue to be a big draw for listeners. The big shift in 2022, though, will be a lot of this content being consumed in regional languages. For now, English and Hindi rule the roost, but there are some great regional creators coming through who will help bring in more audiences.
But what about monetisation? In addition to advertising, sponsorships and other brand-specific needs, subscriptions are fast becoming a viable route to revenue for creators.
While revenue opportunities for podcasters are growing, there are some challenges that need to be overcome. Proper distribution of content for growth is essential; without this, brands cannot leverage the wide reach that the medium can offer. Additionally, it is also vital to choose the right hosting partner who also offers ad serving capabilities to ensure measurability of campaigns and gauge success.
Paying to listen
Tools like Substack have been popularising the paid creator economy. Platforms like Apple Podcasts (and more coming up) are also offering a similar opportunity to podcasters. You create content, put up the fee you want to charge listeners, and your money machine is on! While that’s an oversimplification, in essence, that’s going to be an important revenue source for 2022.
The mix of free and premium models to subscription also offers new users ample room to choose what they want. Leading studios and shows across the world have jumped onto the bandwagon to present subscription-based benefits, and are starting to see positive results. These include ad-free listening, additional content, and early or exclusive access to new series.
The manner in which podcasts are being created, as well as being consumed, is representative of how patterns and trends are evolving. They are winning the hearts of Indians and becoming a content format whose popularity is only going to rise. With users turning to newer ways of entertainment, gaining knowledge and engaging with their favourite genres via podcasts, the industry is slated for a boom in terms of advertising revenues, as monetisation soon becomes a reality.
The author is co-founder, Ideabrew Studios