How podcasting is growing in India

Newer formats of podcasts that offer more interactivity and user involvement will further drive this growth

Across some of the top networks in India, creators are seeing revenue come their way.
Across some of the top networks in India, creators are seeing revenue come their way.

By Aditya Kuber

Indians are storytellers by nature. Through the ages, we have transferred knowledge down the line through stories. In the last few years, podcasts have become a preferred choice of consuming entertainment, news, education and more. What has been the driving force behind this growth?

Increased Quality Supply

Since 2016, podcasts have been steadily growing thanks to the efforts of some committed individuals. In the last six years, podcast listeners have had more choices than ever before thanks to large creators also entering the fray and offering more varied content. The listener base in India has grown from being just about four million in 2016 to an estimated 90 million in 2022. 

Improvement in quality has been led by much easier access to creation tools and a real growth in the ecosystem that offers real monetisation. From news publishers to entertainment brands, the choices are varied. 

Another big driver of the growth has been the increase in the availability of regional content. Marathi, Tamil, Malayalam, Bengali are the leaders. But not too far behind are Telugu, Gujarati and other languages. The ability to consume content in one’s mother tongue has seen a large number of listeners from smaller towns take to the medium. 

The Perfect Storm

Here’s the formula: High quality content + Variety + Widespread availability = High consumption.

There are about 35 apps in India where one can consume spoken word audio content. Free, paid, micropayments-led… all options are now available. Add the ubiquitousness of mobile phones and you know where the consumption is happening. Just about 5% of consumption happens on desktops. That podcasts are easy to consume passively (i.e., without looking at a screen) makes them ideal for consumption during commutes, workouts or any other activity where the mobile is kept away. Even during the lockdown, the consumption didn’t dip; if anything, it grew. The overdose of screen time meant podcasts were a good way to break away, yet stay entertained or informed. 

What’s next?

As more creators take to the format, more experiments with content formats are forthcoming. The typical image of a podcast is of two people chatting. And this will continue, but more formats in fiction like serialised shows mean users have an immersive experience that requires a time commitment from a couple of hours to even 10 hours. Quality of content will finally determine how many listeners commit to such listening lengths, but we’ve already seen with OTT that the duration of a show isn’t a deterrent – its quality is. 

Newer formats that offer more interactivity and user involvement will further drive this growth. Quiz shows, Q&A shows and more such innovations are in the making. Short-form content has also made it to podcasts. The supposed ideal length for an episode is between 20 and 30 minutes, but snackable content of under three minutes does exceedingly well so long as it’s scripted and produced well. 

But the biggest driver will continue to be the growth of creators taking to the medium. About a decade ago, we saw an explosion of video creators thanks to YouTube creating a full ecosystem that included analytics and a monetisation model for creators. 

Podcasts are starting to offer this now. Across some of the top networks in India, creators are seeing revenue come their way. Is this a career option for them? Not yet… but the day isn’t too far when podcasting is a viable career option. The ecosystem is in place; it’s now a question of scaling up and audio finding its breakthrough moment through a truly massy hit show – it could come from fiction or nonfiction. 

What are you listening to?

The author is co-founder and CEO of Ideabrew Studios. Views expressed are personal.

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