By Venkata Susmita Biswas India has finally caught onto the podcast wave, with several large publishers, the likes of NDTV, Network18, BCCL, Bloomberg Quint, The Quint, and The Indian Express, as well as independent professionals launching their podcast services over the last year. While the trend is catching up, publishers are still trying to make monetary sense of it. Internationally, advertising revenue from podcasts is set to double over the next three years, as per a study by WARC. By 2022, podcasts could account for 4.5% ($1.6 billion) of the global audio advertising spend. In India though, podcasts form a negligible part of the audio advertising pie. Where\u2019s the money? Nearly 40% of all the podcast listening happens from the Apple Podcast app. What this implies is that the podcast audience is urban, affluent and in the age group of 18-35. \u201cPodcast listeners are a niche and discerning audience. They are influencers within their own social circle,\u201d says Amit Doshi, founder, IVM Podcasts. While some advertisers are flirting with the medium by setting aside \u2018experimental budgets\u2019, others are oblivious to this emerging trend. Ajay Kakar, CMO, Aditya Birla Capital, calls podcasting \u201cyet another powerful weapon in the armoury of a marketer\u201d. \u201cA podcast makes consumers feel like they are listening to a person across the table. That\u2019s why, aside from just sponsoring podcasts, it makes sense for a brand, especially a financial services brand, to create content for podcasts that people can listen to and learn from,\u201d he adds. Aditya Birla Capital recently sponsored a show on mutual funds on IVM Podcasts. Monetising on podcasts can happen in three ways: dynamic ad insertion like on YouTube, host reads and branded content. \u201cThe real money is in host reads, where the host of the show adds his\/ her flavour and reads out the ad,\u201d states Aman Goklani, head, Audioboom India, a company that hosts, distributes and helps monetise podcasts. Storytel has run multiple host read campaigns on Audioboom and IVM Podcasts. Yogesh Dashrath, Storytel\u2019s country manager, India, says that since the platform is subscription-based, advertising on podcasts is mainly for the purpose of brand building and not necessarily conversions. Advertising rates for podcasting are not very stable at the moment, and are mainly a factor of a show\u2019s popularity. According to industry estimates, advertising using dynamic ad insertion (15-20-second long) for a month in 150 episodes could cost around Rs 9 lakh, while individual show rates range from Rs 32,000 to Rs 4 lakh. Podcast network chiefs in India hope to achieve the US CPM standards of $15-20. Content creators work on ad revenue sharing basis (usually 50:50) with podcast networks. But that\u2019s hardly lucrative. Saif Omar, the host of travel podcast The Musafir Stories, says one of the biggest drawbacks of podcasting is that the medium is fragmented \u2014 there are around 18 podcast aggregators currently. \u201cNative podcast apps like Apple Podcasts and Google Podcasts have given an impetus to the medium, but discoverability on these apps remains a struggle,\u201d he says. Finding takers The biggest challenge for the podcasting industry is the lack of awareness about the medium in the country, making it tough to scale up. Media buyers, too, are unaware of the advertising opportunity it presents. \u201cWhen we talk to advertisers, there is a high chance that they are hearing about podcasting for the first time; if they are aware, they probably don\u2019t know who the players are,\u201d Goklani says. In order to tap newer markets, IVM Podcasts is creating regional language content with shows in Marathi, Hindi and Kannada. It plans to launch shows in Tamil as well. \u201cAs we make content that appeals to a larger audience, we will see mass market brands opting for podcasting,\u201d Doshi says. The lack of a standardised measurement system for podcasts is yet another hurdle. \u201cA lot of brands and agencies are used to looking at data sets they get from serving a display ad or a video ad. These are all trackable because people are in front of the screen. In case of an audio ad, there is nothing to click, and the user is probably not even looking at the screen,\u201d explains Goklani. Because the medium is fragmented, collecting listenership data from the aggregators is still a manual process.