On 31 May, Serial became the first podcast to win the Peabody Award, which recognizes excellence in radio, TV and online media. Podcasts had been making free audio content available online on everything from sports and culture to political news and history for 10 years. But Serial made podcasting mainstream. Suddenly, media experts began talking about the possibility of monetizing podcasts.

To be sure, the medium had already had some success stories, like podcast celebrity John Lee Dumas who, by his own admission, makes $250,000 (around 16 lakh) a month from Entrepreneurs On Fire. But Serial seemed to make it possible for others to make money from podcasting too.

As we wait for the second instalment of the audio-only show, due to start “this fall", we look at the podcasting scene in India, share tips on how to start a podcast and talk to digital media experts on what it will take to produce the next Serial out of India.

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Zafar Rais, chief executive officer (CEO) of digital marketing agency MindShift Interactive, says the current numbers—of producers and listeners—are so small that no studies have been done on the medium in India yet. He adds that it may be a bit of a chicken-and-egg situation at the moment: Few listeners come on board because there isn’t enough varied content coming out of India; few content creators are looking at this platform because of its limited potential for virality because there aren’t as many audiences as for, say, videos on YouTube; and few companies are interested to do brand-building exercises or advertise on a platform that has few listeners and significantly fewer content generators.

To be sure, a few podcasts like Indicast—a 10-year-old news, views and reviews podcast—have gained some traction, but most others to have come up in the last decade have sputtered, discontinued or simply remained undiscovered because they are, well, boring. One such show is the 11-month-old freewheeling interdisciplinary talk show SynTalk, produced from Mumbai.

The uptake of audio podcasts in India has been snail-paced, but this is just starting to change, according to Tripti Lochan, CEO of digital marketing agency VML Qais.

‘Find a genre that is going to reel people in but which is not easily available on mainstay channels. Like storytelling in local languages.’
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