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Audio streaming platforms now bet big on podcasts

The platforms offer a range of content from entertainment to meditation as a means to drive engagement

NEW DELHI : With people home all day due to the pandemic, audio streaming platforms are seeing an opportunity for podcasts to draw more listeners. Commutes have come to a standstill during the lockdown, and with it audio streaming platforms have seen a 32% drop in consumption, according to a recent report by Broadcast Audience Research Council India (BARC) and data measurement firm Nielsen.

The platforms are now banking on podcasts, which offer a range of content, from entertainment and motivational messaging to meditation and politics, as a means to drive engagement.

“Podcast listening creates a bubble of privacy as it is a very personal experience," said Kavita Rajwade, co-founder, IVM Podcasts. The platform has seen a 125% increase in consumption of some of its content. “The initial excitement of being able to consume large amounts of video has led to some medium fatigue considering we weren’t preparing for this long an isolation," she said. That’s where podcast platforms see an opportunity.

IVM is trying to keep content light believing that feel-good shows are what fresh listeners want at this time.

“Podcasts are non-intrusive in the sense that they give people good company while they do other things," said Ramesh Menon, chief business officer, HT Media Ltd, adding that religious, mythological and entertainment stories do best on its HT Smartcast platform, which was launched four months ago. HT Smartcast’s curation of podcast offerings hit 5 million listeners as of April, and is aiming for 1.5 million more in May. Shows such as Sonal Kalra’s Tension Not on how to stay calm and Crazy for Kishore, hosted by singer Kishore Kumar’s son Amit, are hits. Other shows that do well include Mint’s Rediscovering Gandhi and Prashant Jha’s political podcasts, besides morning and evening news-based shows. Its content is also available on more than 30 other podcast platforms. HT Media Ltd is the publisher of Mint and Hindustan Times.

JioSaavn, the app integration of JioMusic and Saavn, has announced a new podcast line-up covering diverse millennial-centric topics. “Podcasting might have been novel for India in 2016, when JioSaavn first forayed into the category but today it is a household staple for entertainment and information," said Kirthi Shetty, associate vice-president, creative production, JioSaavn. The shows are under 20 minutes long and most are in both Hindi and English. “We are confident these shows will resonate with our growing audience of urban millennials."

As of December 2019, only 40 million of India’s nearly 500 million internet users listen to podcasts. The number, though, is growing rapidly.

Commenting on the future of podcasts, HT Media’s Menon said consumer awareness has improved dramatically and habit formation has started. “Now it’s quality content and virality that will drive exponential growth, just the way it happened for television, video and OTT, but much faster," he said.

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