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Audio platforms are seeing an increased interest from digital video creators. (Photo: Mint)
Audio platforms are seeing an increased interest from digital video creators. (Photo: Mint)

TikTok creators take to podcasts, games to retain followers

Since TikTok and a host of other Chinese apps were banned at the end of June, content creators have been looking for other platforms, preferably with origins in India, and audio and game streaming have caught their attention, though they still miss TikTok sorely

For the past two months, Awal Madaan has been struggling to regain the nine million followers his spoken English classes on TikTok had garnered since 2019. After the recent ban of the Chinese app over issues of national security and data privacy, Madaan, a resident of Haryana’s Murthal village, tried putting out two-minute short format audios on other social platforms but still hasn’t figured out the ideal length of a “class".

“On TikTok, it was easier because you could only post 30-second videos; audio and other video platforms don’t work the same way," says the 38-year-old. His students are mostly “from backgrounds like mine, from towns and villages" who want to learn English to land jobs. While he has presence on Instagram and YouTube, where he built a large following over four years, Madaan wants to expand his portfolio of platforms instead of joining another short-video platform offering the same features.

Since TikTok and a host of other Chinese apps were banned at the end of June, content creators have been looking for other platforms, preferably with origins in India, and audio and game streaming have caught their attention, though they still miss TikTok sorely.

“I am still experimenting with presentation and duration," says Madaan, who has gained 7,000 followers on digital audio platform Khabri, in two months. He is currently testing two-minute audio clips since listeners seem to want lengthier content than viewers. “I have to be more conscious of voice modulation now. Also, unlike video, I have to spell out words to help people understand the way I am pronouncing it," he says.

Sreeraman Thiagarajan, CEO of audio-on-demand platform aawaz.com, which focuses on local language content, says queries from creators have increased since the ban: He now gets three enquiries a day from former TikTok creators compared to two or three a month earlier.

Gurugram-based Khabri, which focuses on creators in non-metros and small towns and villages who work in Hindi, has also had more creators reach out to them post the ban, and has also gained more listeners. The platform has seen 146% increase in creators and 300% rise in listeners in the last two months. They’re working actively with about 20 creators, who had a sizeable following on TikTok, helping them make the transition from video to audio. Before the ban, Khabri worked with a handful of TikTok creators, and they helped draw more over the past two months, says Pulkit Sharma, co-founder, Khabri.

Not all Tik Tok creators can adapt to other mediums. “For Hindi content, we have noticed that 20-30-second, bite-sized jokes and shayaris do very well. These audio shows or narratives, as we call them, are both entertaining and uplifting. We are working with at least six TikTok creators, who make such content," says Thiagarajan. His team is working with nine such creators since the ban, including a former radio jockey, who had 10 million followers on TikTok. “We give creators 10 episodes of 10 minutes each too, and based on audience feedback we decide whether to continue," he says.

For creators, building an audience on a new platform takes time. What’s attractive though is the challenge of experimenting with their creativity and the platforms being receptive to feedback and adding new features like TikTok did.

Mahindra Dogney, who goes by MD Motivation, is experimenting with live engagement with audiences for his podcast. “With a click, subscribers can talk to me during the podcast. I am also working to improve the sound effects when playing characters," says Harda-based Dogney, who gained 9.2 million followers in a year on TikTok for his 30-40 second motivational quotes. Dogney says he didn’t want to ignore a new platform that could value add to his existing YouTube, Instagram and Facebook presence, and, therefore, took it up as a challenge.

“Audio has the ability to transcend data and access barriers, and it does not have the strict time bounds that TikTok had. It’s easy to consume and people can engage with it passively. We have had more enquiries for individual podcasters wanting to come on board since the ban, as podcasting is seen as a free, democratic, easy access medium much like their video platforms," says Ramesh Menon, chief business officer, innovation and new businesses, HT Media Group.

Creators are leaning towards Indian-origin platforms now as they don’t want to risk another ban after painstakingly building a following. “Our made-in-India theme resonates with content creators as there is a fear that foreign platforms may get banned and their employment as well as audience will disappear," says Anirudh Pandita, founder of digital media and content company Pocket Aces, which owns game-streaming platform Loco.

Loco recorded a 122% spike in monthly active streamers since April. In game streaming, unlike on video streaming apps, fan engagement is as important as excelling in playing the game, says Pandita. So, Loco is also handholding TikTok creators who have the potential to adapt. Besides tech and operations support to ensure they understand live streaming by doing test runs, the team also provides a roadmap of games they can play.

“I usually recommend that they build engagement. It’s easier for them to succeed. As they get more confident, they can try other things. Not everyone will succeed in all formats. Some are diverse and can do multiple things, while some are good in one format," says Pandita.

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