India is finally beginning to see a surge in listeners for digital content as global podcasting and audio platforms turn their attention to the country.
India is forecast to have 95 million monthly active users (MAUs) for online audio content by the end of 2021. This includes podcasts, audiobooks and other audio-based online entertainment--a 34% rise from the 71 million recorded last year, according to an analysis by market research firm RedSeer.
The company added that only 12% of the Indian population “has ever listened to a podcast”, which indicates that there’s “immense room for growth”. It added that Indians spent 2290 billion minutes consuming online entertainment in 2021.
Social media took up most of the users’ time at 885 billion minutes, followed by messaging, over-the-top (OTT) video, news aggregation apps, and short video platforms. Podcasts accounted for 2.5 billion minutes spent online in the month of October alone.
“To acquire popularity and keep content development costs low, Indian platforms started with both user generated content (UGC) and professionally generated content (PGC) models. However, the platform's ability to preserve brand value and quality is hampered by UGC material,” the research firm said. “Platforms are increasingly devoting more resources to producing high-quality content and bringing on celebrities to narrate and host shows. Few platforms, such as Headphone and Khabri, are investing in stronger UGC filtering and recommendation engines,” it added.
According to Anish Chandy, founder of Labyrinth Literary Agency, which provides author representation and editorial services across books and films, the company often encourages its writers to do podcasts. He said writers who are experts in a particular field or domain do well on podcasts, and while some monetize the podcasts too, the majority is using podcasts to gain wider reach. “There’s a perception, whether right or wrong, if it’s an intelligently done podcast that means you know what you’re talking about,” he said.
Chandy added that podcasts on finance, angel investing, advertising & marketing, history and more do well. However, he noted that podcasting isn’t a quickfire solution for gaining wider reach. Most creators who do well on podcasts are those who already have a large following on other platforms, like Instagram or Twitter, since they can leverage that reach to promote their podcasts.
Further, RedSeer’s analysis noted that platforms also have a role to play. “Indian players have successfully created low data usage apps to deliver podcast content, with diversification around vernacular, and celebrity-driven content,” it said. “The mix of free and premium models to subscription also allows new users to experiment and consume this new form of entertainment,” it added.
In its third quarter earnings report, global streaming firm Spotify had said that it saw “notable traction” for original podcasts in India and Latin America. It said that the Mythpat podcast was one of the most top performing shows on its platform in the Indian market.
To be sure, RedSeer’s report isn’t the first to predict a noteworthy rise in such content. In its September 2020 media and entertainment report, KPMG said that podcasts would be amongst the key listening trends worth watching post-pandemic. The firm said it had noted a 23% rise in podcast listening after covid-19 drove people indoors.
However, Chandy warned that while there’s no doubt that listenership for podcasts is growing, it’s growing off a small base. “Off-hand, if someone says there are 95 million unique podcast listeners in India, I’d ask how do you define a listener, how many minutes is it etc. It sounds a bit high,” he said.