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Podcasts – Wait, who listens to Pods?

The audios era is back. Yes, many listen to podcasts for entertainment, insights, knowledge and whatnot. Especially, post early pandemic, people started to develop a great taste for podcast content resulting podcast industry to boom like never before.

A bit of history

Diving into the history of podcasts, ‘podcasting’ was developed in 2004, when Adam Curry, former MTV video jockey, and software developer Dave Winer, coded a program known as iPodder, which enabled them to download Internet radio broadcasts to their iPods. Following the invention, in 2005, companies started to recognize the opportunity – Apple leading the way with iTunes 4.9, the first update with native support for podcasts, the very same year, George W. Bush became the first US President to have his weekly address delivered as a podcast.

How has the Coronavirus pandemic affected Pods reach?

With time podcasts have evolved & consumption too. Prior to the pandemic, the primetime for podcast listening was when people commuted to work but now we don’t see that happening, often cause humans are locked in homes.

Like nearly all other human endeavours, COVID-19 gave podcasts a hard time too. The Stitcher, a popular podcasting app, estimated that listening hours fell 14% in the 8 weeks between 1 March 2020 to 27 April 2020 as compared to the prior 8-week period. Primarily, this is because the lockdown meant fewer people commuted work.

In these dynamic times & with people home all day due to the COVID-19 pandemic, audio streaming platforms are seeing an opportunity for podcasts to draw more listeners.

As every being adapts, humans have also adapted podcast listening habits. Instead of the daily commute, now, the audience enjoys pods whilst preparing a meal and slightly extend the lunch break. Podcasts tend to have extremely loyal audiences – 80 per cent of listeners hear all or most of each episode, and they consume six episodes a week. With more people working from home & gadgets on fingertips, they have turned to podcasts.

In April 2020, Swedish streaming service Spotify also introduced new podcast playlists, including Crime Scene and Brain Snacks, localized for each market. The platform has reported an increased interest in news podcasts, and put together a COVID-19 hub or a collection of podcasts from platforms such as CNN, BBC World, ABC News and others.

Gaana, the audio streaming service owned by Times Internet Ltd, has also reported a 24% surge in motivational or self-help podcasts as people look for inspiration in these challenging times.

When much of the world went into lockdown in April 2020 and May 2020, millions of people enthusiastically took to podcasts.

Joe Rogan & Spotify

Between May 19, 2020, to May 21, 2020, Spotify’s share price climbed from $169 to $189.9. On May 19, 2020, Joe Rogan announced that his podcast – The Joe Rogan Experience (JRE) – would exclusively be available on Spotify by the end of the year. If you’re unaware of podcasts in general that’s alright but you might remember the viral image of Elon Musk smoking a doobie? Well, that was from an episode of JRE.

Spotify ended 2019 with 125 million subscribers, while competitors such as Apple Music and Amazon Music reportedly had 68 million and 54 million subscribers respectively. But Spotify is wasting no time by basking in the glory of these promising numbers. It has bigger plans, to make with names such as Mark Wahlberg, Kim Kardashian, Jordan Peele and the Obamas.

From the 700,000 podcast titles that Spotify reported it had in March 2020, the number has already crossed the million mark in April 2020.

In April 2020, also crossed that one million mark on Apple Podcasts.

According to Acast, one of the world’s largest global podcasting companies, the demand for comedy went up by 24 per cent during the lockdown and education had a 20 per cent increase. Episodes with ‘corona’ or ‘COVID’ in the title were downloaded over 27.5 million times globally.

Pods in India

As per a PwC {PricewaterhouseCoopers} report, India is the third-largest podcast listening market and the number of listeners is going to rise to 17.61 crores in 2023. {From four crores in 2018}

Explosive Growth in Audience and Content

Podcasting has been a primarily English language, the urban phenomenon in India so far, poised to change in 2020.

What founders have to say about the adapting scene?

During the lockdown, Hubhopper—one of India’s largest podcast platform—recorded 35-40 per cent increase in storytelling. “We’ve seen a remarkable jump on our platform across genres,” says Nishant Kumar, head of sales and partnerships, Hubhopper.

“People listen to podcasts while doing household chores or as a break from boring webinars,” says Chhavi Sachdev, podcaster and founder, Sonologue, a Mumbai-based audio production house. “When I started out in 2008, I had to explain to people what podcasts meant. Now they know it as Netflix for the ears,” says Chhavi, who also offers consultancy and is a podcast coach.

“Podcasting has become the popular medium to easily churn out fresh, exciting and new content. Moreover, this can be done while observing the necessary coronavirus norms,” says Mae Thomas, founder, Maed in India, a production and consultancy firm.

“We’ve added a dedicated carousel in several languages to connect people to podcasts and help them understand the virus’s impact. India is in the top five countries for Google Podcasts adoption,” says Robin Bhaduri, product manager, Google Podcasts.

Platforms focusing on pandemic-related content got good engagement. For instance, Suno India—a multilingual podcast platform which started in 2018—began producing daily COVID bulletins and easy-to-understand COVID flashcards in English, Hindi and Telugu.

‘Maed in India’ started as a podcast where indie musicians presented their music. Now, they put out videos, merchandise.

Indian Ocean, Euphoria, Apache Indian to Karsh Kale and Hard Kaur, etc have appeared on the show. In 2018, Maed in India, one of the seven podcasts was picked as ‘Apple’s Best Podcasts in India’.

Multitasking and Podcasting

The characteristic of audio in a podcast allows the audience to multitask. A recent study showed that while 49% of podcast listening happens at home, 22% happens while driving, 11% at work, and 8% while exercising. Podcasts offer articles in smaller bite-sized chunks perfect for daily commutes or busy routines.

Some of our favourites: Bodies, Chris Gethard, Joe Regan, The Ranveer show by Ranveer Allahbadia, Audiogyan by Kedar Nimkar, Interviews with Anupama Chopra by Anupama Chopra, and The Passion People Podcast by Naga Subramanya B B tops the most popular podcasts chart.

Duniya Jahan, BBC Minute Hindi Corona Virus Special, Corona Dinbhar, BBC Minute Coronavirus Special and BBC Coronavirus Global Update, have been announced for a wider reach of information around the current corona global situation.