Monday, April 15, 2024

IN FOCUS: ATTUNED TO TRENDS: How podcasting is fostering interests of diverse audiences

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Be it a daily dose of spiritual guidance, insights into entrepreneurship, or a peek into the lives of your favourite celebrities; there are podcasts tailored for your preferences. “You name it, we have it”, say podcasting players. After the United States and China, India ranks third in the world among nations where podcasting is becoming popular. The estimated 150 million Indians who already use audio streaming channels comprise a sizeable market for podcasters. This week, Tanisha Saxena plumbs the intricacies of podcasting with inputs from prominent players.

In the present age of streaming, a podcast is one up on radio. For, a podcast is a digital audio file you can download or listen to over the internet. Podcasting per se is the process of writing, creating, and publishing audio-based content. It involves the preparation and distribution of audio files using RSS feeds to the computers of subscribed users. These files may then be uploaded to streaming services, which users can listen to on their smartphones or digital music and multimedia players. Podcasts are typically released as a series of episodes.

The popularity of podcasting has been growing significantly over the past few years. Its easy accessibility, variety of material, and creators’ potential to target specific needs of audiences are its main draws. Podcasting has developed into a practical and interesting form of entertainment and education with the proliferation of smartphones and streaming platforms.

The topics that are covered by podcasts are diverse and include news, entertainment, education, and storytelling. They usually take the form of episodes on a regular basis. Podcast subscribers can access new episodes as soon as they are published by simply subscribing to the podcast. Various devices, including mobile phones, laptops, and specialised podcast apps, may access and play podcasts. They have developed into a well-liked information and entertainment medium and provide a simple way to consume content on the go.

In a study published by Doctor Bharat Dhiman, Assistant Professor, Department of Communication & Media, YMCA, it was found that millions of people listened to more than 10,000,00 podcasts as of March 2023. In the digital age, the growth and popularity of podcasts have started to soar. The popularity of podcasts in recent years has amplified reactions from across the world. These days, many well-known influencers and celebrities have begun to produce their own podcasts on a variety of fascinating subjects.

The term “podcasting” was first used in the early 2000s, which also marks the beginning of the history of podcasting. The term “podcasting” is a combination of the words “iPod” (the era’s most well-known portable media player) and “broadcasting”. The first podcasting platform was developed by Dave Winer, Adam Curry, and Christopher Lydon in 2003. Real Simple Syndication, or RSS, was developed by Winer to enable people to subscribe to updates from websites and blogs. The potential of using RSS to transmit audio content was recognised by Curry, a former MTV VJ and technology enthusiast. He developed the original podcasting app, iPodder, which enabled users to automatically download audio content to their iPods. Adam Curry started the first podcast, The Daily Source Code, in 2004. The programme included Curry.

Undoubtedly, podcasting has been just growing by the day as an art and craft. There is a lot more experimentation now than ever before. The creators are exploring various aspects of podcasting as people tune in to their favourite shows.

Speaking on the state of podcasting right now in India, Amit Doshi, Head, IVM Podcasts – Pratilipi, observes: “Podcasting is as much craft as it is art. The elements of how to have a conversation, when to interrupt, when to let your guest have free reign, is a constantly evolving thing. In the early years I think we were more satisfied with vanilla conversations. It is now a much more competitive space and we need to be aware of that. That doesn’t mean that you would make content with the audience in mind first – it is important that we make judgements with IVM’s editorial sensibilities in mind.”

He amplifies: “All businesses need marketing – the question is what are the strategies employed by the business to maximise the visibility of its content. The role for marketing cannot be understated, but we are also wary of how do we maximise our marketing so that we see long-term benefits, rather than just a short-term traffic bump.”

Cyrus says is a popular podcast hosted by Cyrus Broacha on the IVM Podcasts network. The show covers a wide range of topics, including humour, current events, and interviews with notable guests. It is known for its humorous and engaging content. “It is art of conversation. The problem is that today everyone is a podcaster with a half a mic and phone. I request the Government to ban at least 60% of them so that we can go with standard content. The real challenge in podcasting is to get people on time, pushing people to know what’s going on and attention,” share Cyrus Broacha.

According to Doshi, there are numerous difficulties in this area. Despite the so-called “boom” in podcasting, you must collaborate with other parties to acquire funds because podcasts are an ad-supported medium and the content type is still relatively new. Having said that, despite hurdles, the rise we have seen over the past five years has been astounding from the viewpoints of both numbers and interest.

Wooing with diverse content
Podcasts offer diversity in subject matter because of their wide range of themes. While some podcasts organically include diversity into their talks, certain programmes concentrate on issues connected to diversity, equity, and inclusion.

RJ Navneet, founder, and host of Off-beat talks, says: “A podcast is a lovely medium for sharing knowledge, expressing emotions, exchanging stories, and having conversations about subjects of general interest. For individuals who desire to learn something new every day, it works well. There are so many podcasters out there today doing incredible things. However, some of them have constrained the topics they can cover on their platforms. They produce specialized content for their podcast rather than going for variety. For instance, some podcasters focus on spiritual topics, while others discuss politics, and so forth. However, I did not want to confine my podcast to a single topic. I invite celebrities since I have easy access to them as a radio jockey. But I also share spiritual matters. I converse with athletes as well as residents. I am attempting to find a niche in this approach.”

The podcasts are still fresh to them when we discuss second-tier cities like Amritsar, Bhopal, Bhubaneswar, Chandigarh, Faridabad, Ghaziabad, Jamshedpur, Jaipur, Kochi, Lucknow, and more. “But the creatives in these cities want to connect with a wider audience, so I strive to support them there. Through my podcast, I strive to discuss their initiatives and work. Additionally, I try to include those faces in the show. I started making podcasts because I have always believed that everyone should have easy access to information on a variety of topics. When I worked in mass communication, I frequently had trouble finding information on a wide range of issues. So, I made the decision to act. I also have a piece where I use music to attempt to inspire people. Briefly put, podcasting is a fantastic medium that is always developing,” says Navneet.

Podcasting in regional languages
Podcasts come in a variety of formats, including solo commentary, narrative storytelling, and panel discussions. These formats can include various points of view and modes of communication. Regional language podcasts play a vital role in promoting linguistic diversity, cultural exchange, and ensuring that information and entertainment are accessible to a broader range of people.

Vivek Chudasma, founder of the biggest Gujarati podcast show, Bethak, remarks: “Podcasts in regional languages offer a forum for the expression of many cultures and viewpoints. They can highlight regional customs, legends, and dialects that might not be included in the mainstream media. Secondly, promoting regional languages via podcasts helps in preserving and revitalising languages. I have to admit that people here in Gujarat are moving away from their own language thereby posing a challenge for language continuity among younger generations. I wanted to address this issue and that is how my podcast tries to bridge the gap. I explore different stuff and bring unique stories about us as a community.”

Rangularattnam, which translates to a ‘colourful carousel’, is India’s first queer-centric monthly podcast in Telugu that brings on a queer individual for each episode and aims to explore narratives across the community and bring in more experiences with time.

“When it comes to regional languages, there are no translations of queer language. Lack of language makes it extremely difficult to communicate one’s thoughts and feelings, as well as to explain or help others grasp the situation. People who don’t speak English will find it difficult to grasp queerness, which ultimately causes stigma due to erroneous information,” explains drag artist Patruni Chidanada Sastry.

Encountering obstacles
Shantanu Prasher of Honestly saying podcast says, “Podcasting is still young. I have noticed that creating long form content is quite difficult. You should invest at least one and a half hours in a podcast. You can either narrate the subject matter or invite people over. I now understand how difficult it is to keep an audience interested in long-form content. However, artistes are taking actions like chopping up podcast snippets and sharing them on social media. Although there is a considerable amount of interest in these reels, this regrettably negates the whole point of a podcast. Perhaps because of the reels and not necessarily the podcast, people tend to follow the creator. I don’t want a situation like there are about one million likes on my reel but only 50,000 listeners of the podcast. It breaks your heart! Personally, I avoid doing it.”

From real crime to personal growth, there is a podcast out there for almost every topic and interest. Because of their diversity, podcasts compete for target audiences.

“Back in the pandemic of 2021, when I first began my podcasting career, there was a genuine debate over what defines art. You see, the sphere is constantly changing. I can see the difficulties still exist now. Somewhere, the query of how to make money from a podcast still lingers. And how can you stand out in a podcast sea? How can I increase podcast listenership? There is a simple way to monetise your channel once you start creating content on YouTube. But there isn’t anything like that in podcasts yet. To potentially monetise, creators must approach brands or pursue marketing opportunities. However, the way is still mostly unknown, according to Deepika Arun, creator, and narrator of Kadhai Osai, a popular Tamil audio podcast.

Crowdfunding was the method Arun used to commercialise the platform. She appreciates that individuals are willing to share whatever they can. “I am really overwhelmed that I have a strong community supporting me even if there is not enough money coming in. I am glad to see people listening to my podcast and able to relate to it.”

Kadhai Osai means “sounds of the story” in English. Arun believed that the area lacked any high-quality Tamil audiobooks. As a result, the concept was developed into a podcast in which the host approached writers to narrate their books using the podcasting format and used copyright content. Over six million people tune in to the podcast across platforms, and it has 35,000 followers.

The way forward
It appears that podcasting has a bright future. With more variety material, better discoverability, interactive features, and perhaps even integration with virtual reality and augmented reality experiences, we can anticipate further growth. Subscription-based revenue models and advertising are expected to change as well. Both producers and listeners will continue to find podcasting to be a popular and powerful medium to share trendy ideas.

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