Podcasts rising in volume again

Podcasts rising in volume again

The audio format is being used to discuss ideas, promote indie music, and even share humour

The advent of the cable TV and later the Internet had caused many to prophesise the death of the radio and consequently, the audio industry. Ironically, in 2020, one of the most popular and fast-evolving mediums of entertainment is the podcast — defined as an episodic series of digital audio files that a user can download in order to listen. It can be an interview or a solo audio programme, covering just about any topic under the sun.

Recently, one of the largest podcasting players in the Hindi space, aawaz.com, announced the launch of its English edition. Live since January 2019 with over 500 hours of Hindi audio programming, the audio network is India’s largest podcast and spoken-word audio-on-demand.

It is in competition with a number of brands — such as IVM Podcasts, Spotify, Amazon, Google and a number of smaller, independent players — for a slice of India’s burgeoning digital audio industry.

Radhika Viswanathan, co-founder of Vaaka Media, an independent podcast production company and communication consultancy based in Bengaluru, says that when they started out three years ago, podcasts were a relatively new concept but the listener base has increased exponentially since then. “In today’s age, when we are inundated with so much media, people are opting for thoughtful, honest conversations.”

‘In The Field’ is their flagship show. It broadly covers developmental and social issues like healthcare, conservation, empowerment, education, labour, sustainable consumption and more.  The hosts, Radhika and Samyuktha Varma (another co-founder of Vaaka Media), try to take a topic or question and look at it from different perspectives; for example, their very first episode was on the problem of stunted development. “Each episode takes one or two issues and breaks them down into two questions — how people are addressing this big dilemma in India and and what are some of the questions around it,” explains Radhika.  They also try to kind of shed a bit of light on the different work that’s happening in the development sector, in which they both have a background.

They released a new show recently, titled ‘Ex Machina’, which talks about law, tech and society. It is hosted by a Bengalurean lawyer, Rahul Mathan.  They have another show coming out in March this year, titled ‘City of Women’, which will tell stories of women seeking adventure and fun as well as feeling of peace, abandon and exhilaration and the lengths to which they go to achieve this. It is being supported by Google Podcasts.

All their podcasts are available on their website or on most podcast platforms such as Apple podcasts, Spotify, SoundCloud , Google podcasts, overcast etc.

Vaaka’s website explains why they opted for the audio format to tell these compelling stories; it says ‘These stories matter, but how we tell them matters even more. This is why we love podcasts - audio productions are immersive, encourage nuance and gentle discovery, and create experiences that linger’.

The best part about podcasts is that since it requires very little investment and technical know-how, it is a truly inclusive medium of entertainment. 

Ratnadeep Chakraborty, a third-year student at Christ University, has had a podcast series ‘Line of truth’ for quite some time now; he brings out an episode a week. “My format is mostly interview-based. I get a guest on my show and we discuss public policy issues that affect the country.”

His recent shows were on Article 370 in Kashmir and the state of liberalism in India. Among the guests on his show are authors, anthropologists, even MLAs. “If I can bring them to the city, I get the recording done at my home studio. Otherwise, calls and voice messages are turned into podcasts,” he says. His podcasts, hosted by Anchor FM, are available on all major streaming platforms. They last 20 minutes to an hour.

Ratnadeep says he has been influenced and inspired by the podcast series titled ‘The Seen and the Unseen’ by Amit Varma; a highly popular weekly podcast on Indian politics, economics and behavioural science.

Where to find them....

All podcast creators have their own websites, where all episodes are available. Apart from this, traditionally music-focused apps such as Spotify and iTunes have also ventured into the podcast space. Recently, Amazon’s audible audiobook platform launched its first podcasting platform targeted at the Indian audience through the Audible Suno app. Other apps are Saavn, Audioboom, Alexa and Google Podcast. The podcasts are free, usually ad-free and can be downloaded to listen to even without an active internet connection.

Why are they becoming popular?

Podcasts can be heard when you are on the go – if you are going to the supermarket, hitting the gym or are stuck in Bengaluru’s endless traffic jams – and are a welcome break from the endless amounts of visual information the human brain has to process on a daily basis. They can easily surmount barriers linked to literacy. They are available in a variety of languages and incur very low cost of production.

Countrymen, lend me your ears!

According to a recent report by PwC, Indian podcast listeners numbered at 40 million by the end of 2018, a 58 per cent rise from the year before. The number is only set to grow more. In 2019, aawaz.com saw more than four million streams per month on average on its app and web.

Women love true crime genre

Spotify recently revealed that true crime podcast listening is high among women. They partnered with psychology professor at Illinois Wesleyan University, Dr Amanda Vicary, who discovered that women are especially interested in the psychology and survival methods and are changing their behaviour to protect themselves.

Spotify is introducing a fresh batch of true crime content this year, including podcasts covering infamous stories of Michelle Carter, Chris Watts, Henry Lee Lucas and Samuel Little. They will be launched throughout February and March.

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