While catastrophic reminders of the pandemic continue to show up, the COVID-19 lockdowns have had their own share of benefits. The sudden surge in content creation was a major source of overcoming boredom for the netizens. This was one of the main aftermaths of digital growth, leading people to explore and create major entertainment avenues, basically for free. It also brought audio entertainment, exclusively podcasts and its humongous audience, into the limelight.
Podcasts, a screen-free way to consume all kinds of content – stories, news discussions and interviews – turned out to be convenient and evolved platforms during the pandemic. According to a survey in the KPMG Media and Entertainment Report of 2020, India recorded an increase of 29.3 percent in podcast consumption in the first year of the pandemic. This heightens the significance of the collective welcome received by technology and its relevance in the entertainment field. One of the biggest facilitators of the medium are the online music streaming services. These include Spotify, Jio Saavan and Gaana. Since these platforms had already made it into the Indian pockets, the penetration of podcasts was even easier. According to the PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) Global Entertainment and Media Outlook 2020 Report, India is the third largest consumer of podcasts, trailing behind only the US and China. India reached 40 million monthly podcast listeners by the end of 2018, which is a gain of 57.6 percent as compared to the statistics of 2017 during which the number was at 25.4 million. The major reason for this reception was the free accessibility, diverse genres that include all waves of the entertainment spectrum covering fiction, non-fiction, music, education, cinema and so on, and regional content. The availability of regional content alongside the growth of new content creators pulled more listeners to the medium.
One such creator is Mae Mariyam Thomas, who launched the first Indian music podcast in 2015 called ‘Maed In India’. According to Mae, the growth of the industry is mainly due to the storytelling nature, which is well appreciated in all art forms seen in India. Her podcasts were one among Apple’s Best Indian podcasts of 2018. Therefore, when the technology developed it became easy for the producers to create podcasts easily. “The shift happened when platforms like Anchor (Spotify), Audiobhoom, Buzzsprout and Podbean rendered most of their services free, which eventually made creators independent all of a sudden,” says Vishnu Sajeev, Podcaster, The Mallu Gaijin Show. A report published by Anchor claims that they host around 40,000 shows from India, and about half of them were in 2020. They have a worldwide collection of over 1 million shows on Spotify. Even when podcasts happen to be one of the latest engagements, India’s familiarity with radio also contributed with more ease in adapting to the technology. The biggest convenience of the podcasts is that you can listen to them at your convenience. Previously, podcasts were only used while driving, cooking, or in between work since they delivered only entertainment and information. Currently, after the diversification of content, podcasts are used for hyper-specific reasons like learning, self-improvement and listening to audiobooks.
Considering the population size of India, a large section of the youth seems to wheel towards podcasts over other media, mainly for entertainment, self-improvement and knowledge. According to a report by Spotify, 45 percent of Gen-Z listens to a minimum of five podcasts regularly, 76 percent of millennials use podcasts to cope with stress and anxiety, and 80 percent of listeners find it easy to emotionally connect with the medium since it feels like listening to a friend. According to a PwC report, India will witness a rise of 30.4 percent compounded growth rate in monthly listenership, in the next five years. This promises a great future for podcasts and also the evolving audio entertainment sector.