GUEST ARTICLE: How is the growth of podcasts changing the media landscape and consumption?

GUEST ARTICLE: How is the growth of podcasts changing the media landscape and consumption?

Press play, stow away the mobile, and you’re good for a while.

Aditya Kuber

Mumbai: Amidst a video-obsessed world where ‘shorter is nicer,’ a quiet revolution has been brewing—of audio content that is immersive, habit-forming, and poised for greater growth.

Long stories are here to stay

The pandemic changed a lot in terms of our consumption habits. This also extended to our content preferences. With theatres shut, shopping going online, and content being on tap-OTT took over. And this has extended to audio content as well.

What’s changed?

Over the last two years, consuming entertainment and information through audio has become a viable option. What has been driving this growth?

"Better content" is the simple, most important factor. Equally important is the availability of local content, which has attracted more listeners. But what is the impact of this growth on the media landscape and how content is being consumed?

Before we answer this, it’s important to understand who’s listening to this content. A large chunk of podcast content is being heard by a younger audience—typically 18–30 years old. This audience is based in urban and semi-urban areas. The content they truly love to listen to includes self-help, motivational, fiction (crime and love do well together!) and a whole lot of content created by the people they like, look up to, or want to know more about—in short, influencers.

The impact

For most digital content, we are now attuned to thinking that ‘shorter is better’. Thanks to TikTok and other short-form video content platforms, short content rules the roost. But in podcasts, length is not a deterrent. A typical interview-format podcast can range from 20 minutes to 5 hours! Yes, five hours! And it has a large audience too.

Why are so many youngsters listening to long-form podcasts? A quick survey revealed that this mode allows them to go into depth about the topics they really care about. Plus, the fact that it is coming from a place of credibility and a source they trust makes it more compelling.

Another major reason for the increase is the ability to consume podcasts and audio content passively. Press play, stow away the mobile, and you’re good for a while. For price-sensitive consumers, data consumption is also less than video.

Should we all talk for hours?

Of course not! Especially if you aren’t an authority on your subject of choice! Long form audio will do well for knowledge-based content—whether it is a monologue or a dialogue. For fiction podcasts, keeping it short (in the podcast context) to about 20–30 minutes per episode is a sweet spot. Let the listener pace their listening... like with a good TV series, develop the story and put in hooks to keep the listener coming back for more.

This also begs the question of whether there is any place for short-form content (like with video) in the audio space. The answer is a resounding yes! But choose topics carefully. We are still in the early stages of discovering what works and what doesn’t. So expect a lot more experimentation in formats, lengths, genres, and topics.

In the last few years, a lot of news outlets have also taken to podcasts actively. The ease of reaching a large audience (about 95 million) that is engaged is a strong pull. The audio-led feature story will soon start to be an important part of content strategies. Whereas creating video documentaries can be cumbersome, expensive and time-limiting, audio will be able to offer a strong alternative.

And the money?

The short answer is that there is money for creators. Over the next few months, audio-first influencers will emerge. As the audience grows, brands have started exploring the medium.

Many have already made investments and had their first taste of the medium. Branded content, brand integrations, pureplay sponsorships, and advertising have all started the cycle of monetisation for creators and publishers.

To sum up, the biggest change that podcasts are bringing to the media landscape and how we consume content is they are putting the limelight back on in-depth storytelling and immersive experiences for audiences.

The author is Ideabrew Studios co-founder & CEO Aditya Kuber.