2015 so far has been the year of videos. With mobile becoming the first screen in the country, videos are in demand. From internet content creators to brands everyone wants to go viral with videos. The trend has seen a mix, from quick consumable videos to webisodes, brands are trying everything as users are hooked on it.
Indians are among the world’s top online video consumers. Video consumption has doubled from 2011 to 2013, with the average viewer watching 18% more videos and spending 28% more time viewing. As of July 2014, 15-24-year-olds watched 67 online videos on average per month with average minutes per viewer well over 400 minutes per month.
At a time when visual content is in demand, creating a market for audio content is next to impossible. But that is what Rajesh Tahil, co-founder of a podcast network called Audiomatic, launched in April this year, is trying to achieve. “It is because of that the video market is crazily crowded and no one is making money. We hope we can have a higher share of a small, less fragmented niche.”
While I don’t buy the argument that video market isn’t making money; digital awareness, growth of smartphones in the country, absence of a mature public radio network and a distinct lack of good programming can create a market in the country. “Radio technology has remained the same for the last 70-80 years, combination of smartphone plus podcasting is the first real disruption in the radio business and can be a game-changer,” informed Rajesh who himself is a radio veteran along with his co-founder Tariq Ansari.
Radio isn’t dead in a country which is still struggling to achieve the global average speed of broadband. Last year according to the report, Indian FM radio industry is expected to witness double digit growth during 2014-19. Increasing number of FM radio listeners coupled with the growing expenditure on advertisement campaigns by real-estate, pharmaceutical, education, healthcare sectors, etc., are resulting in strong growth of the FM radio industry.
But the biggest turn off from Radio has been that the content never moves beyond music and that has prevented talk radio or podcasts from becoming as popular as it is in the US & European market. “In India spectrum is a highly priced commodity that goes to the highest bidder. When they’ve paid so much for a licence, FM channels tend to play popular songs to draw an audience,” Rajesh said to NDTV Gadjets. The US has many more FM stations and the competition ensures that not all stations are trying to play the top 20 songs, he said.
Content backed with technology will play a big role if this market has to pick up for both listeners and advertisers. “We know FM channels won’t do what we do,” he says, saying the decision is to serve “interest areas that are currently not serviced.”
Podcasting is storytelling
To start with Audiomatic has four very interesting audio shows running current affairs, science, food and more. Interestingly each of the show is presented by journalists and writers – one of my favourite, the Q&A format Ask Aakar Anything with Mint columnist Aakar Patel; The Intersection on science with journalists Padmaparna Ghosh and Samanth Subramanian; The Real Food Podcast with Vikram Doctor of The Economic Times; and the comedy venture Our Last Week by Anuvab Pal and Kunaal Roy Kapoor. “A podcast is just a form of narrative journalism, so you’ll see that it’s no coincidence that almost all the presenters we have are writers.” He added, “We’re putting content before mode of delivery or style of delivery.”
In the latest episode Anuvab & Kunaal take om Shashi Tharoor’s argument reparations straight to the heart of the British establishment. To make the debate balanced and entertaining, Andy Zaltzman, the co-host of the legendary podcast The Bugle joins them on this new episode.
On Our Last Week: Is offering to let Indians beat the English at cricket enough to atone for the sins of The Empire? http://t.co/hY6x9OUE7N
— Audiomatic (@audiomaticIN) August 19, 2015
Podcasting is essentially a form of storytelling and the most important part of Audiomatic’s podcasts. “There is the content side and the production side [to recording a podcast]. The content team does the news gathering and research, while the production team handles editing, sequencing, sound effects, etc.”
The content is catching up, Audiomatic was able to draw some 100,000 listeners, much faster than what the co-founders expected. Mobile phones are also an important factor for this growth. “Already we have about 40% of our listenership through mobiles and we see that increasing to over two-thirds in a couple of years.”
But the biggest challenge Indian podcasters face, even ahead of content discovery and monetization, is the name of the medium. The term itself is complex and no where close to describe that it is your good old radio shows available on the Internet. However he isn’t bothered about this challenge right now as Audiomatic initially is targeting only those who know what a podcast is.
Discovery & monetization
Discovery is a challenge for him. Social media has been a decent help to create the required buzz. Additionally, Audiomatic has partnerships with leading online publishing houses. “We have tie-ups with top-of-the-line news sites like Scroll, The Wire and The Huffington Post india, which creates awareness for our shows and brand.” One of the many benefits to have star journalists on the show.
— HuffPost India (@HuffPostIndia) August 19, 2015
While the demand for podcasts is yet to grow in the country, monetization surely is a challenge. The conventional model of advertising isn’t interesting for Audiomatic podcasts wherein the hosts reads out the sponsorship during the show.
Native is the way forward informs Rajesh, “Brands want to innovative ad formats, such as native content and interweaving brand stories with content.” The podcasting network has executed the native ad model successfully with an online dating portal Floh and are currently working on a few others.
Going forward Audiomatic hopes to be a significant player in the non-music audio content space and has plans to add some more shows before the end of the year. “We are doing our bit, how the market responds we will know over a period of time. Even if we get a fraction of the numbers that the US has, I think we ll be fine.”