While one report by Podtrac says that globally podcast consumption has dipped in times of COVID-19, an analysis by Voxnest, an audio technology company, revealed that listenership has increased since the first week of March.
Globally, there may not be a clear picture regarding podcast consumption but in India, podcast platforms are witnessing growth.
"In March, we saw over 80 percent growth as compared to February. In fact, in March we have seen the highest listenership. In January and February, the monthly listens were recorded at 3.5 million and 3.7 million respectively and this went up to 6.9 million by March 31, Umesh Barve, Head of India Partnerships (Content and Distribution) at Audioboom, told Moneycontrol.
Sreeraman Thiagarajan, co-founder, aawaz.com, also said that there has been increase in consumption on his platform.
"We have seen 18-20 percent increase in last three weeks in active users coming on the platform as well as listenership," he said.
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It is true that India mirrors global podcast consumption trends, which includes listening during commute time. However, the lockdown situation has not led to decline in listenership.
So, how did India buck the trend?
Gautam Raj Anand, founder and CEO, Hubhopper, said that during the COVID-19 disruption period, there has been a change in consumption pattern.
"We used to have peaks of consumption in the morning, evening and night. Morning and evening have been knocked off because of the commuting hours. But people have started consuming more podcasts during the night. In fact, consumption during night has increased by 35 percent," he said.
Amit Doshi, founder, IVM podcasts, said that people people are listening in different ways.
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"Listenership has much wider spread. In fact, we have seen increase in desktop consumption. Desktop listens are more than double than February," he said.
But what are people listening?
There’s an interesting mix. From comedy, news, corona special, self-help, devotional, story-telling to horror, people are listening to a wide variety of content on podcast platforms.
Trupti Khamkar, a podcaster, said that before lockdown she would listen to podcasts that would fall in her genre but now "I choose to rest my eyes from the screen exposure and also very consciously listen to more fun, good habits and motivational podcasts that keep my morale high".
More content creation is driving consumption
"An important factor that is driving podcast consumption is shortage of content on other mediums. GECs (general entertainment channels) there is repeat content, there are no sporting events. On the supply side from podcast perspective, there are people who are creating more podcasts and they are looking for newer ways to do so," said Kiran Nithyanand, SVP Emerging Business at Rainshine Entertainment.
Yes, the supply of podcasts has not been hampered due to lockdown and there is enough new content for people to listen to.
"On the creator side, we have seen the largest explosion because people have time and podcast is software driven so you don’t need to step out of your homes to create a podcast. We have seen 70-80 percent increase in content creation since the lockdown started," said Anand.
Advertisers also taking note of podcast space
"Last year, we did 'Ishq bhi Risk bhi' for Tata Mutual Fund. It was a 100-minute love story which has mutual fund gyan inside it. Now we are doing season 2. It is going to be live next week," said Thiagarajan. He added that technology and B2B brands are showing interest in the podcast space.
According to Anand, food-based brands, lifestyle brands are showing interest.
While creating audio content is simpler than video, working from home does impact the quality of the content.
"For fiction, there are two to three voices required to make a podcast which people would do together at a studio. Now, podcasters are doing it separately. So, a bit of an impact there," said Thiagarajan.
However, he said that Hindi podcasters associated with the platform have studios at home or a setup at home so the impact is minimal on the Hindi content side.
But Doshi reiterated the fact that working from remote areas is affecting the recording quality.
"Many people do not have great headsets and mics at home. So, they are doing over phones and laptops which impacts the quality," he said.
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