Podcasts see an uptick in listenership but are advertising following the listeners?
Podcast marketing's growth in India and its futureCanva
How audio platforms are ramping up their pitch for podcast advertising in India

Podcasts see an uptick in listenership but are advertising following the listeners?

How audio platforms are ramping up their pitch for podcast advertising in India
  • The market for podcast advertising is growing as Indians continue to rediscover their love for storytelling and long-form content, but in an audio form.
  • Year 2020 gave a huge boost to podcasts. The medium has found a loyal listener base, proving its immense growth potential.
  • We caught up with Gaana, Spotify and Aawaz.com to understand how marketers have been responding to podcast advertising, what are some of the new trends that we can expect to see this year and their plan to woo advertisers.
The pandemic’s disruptive forces have accelerated digital marketing’s growth in India. Due to the lockdown, many big and small brands shifted their budgets to digital completely and started exploring new options within this virtual realm. And podcasts, a relatively new medium, has gained a lot of popularity in the last two years.

Millennials and GenZ tune in to podcasts to learn more about self-love, discover something new, cope with anxiety or simply to entertain themselves. Podcasts take you through an enriching journey and transport you to a fictional world through your own imagination. It has a higher rate of effectiveness as users give all their attention while listening to their favourite choice of hosts. There is no other media interruption that can sway away a listener's attention, which brings in a huge opportunity for advertisers to jump on.

According to KPMG, India is the third-largest podcast-listening market globally and is expected to be valued at INR 17.62 Cr by 2023, growing at a CAGR of 34.5%.

Audio was also one of the most preferred mediums last year. As per eMarketer’s report from April 2020, 49% of users prefer using audio platforms like Gaana, Spotify and JioSaavn regularly.

Podcasts see an uptick in listenership but are advertising following the listeners?

While users have accepted podcasts with open arms and more creators are exploring the new medium, are advertisers following?

Amarjit Singh Batra, Managing Director – India, Spotify told us how 2020 was a foundational year for Spotify’s podcast business in India. The Swedish platform launched 30 Original podcasts, in multiple languages - English, Hindi, Tamil, and Telugu and brought on additional partners like Big FM, Radio City, and Aawaz.com, which indicates the increasing consumption and growth of the medium. Recently, it also launched a new campaign to increase awareness about its podcast offerings.

Telling us about the platform's content partnerships, Batra said, “While podcasts have been around for more than a decade now, the recent innovation in monetization is presenting a whole new opportunity for both creators and advertisers. A variety of genres are streamed on Spotify locally, with listeners increasingly turning to podcasts for reflection, education and entertainment. And so, there’s a growing opportunity for brands to leverage these podcasts to reach their audience in a more meaningful and targeted way. While we don’t have advertisements for Spotify podcasts in India, we have seen brands use the medium meaningfully. For instance, Bumble India created and promoted its podcast, Is Romance Dead? on Spotify, leading to obvious relatability with the brand and connecting with their users beyond traditional marketing campaigns.”

Unlike video content, podcasts allow consumers to blend content into their daily schedule in a way that doesn’t demand full attention and smoothly blends into the background, becoming a part of their daily schedule especially during commutes, post-working hours or mid-day breaks.

Times Internet’s Gaana, in the last year alone, has witnessed 4x growth in user base and podcasts listening duration. After seeing this steady growth, Gautam Sinha, CEO, Times Internet is optimistic that advertisers will now follow the audience.

He said, “Advertising spends tend to follow users and their journey. With users turning to newer ways of entertainment, gaining knowledge and engaging with their favorite genres via podcasts, the industry is slated for a boom in terms of advertising revenues. The need to make truly valuable and listen-worthy content is higher than it’s ever been, and so is the competition in the space. Podcasts are the perfect storytelling medium, and our streaming numbers clearly point at its rising popularity. Since marketers look for ways to reach and engage people where they are, it's a matter of time before branded podcasts become a rage."

Aawaz.com started two years ago with 100 hours of programming, which was available only in Hindi. Today, it offers four languages and over 1000 hours of podcast programming. It has increased its presence by being available on 14 different devices including Ola cabs, Alexa, smartphone, smart television. It has also partnered with various B2B companies and has recently seen more interest from B2C clients as well.

On the list of the clients the platform has worked with, Sreeraman Thiagarajan, CEO, Aawaz.com said, “We have Google Assistant, IBM Cloud, Agoda.com. We have also worked with Tata mutual fund as a client. We did Hind fictional content for them as they wanted to reach the Hindi speaking market. So there's a mixed bag of interest. For our news podcasts, we are talking to auto companies and they seem to be interested in fictional podcasts. For non-fiction, we are talking to lifestyle brands, because most of this non-fiction podcast appeals to youth. So far, it's a mixed bag of advertisers. And it (podcast) is coming across now.”

Bringing in the next phase of growth

According to Spotify’s survey, 41% of podcast listeners have reported trusting ads more if heard in a podcast and 81% of podcast listeners say they have taken action after listening to a podcast ad.

Now that consumers are becoming more loyal to podcasts and sticking to their favourite shows for a long time, Batra said that Spotify will invest in helping content creators to bring in the next phase of growth for its platform.

“Industry and Spotify insights show that podcasts will only grow from here, and led not by a company, but the booming creator community in India. We’re invested in nurturing this talent, enabling them to create and share their podcasts not just on Spotify, but other audio streaming platforms. In fact, there’s been an 80x increase in the number of podcasts created on Anchor in India in the span of just a year, making India one of the fastest growing markets for the platform. Going forward, we’ll see an inflow of talented creators across the country take center stage in growing their podcasting journey, contributing to the overall growth to the podcast industry in India,” said Batra.

Varun Duggirala, Co-Founder & Content Chief, The Glitch hosts a very popular podcast series called ‘Advertising in Dead’ on IVM, where he discusses the changes and developments in the business of advertising and content marketing.

On factors that can drive industry’s growth, Duggirala said, “The podcast industry has created a new category of creators who are helping build an ecosystem of long-form content with deep retention rates with audiences. The next wave will come from podcasters evolving their audio expertise to newer formats (Twitter spaces/clubhouse, shorter format podcasts) while also building a content ecosystem around their podcasts (video podcasts, video clips, newsletters, etc). This will also showcase scale for brands to look at investing in podcasts a lot more than they are right now.”

The pandemic-induced lockdown drove Indians to tune into devotional, spiritual and motivational content. It brought in a diverse audience onto audio platforms. Ergo, Sinha expects to see more regional podcasts this year.

“Second wave of growth is likely to come from regional languages. As more and more regional creators get aware of the growing popularity of the medium, we'll start seeing quality content in these languages which will boost consumption,” said Sinha.

New technologies audio platforms are investing on to woo advertisers

With multiple companies like Google and Amazon investing in Artificial Intelligence and machine learning capabilities, contextual targeting is the hot area of innovation in the podcast industry.

Gaana is also focusing on using its first-party right to provide an enhanced experience to its users and offer contextual advertising to bring in more clients.

Sinha said, “Gaana will leverage its existing contextual targeting capabilities developed over the past few years while scaling music to make the consumer experience smoother and give advertisers data-driven targeting capabilities. As we scale podcasts, we will use the data we gather to enhance consumer experience & advertiser-yields on podcasts.”

According to Duggirala, a few technological advancements in the following fields will help audio platforms reach out to the next level: Dynamic ad insertion, live podcast sessions with ticketed audio events, ASMR content will scale especially in the wellness category and scaling up of transcription technology will bring in a lot of education-based content on a backbone of podcasts.

Spotify’s Streaming Intelligence currently allows its advertisers to hyper-contextualize their communication, reaching the right audience, with the right message, and at the right moment. It also offers more clarity in ROI measurement to its clients with global partners like Nielsen, MOAT, IAS.

Sharing the next focus areas for Spotify, Batra said, “As the awareness and consumption of podcasts grow globally and in India, Spotify is investing in technology that addresses the fragmentation and measurability in a more advanced way for this medium. Our Streaming Ad Insertion (SAI) provides brands and podcast creators data on actual ad impression, frequency (number of times a listener heard the ad), reach and anonymized audience insights (age, gender, device type). In fact, Spotify research shows that a staggering 81% of listeners have taken an action after hearing audio ads during a podcast. And with listeners in India increasingly turning to podcasts too, we hope to bring SAI here, soon.”

Aawaz.com is also going to focus on offering contextual advertising and help advertisers reduce spillover.

Thiagarajan said, “We are a first-party data company, so we know our audience and their behavior. We can tailor campaigns that target only a particular kind of audience for example, Hindi-speakers or Telugu speakers. It can be done across different filters: age, language, time of day. We have different targeting parameters, a rich amount of data about our consumer behavior. So all that tells advertisers to reduce spillover and reach the right audience.”

While podcasts have been around for a while, the lockdown accelerated its growth in India and more advertisers are warming up to the medium now.