Radio vs podcast: Radio jockeys are pivoting to podcasts for lack of censorship, autonomy and flexibility
Many radio jockeys have turned to podcasts lately because it is believed to be less censored than radio, making it a preferred platform to discuss sensitive issuesUnsplash
Why are Indian radio jockeys turning to podcasts, share India’s top RJs who have switched to Spotify
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Radio vs podcast: Radio jockeys are pivoting to podcasts for lack of censorship, autonomy and flexibility

Why are Indian radio jockeys turning to podcasts, share India’s top RJs who have switched to Spotify
  • India has emerged as the third-largest podcast listening market in the world after China and the US.
  • It is also wooing traditional content creators into reconsidering radio and other traditional mediums.
  • Content creators are attracted to digital audio world’s autonomy to speak your mind, when you like and where you like.
  • India’s well-known radio jockeys such as Mantra, Salil Acharya, Balaji, Yogi and Kabeer weigh in on why podcasts are gaining more popularity amongst content creators than radio.
Back in the day, radio was often the only means of staying up-to-date with news developments and stories from around the globe. Unlike television and other media, which require singular attention, radio did not interrupt household routines. It stayed in the background, provided information to its listeners and a lot of times, comfort. After the advent of digital media, this love has been divided between podcasts and radio. Both these mediums allow listeners to multitask, learn new things, help go to sleep or just be in the moment. This unobtrusive nature of podcasts, investment from large companies like Spotify, involvement from celebrity talent/creators, has helped the medium gain popularity in a short period of time in India. The format is also gradually entering the mainstream and attracting big advertisers.

After the pandemic, audio platforms have also made it easier for content creators to record, edit and share podcasts from home. As a result, content creators are moving beyond video.

Many radio jockeys have turned to podcasts lately because it is believed to be less censored than radio, making it a preferred platform to discuss sensitive issues. They are keeping hard news for radio and discussing more sensitive, topical matters at length on podcasts.

As a podcaster, you can reach out to the entire country and beyond. It has given RJ Mantra a place to open up and reach beyond Mumbai. He said, “RJs are enjoying the podcast medium as they have a larger canvas to paint on. Radio is a local medium and an RJ is only heard in their city whereas with podcasts they can be heard in every corner of the world.”

He also said that the radio industry should consider reviving its medium. “Apart from enjoying a larger listener base and a much more talk-friendly medium, radio professionals know that unfortunately radio is bleeding and there seems to be no one who is working towards reviving the veteran medium. The top radio stations of the country need to have a plan else soon it will be swallowed by its own digital cousin.”

RJs Yogi and Kabeer said that private radio stations ‘aren’t ready to program their podcast content yet.’ They were looking for a medium that was public yet extremely intimate.

“There are words we use on our podcasts that our programming heads at the radio station would have never approved of. We are not saying that people at radio stations aren’t progressive enough, they are! But because the content that goes on the radio comes under the purview of MIB (not men in black but Ministry of Information & Broadcasting) there are certain guidelines that restrict you when you are on the airwaves. The kind of show we host, we don’t think private radio stations are ready for that kind of programming.”

As a podcaster, you don’t have to abide by your company’s 9 to 5 schedule, which is turning out to be another attractive offer for content creators.

“More and more creators are getting the freedom to be freelancers and be their own bosses because now one doesn't need to be employed by a big corporate house to make their voice heard. This allows the creators to become a brand themselves in its truest sense than an RJ that's working for a brand,” said Yogi and Kabeer.

For Radio Jockey Salil Acharya, podcasts felt like a natural extension and he wanted to be a part of the next audio revolution. He also pointed out that radio jockeys seldom leave their job, so there is no scope for rotation.

“The audio world was restricted to dubbing and ad voice overs, apart from radio work, whereas podcasting is a whole new world which is unlimited. Also, RJs rarely tend to leave, so few slots get vacated and that can frustrate the other RJs who want to express themselves in the best time slots - podcasts allow them the freedom to express and provides an opportunity for a massive audience to tune in as well,” said Acharya.

Nonetheless, radio will always have its space, reckons Acharya, as podcasts have a long way to go for universal acceptance with the masses.

A radio jockey for 15 years, RJ Balaji also hosts a podcast called Naallanaa Murukku – The RJ Balaji Podcast on Spotify now. He pivoted to podcasting to simply move along with the tide. “But the move to podcasts with a partner like Spotify made sense because that is where the audience is moving now. People’s schedules have changed and they prefer consuming content in their own time and I wanted to give them that option. It made all the more sense with a podcast with Spotify,” said Balaji.

Yogi and Kabeer feel that podcasts have helped audio content creators gain back their stardom. “The number of audio first platforms that have come up recently is a clear indication that audio content is on its rise. We will definitely see a lot of content creators moving beyond just video content. There was a time when the video killed the radio star but we feel now the radio is back, in a much-evolved avatar owing to brands such as Spotify.”

On top of this, 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.

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%. Globally, podcasting will be a $1 billion industry by the end of 2021. So perhaps, this boom in podcasts is just the beginning.