Spotify turns the spotlight on storytellers with 3 original podcast series

Topics Spotify | Podcast | Indian consumers

Representative image
The next time someone with a pair of plugs firmly lodged into their ears walks past, listen in. Instead of a familiar tune or beat spilling out, it could be a jumble of words, for if recent reports on listening habits are anything to go by, the influence and reach of podcasts is on the rise among the young. India is the world’s third-largest podcast-listening market (after China and the US), although it ranks lower on a per capita basis, according to PwC’s Global Media and Entertainment Outlook (2019-2023).


For audio streaming platform, Spotify that announced the launch of its original podcast series in Mumbai on Tuesday, the numbers tell a story of hidden potential. It is kickstarting its podcast journey in the country with three original podcasts. to be released over the next month. More will follow, the company said.


The Indian audio experience is naturally attuned to storytelling, the company believes. “Spotify wants to re-establish the listening culture here, especially as users seek more screen-free moments. We want to create this market with creators, brands and consumers in India,” said Amarjit Singh Batra, Managing Director-India, Spotify.


According to the PwC report (June 2019), podcast listening has increased markedly in India in the past few years. The Indian podcast listener base is estimated at 40 million until the end of 2018, a 58 per cent rise from the previous year. The report also found that monthly listeners (defined as people who listened to at least one podcast in the last month) totalled 4 crore at the end of 2018, up a sharp 57.6 per cent from 2.54 crore in the previous year.


Spotify has seen the podcast boom play out on its platform too. With over 500,000 podcast titles on the platform, up from 10,000 in 2018, it has seen exponential growth in the podcast hours streamed globally (up approximately 39 per cent from Q2 2019 to Q3 2019), with podcast adoption reaching almost 14 per cent of total monthly active users (MAUs). And while the US accounts for the largest share, a majority of the growth and listening is now coming from outside the US too.

(L) Love Aaj Kal with Aastha & Ankit, on love, sex and dating in the 21st century; (R) 22 Yarns with Gaurav Kapur, on cricket are part of the inaugural line-up of podcasts
For India, where the habit is still in its infancy, the plan is to stick to popular obsessions and personalities for the list. Hence cricket is the theme of a show presented by popular host Gaurav Kapoor, who mixes the sport with entertainment and has a large following on other media. He will present “22 Yarns with Gaurav Kapoor”. Popular radio and TV host Mantra will present “Bhaskar Bose”, a fictional audio drama series about a crime solving chartered accountant. “Love Aaj Kal with Aastha & Ankit” takes a look at love, sex and dating in 21st century India.


Popular podcast platforms globally include Spotify, Podcast Addict, Stitcher, Apple Podcasts and Google Podcasts. Indian and India focused platforms in this space include Hubhopper, SunoIndia and Indus Vox Media (IVM) among many others. Many have tapped into the large language market that India offers but Spotify says it will stick with Hindi-English programmes in the initial months, while they figure out what works.


“Spotify gives podcasts as much importance as the music part of the business and we have over 500 engineers dedicated to curation, discovery and product features. The idea is to first localise the content to what people want. We won’t be married to any language but encourage creators to come up with the best language to present it,” added Batra.


As podcasts gain steady popularity across the world, there’s also an opportunity for advertisers. According to Spotify, the format offers deeper and meaningful experiences. Its customer surveys indicate that nearly half of those surveyed find podcast ads to be more relevant, less intrusive and more entertaining as compared to ads in other platforms. The intimacy of the medium and the fact that many hosts are open to lending their voice to ads, adds credibility to the advertiser promise, say experts. 


Globally, Spotify has invested in new original podcasts in the US, Europe, and South America. The acquisitions of podcast networks Gimlet, and Parcast, and creator platform Anchor have helped invest in high-quality content, while making it simpler for creators to use its platform. Can Spotify talk its way through to the premium club?

Business Standard is now on Telegram.
For insightful reports and views on business, markets, politics and other issues, subscribe to our official Telegram channel