Audio-only social networking platforms are trending more than ever before. From Twitter Spaces to Clubhouse and Facebook’s soon-to-be-launched Clubhouse-clone and Spotify’s Greenroom, the audio industry is going through a massive transformation in quick succession.
To stay on top of the game, podcast and streaming platforms are consistently investing time and resources on curating offerings, exploring newer areas of engagement using the confluence of audio and digital.
Gopa Kumar, Chief Operating Officer, Isobar, believes that even after the advent of newer social platforms, there is room for growth for all.
“While Clubhouse and other newer platforms are coming up, there would be overlap among audiences but I don’t see a huge drop. Time spent across new as well as established ones is only going up. Clubhouse definitely is a platform for many people these days but other platforms are equally popular and have their own share of loyal users. With any platform that becomes popular, there is bound to be clutter, and especially new ones where people are still exploring and understanding the platform. But in the long run, the content will drive engagement and if they can provide that, I am sure users will stick to it and spend more and more time,” he said.
The behaviour of Clubhouse and Twitter Space is completely different from that of podcasts, said Aarti Samant, Founder, Sorted and Masala Tokri, Head Of Content, Future Group.
Podcasts are “on-demand” while Clubhouse is more a “social-audio” space.
“It’s like the difference between a well-scripted high-value audio show versus real-time live radio. I don’t think Clubhouse can ever make podcasts obsolete. Podcasts, you can use as marketing assets and cross-promote across your marketing channels, embed in your website, newsletter and leverage in your marketing toolbox. Clubhouse is a native app experience where we can create similar content (as podcast) but with a more real-time approach,” she said.
As a user of these platforms though, she agreed the content topics and overall Clubhouse experience was not as meaningful as that of podcast.
“I landed up feeling that I am wasting my time. Also as a user, I don’t have the freedom to decide my experience as Clubhouse does not have a start, pause or skip buttons. So I as a user I am compelled to wait for my favourite speaker or drop out of the room,” she said.
However, with increasing attention, Sunil Kumaran, Country Head, Product, Marketing and Thwink Big, Big FM, predicts Clubhouse (and similar platforms) will grow in the coming months. This indicates how social audio is the next big trend in the audio space which brands will surely leverage to connect with the target audience.
With the advancement of digitisation in radio, the radio industry too is expanding its wings and strategically exploring broader avenues, one of which is the rise of podcasts in the audio space.
Over the last one year, Big FM has converted many of its marquee properties into podcast format, which are available across various leading audio streaming platforms. Last year, it entered into a content collaboration with Spotify to leverage powerful IPs and a few are available on multiple audio streaming platforms such as aawaz.com, Hubhopper Studio, Gaana, Apple Podcast and others.
Podcasting as an industry has definitely been growing and brands are beginning to view it as a new and more effective way to get their messaging out to audiences.
Spends across the industry are seeing a healthy increase, and IVM Podcast is anticipating 300-400% growth. In fact, in 2021, it has already doubled revenue as compared to 2020, said Kavita Rajwade, Co-founder IVM Podcasts.
And with the increasing popularity of platforms such as Clubhouse, Rajwade said it is not the same as an audio streaming platform.
“You can listen to a podcast at any time whereas with Clubhouse you need to tune in at the time that a session is scheduled. Think of it as live radio versus well-produced content. It utilises the same medium but I think that’s where the similarity ends,” she said.
From a wide variety of content, popular influencers to celebrities to music artists, there’s a new wave of audio content being created. While video and screen have a fatigue due to prolonged WFH, audio gives a break to eyes and mind, and there’s a rise of relevant and local content in terms of cultural relevance and languages, said Sreeraman Thiagarajan, CEO, aawaz.com. And brands, here, are winning through narrative storytelling and native content integration.
While Clubhouse is still nascent and somewhat elite, he said its growth is not at the cost of other audio OTT.
“There’s a lot happening there (on Clubhouse) and no way to find something. You just discover as you go. That’s the nature of live and ephemeral content,” he added.
aawaz.com has launched #aawazLive for creating high-quality live audio experiences.
While there could be multiple vertical offerings in the audio category, Vipul Bathwal, Head, Strategy and Monetisation, Gaana, strongly believes that a platform that has music, podcast, stories, interviews, motivational talks, news updates, etc., in one single place is the one that will see consistent growth and usership.
Gaana is focused on delivery of advertising in a native experience. It has dedicated branded destinations for brands where it curates content matching requirements of brands and helps them connect with like-minded communities that are passionate about music.
Though he said it is still very early to say the impact of Clubhouse on the podcast ecosystem in India, he said these platforms are live social audio platforms, which have a very different set of attributes compared to podcasts. He feels that adoption of social audio by these platforms will drive adoption of pure audio as a content creation and consumption medium.
Why advertisers should be all ears
India is primarily a voice-led market, so it has a natural affinity towards audio and related platforms. There is huge interest in podcasts over the past year or so. There are lots of opportunities for content creators as well as people who consume them. And since the engagement is really very high, it’s a very good opportunity for brands to be part of the narrative either in form of content or in form of communication to reach out to these audiences.
Kumar said, “Audio increasingly is becoming an integral part of brands' marketing mix and will only grow. For any brand that would like to reach out to a highly engaged audience, audio is the place to be. Most of the brands have started to invest and put their money on these platforms. Widespread format, as well as content integration opportunities, is a plus.”
Kumaran said how initially, brands were looking at the Big FM for just radio and social media solutions, but owing to the rapid digitisation and the evolving consumption patterns of consumers, brands are approaching it for a more holistic audio entertainment solution. Newer areas of audio such as podcasts, online concerts and smart speaker solutions are being leveraged.
“We are strategically advancing into newer areas, driving a deeper level of engagement for our brand and for our advertisers. Through our self-service platform ‘BuyAdsOnBigFM.com’, we are facilitating advertisers to book ads online, offering customised packages and bookings. We are present where the consumers are—be it on air, social media, audio streaming platforms and even smart speakers. We always kept our audiences at the core of all our creations,” he said.
Audio OTT is poised to be a billion-dollar market.
Samant said podcast has proved that there still is the appetite for long-form content and the lockdown has had a huge role to play in this behaviour. And the way things are going, she sees brands investing heavily in podcasts for branded content creation to drive awareness and consideration in a more meaningful and targeted way.
However, she added, “As of now, the spending is minimal as only a select few digital-first brands like Bumble, for example, are investing in podcast. Even if the brands are investing it well under 5% of their total yearly media spends, I am optimistic that this will only boom and it’s a matter of time that brands will start looking at the audio platform as a serious platform to connect with its audience.”
To attract and retain more audiences, awaaz.com is not only adding more languages every six months, but is also adding fresh content in existing languages across its 22 genres of content.
Advertisers are looking at deeper engagement with consumers and the intimate relationship that podcasts create between content and listener is the ideal setting for impactful messaging.
And for the same, Rajwade said that at the core of IVM’s business is the great content and that's why it ensures having real subject experts and experiences in its shows.