“Lockdown due to Coronavirus has impacted the podcast listenership.” Many media reports, podcast newsletters, and discussions reported this last month (March 2020). I attended a virtual meetup for podcasters a few days ago. Many of the speakers, fellow podcasters, and media marketers told a similar story. Their podcast listenership had dipped in the initial weeks of the lockdown. The reason was that people stopped commuting. But in April 2020, the listens have picked up again. In recent weeks, many articles have posted about growth in podcast listenership. You may read them here, here and here.
Fortunately, we did not experience such a situation: our listener ship actually doubled over the past month, as the image below shows. Below are my thoughts on why this could have happened.
Influence of Coronavirus Lockdown On Podcast Listenership
As a result of the lockdown, we have seen a significant increase in listener ship for our podcasts. The audience, in our case, parents, are looking for alternatives to consume content and utilize the time. Podcasting is one of the options which people are very actively considering now. The great thing is, the largest streaming apps already are available on iOS or on Android devices or web browser. JioSaavn, Spotify are examples and of course we have the native apps from Apple (apple podcasts) and Google (google podcasts) for listening to on demand audio.
Our listenership has doubled to over half a million listens over the past month. This corresponds to the period of the two phases of Lockdown in India. If we were to look at the period from January 15 to April 15, we have received over 1 million lessons.
Which means, nearly half the lessons have come in the past one month alone. Hindi and Telugu are the two languages in which we have seen a great amount of growth in listens. To put things in perspective in the over the past one year, we have received close to 2.5 million listens. Which means 1 in every 5 listens happened in the past month alone! Our distribution partners, who follow the Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB) guidelines, have reported these numbers. In other words, these numbers are verified.
(As a side note: I have included two screenshots from our listener numbers, as provided by our media host, Audioboom. Over 80 percent of our listens comes through Audioboom, and you may find the IAB reference in the images)
We target our podcasts toward kids and families. And we in fact encourage parents to listen to the content along with their children. Baalgatha, our flagship show, is available in six languages: English, Hindi, Marathi, Gujarati, Kannada, and Telugu. Our other shows are Veergatha which has stories of bravery and valour, and narrates the deeds of National Bravery Award winners. Then we’ve got stories from Mythology called Devgatha, and also Fairytales of India in English and Parikatha in Hindi.
Typically, in the summer months, our listenership used to drop by 5 to 7 percent. We have seen this trend for the past four years. This year, we saw the listener ship double, as mentioned earlier.
Reasons for growth in podcast listenership:
Variety of the content- for example, Baalgatha could be comparable to Panchatantra or Jataka Tales, Fairytales of India stories are comparable to tales from Chandamama, and in case of Devgatha, it could be Amar Chitra Katha. Majority of our listeners are between 25 and 45 years of age, that is parents who grew up reading stories from these amazing brands. There is an immediate connect, and it’s worked quite well for us. We also source stories from Storyweaver, which have fresh content, they are well written and edited, and most importantly, available in multiple languages.
Which brings us to the second factor-focus on regional languages. There are very few well produced, high quality audio stories for children available in Indian languages. Our media distribution partners recognize this and have helped in promoting vernacular content that we produce.
Third factor is evergreen content: We have consciously focused on producing content that has a longer shelf life. We had a variety of festivals in the month, from Holi to Ugadi or Gudi Padwa, to Ram Navami, Mahavir Jayanti, and Dr. Ambedkar Jayanti. In addition to the new episodes we publish every day, we also promoted these episodes- some of which were originally published 2 or 3 years ago. The immense interest in Ramayan on Doordarshan may have been an eye opener for many, but we have always believed in evergreen content.
Fourth is distribution over messaging apps: WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger. Subscribers get notified when new stories are published, and they visit the gaathastory website. From there, they can listen to the new episode. In the process, they also discover many more of the over 800 stories we have published till today.
Summing it up and Way Forward
Some of these factors may not be specific to us, but put them together, and they have worked very well for us. Our podcast listenership has doubled over the past month,and we hope that this trend will continue. We will add more languages and more shows in the coming months to help sustain the growth and interest of the audience.
Note: I used otter.ai for recording the thoughts, and then Storychief’s built in Copywriting editor for editing and optimizing this post. This is how the raw narration looked like