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According to statistics, India had 59.4 million paid music streaming users in 2021. This number has been consistently growing and so have podcasts and other audio content formats. The pandemic era saw the growth of podcasts and we also saw a number of new podcasts coming into the space. Brands have started to tap into the audio mediums on these platforms. recently held the BuzzInContent Conversations Season 2 Episode 3 in which discussions were held about how audio and podcasts are the next big thing for influencers. The panel included Varun Duggirala, Creative Entrepreneur, Podcaster and Author; Gursimran Singh, Director - Brand Strategy and Monetisation Solutions, JioSaavn; Sanjeev Mehta, Business Head, IVM Podcasts; Garima Surana, Content Creator and CEO, Sochcast; Himank Tripathi, President of External Affairs and Investor Relations, EaseMyTrip. 

Watch the discussion here:

The panel discussed the various challenges faced by the branded audio space and said measurability and discovery of podcasts are the top-ranking amongst the lot. Varun Duggirala, Creative Entrepreneur, Podcaster and Author, said “Discoverability is the biggest issue, not monetisation.” 

Speaking about how these issues are being tackled, Sanjeev Mehta, Business Head, IVM Podcasts, stated, “Music OTT platforms are helping audio grow and have made the discovery of podcasts very simple, and this is giving a big boost. Even the listener who has not been exposed to podcasts gets to sample it.”

“The medium currently is slow but definitely on the right track. We need to reach out to more and more brands. For the last 15 months IVM has been knocking on doors and telling brands how important branded content is,” he said. 

“The lack of standardised metrics is also a challenge. Every brand has its own definition of metrics, streams, listens etc. At times, it becomes difficult to understand,” said Garima Surana, Content Creator and CEO, Sochcast. 

However, Duggirala said that measurability is also stabilising, “If we go back three years, there was not enough data available for brands to see why they should advertise here. This has improved a lot, now it is about brands knowing this is available to them.” 

The panel further spoke about how creators can maintain a balance between branded content and original content when it comes to audio mediums. “Stay consistent, focus on what people like, and interact with audiences. You need to evolve your show and also study where drop-offs happen. This is where data helps, study and correct that. That is the only way to figure out audiences. Audiences are also smart enough to detect ads and understand why they are there,” said Duggirala. 

Speaking about how can young podcasters navigate the industry, Garima Surana, Content Creator and CEO, Sochcast stated, “If you want to create something, give it time. You know your audiences, you know what you are offering, it is also important to study data. Treat your episode title as a headline of a story. I am not saying make it clickbait.”

Himank Tripathi, President of External Affairs and Investor Relations, EaseMyTrip, said that like podcasters, brands should also have in-depth knowledge about the topic they are discussing. “You can’t have surface-level discussions and leave it at that.” 

As per Gursimran Singh, Director - Brand Strategy & Monetisation Solutions, there are numerous ways in which audio can be leveraged. 

“Podcasting is at a niche stage and should be given more attempts, there is a lot that can be done,” he said. He said Jio Saavn has insights about how people behave and interact with audio properties that can be leveraged. 

“Devotional content went through the roof when pandemics started. People were listening to Alka Yagnik ad Kumar Sanu for nostalgia. There are many such insights that come out of it. You have 150 million-plus users in the audio category exhibiting these behaviours, and that is where brands think it is a great time for them to be on audio platforms. That is the reason why brands should be in the race to be on audio platforms. Brands can directly tap into these behaviours. “

Singh further gave an example of Bira who wanted to be associated with Hip Hop music, so every Hip-Hop playlist was sponsored by the brand. 

Mehta of IVM Podcasts further spoke about the behaviour of podcast audiences, he said, “40% of podcast listeners at least visit the website. For branded content, ROI is not in the form of numbers. The question they (brands) want answers to is whether the branded content has worked. This can be achieved through surveys, studying website visits, etc.”