At the turn of this century, blogging and social networking were entirely different animals. When I first started blogging in 2001, we were just a bunch of people sending out long-form rants and opinions and connecting with like-minded people, egging each other on to share their labour of love – a doodle here, a poem there.
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And then somewhere down the line, the concept of monetisation exploded and brought in thousands of new blogs, ideas, recipes, fashion advice, and more. The purists hated it, the pragmatists jumped the bandwagon, and I watched from the side-lines thinking that if it something worked for people, it is a much better way to making money or a side income. The difference between internet successes and non-performers, at least in my opinion after years of watching the space explode, is the openness to embrace the options that come your way, with no fear of judgment or unnecessary hang ups.
But not everyone loves to write, or even can write. The best thing about the Internet is that it gives people a platform to try everything once. So in came podcasts. While the space is not as big in India as it is in the West, it holds immense potential. According to Zafar Rais, Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of digital marketing agency MindShift Interactive, the current numbers – of producers and listeners – are so small that no studies have been done on the medium in India yet. He adds that it may be a bit of a chicken-and-egg situation at the moment: few listeners come on board because there isn’t enough varied content coming out of India; few content creators are looking at this platform because of its limited potential for virality because there aren’t as many audiences as for, say, videos on YouTube; and few companies are interested to do brand-building exercises or advertise on a platform that has few listeners and significantly fewer content generators.
In the same Mint deep-dive on the podcast scene in India, Tripti Lochan, CEO of VML Qais, says that the uptake of audio podcasts in India has been snail-paced, but this is just starting to change. According to her, the first thing to do is to find a genre that is going to reel people in but which is not easily available on mainstream channels, like storytelling in local languages.
This form of storytelling was huge in India in the ‘70s and ‘80s, before the era of daily soaps, when families would tune in stories on the radio. Perhaps it is time to revisit the space with new ideas, exposure, and a whole different set of evolved audience.
Most importantly, with the internet content explosion in recent times through videos and content aggregators, breaking the clutter with an overused format is more difficult than you imagine. This gives podcasting an edge in India. You will never know till you try.
We bring to you some ways in which you too can start and monetise your podcast, especially in a world whose audience is moving further away from long-form content to the instant gratification of audio-visual formats.
Clearly, content is the most critical part in getting an audience. Monetisation needs you to be entertaining or educational, with a significant following. My take is that it is best to share what you love, ensure you have a USP in your market, and think about monetising later. For instance, All India Bakchod started off with podcasts before moving into videos and streaming channels like Hotstar. And the one thing they had sorted was the quality of content and their niche – good comedy. Whatever you do, let your personality shine through. If you are witty and funny, let it show. If you are serious about the grave themes you speak about, let it show too.
Whether you want to be a prose and poetry channel on Soundcloud or a star home cook sharing stories and recipes, or a pro-choice feminist for a group of people subjected to years of seemingly benign conditioning, as long as your content is unique and relatable at the same time, audience will follow.
Don’t be afraid to use the power of inexpensive internet advertising. Native reach and organic shares is one way to grow your audience; using social networking’s targeted advertising is another.
Find sponsors that are aligned with your content and audience and work towards shared goals. For instance, if you are creating a career counselling podcast for high school seniors, tying up with an education partner will be easier and more satisfying than tying up with an ecommerce portal. A shared vision is a good way to be sponsored without what might feel like selling your soul, something most creative early adopters are afraid of.
Give away some content for free, and once you have built an audience that trusts your voice and advice, you will find opportunities for paid services like a virtual panel discussion about burning issues, e-books, online course, or consulting services.
Podcasts have proven to be a great way to share your ideas with the world, and it is clearly what blogging once was. If you already have an audience, thanks to your many years of blogging or are a Twitter or Instagram influencer, your chances of succeeding at podcasts are higher. You will not know what it can do for you till you try!
Do you still need more inspiration to get on to the podcast bandwagon? These stories might help:
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