Delhi-based Hubhopper is out to make the most of India’s growing interest in podcasts. The app’s focus on India-centric content gives it an edge over Google Podcasts, Podcast Addict, and others.
It might be safe to suggest that podcasts are now mainstream in India.
What started as an iOS-only trend in the US back in 2014 with the launch of Apple’s standalone Podcasts app — that Wired magazine described as a “fundamental moment which elevated the medium to its highest level of public visibility” — and was seen as a Western trend in mature markets, is gripping Indian millennials slowly yet surely.
There are no country-specific usage numbers yet, but the increasing availability of India-centric podcasts and varied short-form audio content coupled with dropping mobile data prices has led to a podcast boom in recent years. It has led to a sea change in the audio-streaming industry, brought about habit changes in consumers, opened up new avenues in content creation and distribution, and of course, given rise to a host of podcasting startups and apps.
Delhi-based Hubhopper is one.
The startup launched as a social network in 2015 but soon pivoted into a podcast directory and short-form content aggregation platform for new-age internet users, who are always on the lookout for “bite-sized” information summaries. Hubhopper serves as a platform for audio content creators, news and magazine publishers, bloggers, and vloggers across genres and ideas.
It claims to have recorded 2-3 million impressions worldwide with an active monthly user base of 500,000. Content from over 2,000 “external channels” can be found on the platform. The Hubhopper app has been downloaded over 100,000 times on Play Store and is rated 4.8 out of 5 by users.
In July, Hubhopper raised undisclosed funds from Mumbai-based venture capital firm Unit-E Ventures. Prior to that, the app was ranked #33 worldwide in the ‘Social’ category on Google Play Store.
On the rising popularity of podcasts, Hubhopper Founder-CEO Gautam Raj Anand says, “Podcasts don’t struggle with the challenge of fragmented content consumption. Podcast creation and aggregation platforms give audiences across geographies and age groups what they want and respond to.”
“Another major factor driving the popularity of podcasts amongst millennial audiences is the flexibility they offer. Millennials are renowned for their multitasking capabilities, and podcasts engage them with their preferred content without requiring their full attention,” he adds.
Let’s now dissect the app.
Hubhopper is both a signed-in and a signed-out platform. It essentially means you can browse through its content even if you do not have an account.
But, in order to avail features like Subscriptions, Bookmarks, Ratings, Notifications, etc. and personalised AI-based recommendations, you have to sign into the app. Sign-ins are through F-connect or Google.
The first page is Discover. It is the default homepage of Hubhopper.
It lists all available content under two tabs - Podcasts and Publishers. There is also a My Feeds section that houses your reading/listening preferences (more later), and your bookmarks.
‘Discover’ groups podcasts under Hubhopper Picks, Popular in India, Recommended Stories, Trending Worldwide, Society & Culture, Business, and other sections.
A typical episode is 20-minutes long and comes with a short text descriptor.
Content from Publishers is segregated category-wise. These include Around the World, India, Bollywood, Sports, Fashion & Beauty, Design & Arts, Health & Fitness, Gadgets & Tech, and so on.
In order to build your own feed, and receive content recommendations suited to your taste, you have to hit the subscribe button.
Click on any podcast and the app takes you to a page where you can not only subscribe to that series but also browse through and download past episodes.
The ‘Similar Podcasts’ feature on every podcast lets you discover content that is similar, and that you may like. The more you use this feature, the smarter Hubhopper’s AI-based recommendation engine gets, and the lesser time you spend looking for content of your taste.
Similarly, publisher channels can also be subscribed to. Check out the YourStory channel in the ‘India’ section of the app. Hit ‘Subscribe’ to never miss a post.
You can click on a publisher channel to read and subscribe.
As you go about subscribing to podcasts and publishers, the ‘Read’ and ‘Listen’ tabs on the main menu come into action. It is your own library of content within the app that saves you ample browsing time. You can view podcasts and publishers you have subscribed to.
The last tab on the main menu is ‘My Hub’ that stores all your bookmarked content and those you have ‘loved’, i.e. hit the heart icon on.
You can group your bookmarks based on categories or ‘albums’ as they are called here - sports, travel, business, lifestyle, or any name you choose.
Sure, Hubhopper may not be a novel concept in the world of podcasts. There are multiple apps out there, some of which we have reviewed in past editions of this column here and here. Likewise, there are a host of short-form news aggregation apps, including this.
But to marry the two and provide an exhaustive platform for both is Hubhopper’s USP. Also, the strong focus on Indian content differentiates it from globally popular platforms like Google Podcasts, Podcast Addict, etc.
The app has a clean, uncomplicated interface, and its recommendation engine works fairly well. It is a lightweight app at 5.7 MB, and - most importantly- allows background play of podcasts, making it a good travel companion.
Going by the reviews on Play Store, some users have complained of bugs, but that’s common in all new apps. Future iterations would fix the issue.
So, if you’re keen to stay abreast of all that’s happening in India (and all that’s worth having an opinion on), but lack the time to catch up, Hubhopper’s content platter should satiate your appetite.