Rise of the Podcast

Designed by Swati Sheenum
Edited by Anna Dominic

In today’s ‘zooming’ world, productivity and multitasking are seen as quintessential qualities. People schedule tasks by the minute in their to-do lists and long for the days when they had an actual attention span as well as the time to sit down and savor a book. In such an era, digital content that can be consumed on-the-go has become extremely popular. One of these forms of content is podcasting. 

Podcasts are a relatively recent phenomenon. The earliest example of a podcast was in 2003, when Dave Winer compiled interviews conducted by an NPR host. The term ‘podcasting’ was listed as a potential name for the medium in 2004 by a Guardian columnist. It received a major boost after Apple added a podcast directory in the iTunes Store in 2005. Over the 2010s, numerous companies and radio networks started their own podcasts, and many independent creators jumped on the bandwagon. Currently, there are over 1,000,000 podcasts worldwide, and even the White House uploads a downloadable weekly address. The number of listeners over the globe has doubled in the last decade. In the U.S., more than half the population has listened to a podcast, and 68 million citizens are weekly listeners. 

The boom of podcasts can be partially attributed to the general rise in online media consumption. However, there are many other aspects that appeal to netizens. First and foremost, one can hear podcasts whenever and wherever. Akin to how O.T.T. services such as Netflix are being preferred over television, people do not want their choices to be restricted by what is being aired.

Podcasts can serve as background music during the daily commute or chores, as it requires less focus than a book, and blends in with people’s tight schedules and need to multitask. It offers the listening ease of radio, but at our own convenience.

The reduction in attention span, especially among the younger generation, is also a factor. It requires significantly less effort to passively listen to audio; some even find audio more stimulating than text. A vast majority of these series are also available for free on popular music streaming services, making user access very easy.

The sheer variety of the shows available is extremely impressive. Podcast listeners are a curious lot and are keen to explore all kinds of content. As it requires less investment than video content, creators can afford to create long-form content for niche audiences. They can have in-depth discussions without being limited by 30-minute slots and mandatory advertisements. Additionally, unlike traditional media, where the shows must cater to multiple demographics to be financially viable and be family-friendly, podcasts do not have to sacrifice honest content to such constraints. Stories of all genres, trivia, sports, comedy, news, music, history, science, philosophy, education, mystery, are just some of the countless themes available.

One may choose a popular one, such as TedTalks, or a ridiculously specific podcast on pens or the history of gnomes.

One may ponder over the road ahead for traditional print media, and how they would compete with the appeal of podcasts. Though there remains a steady crowd of bibliophiles who are devoted to hard copies of books, there is a strong realization that podcasts can complement and even enhance the effect of text. Publications such as TIME, Vogue, Forbes, B.B.C., and The Economist are branching out and have their own popular news update podcasts. Furthermore, podcasts are being used to establish an all-round experience to attract new audiences. Human voices are often considered more impactful in telling compelling stories, especially when there is considerable sentiment involved. When a person is narrating their struggles, one is far more moved when the emotions in their voice can be directly heard. Light-hearted conversation with celebrities can make them feel more real, and restore the human touch sometimes missing in the written word.

Why would you choose to read your favorite indie artist’s interviews, when you could listen to a more intimate conversation along with live performances on ‘Maed in India’?

Though the growth of both creators and listeners has been slower in India as compared to other countries, there is immense scope for the industry. Audio streaming is growing at a rapid pace, and the average mobile data consumption is set to skyrocket by 2022. As radio stations are unable to talk about various topics, such as politics and taboo concepts, there emerges a gap which podcasts can fill. Being a nation with a predominantly young population and long commutes, we are a massive market for the medium. One obstacle is the scarcity of podcasts in regional languages which restricts the audience to the urban English-speakers. Furthermore, many potential creators are not quite aware of how to go about the process. There were an estimated around 40 million Indian podcast listeners by the end of 2018. Series featuring Bollywood celebrities, such as ‘#NoFilterNeha’, can serve as a way to introduce new users to the medium. The entry of streaming services such as Spotify and YouTube Music can also offer a much-needed boost to the domestic popularity of the medium.

Our campus has also become a conducive spot for budding podcast initiatives.

The Other Side, hosted by Sabya and Surya, was started in April. It aims at helping current students make better decisions for their future by listening to the experiences of prominent alumni. In nine successful episodes, the series has garnered an impressive 3000 unique listeners. Ganga hostel has also launched its own podcast: Those Were The Days, hosted by Jayat Joshi. An initiative of the Sports and Literary Secretaries, the series features interviews of graduating seniors who talk about their experiences of ‘insti life’, LitSoc, and Schroeter. 

Speaking of campus podcasts, The Fifth Estate is launching its very own podcast within the month, hosted by Sai Guha. The series seeks to give a voice to a wide range of people across the institute and use the medium to, quite literally, capture their pure perspectives. It will also highlight various pressing issues that are important to the students. On the lineup are exciting topics, such as social life, PoR culture, student burnout, and women in insti. Along with addressing these matters, the podcast also has an essential purpose: to remind people that they are not alone. The T5E Podcast will be out for streaming on Spotify, Google and Apple Podcasts, as well as other platforms. 

Podcasts are an instrumental digital innovation, as they make consumption of content practical and user-friendly. They feature something for everyone, be it learning new information, wanting to have a good laugh, or even as sleep-inducing audio. The industry is poised to grow even further as its reach expands. One can’t help but wonder, if one day one might walk by a group of friends and find them passionately discussing the latest episode of their favorite podcast.


For more information and updates on the upcoming T5E podcast here: Vox Populi Vox Insti
For more information on The Other Side podcast, click here: TOS
For the Ganga Hostel Podcast, click here: Those Were the Days


2020 Podcast Stats & Facts (New Research From Apr 2020). (2020). Retrieved 4 June 2020, from https://www.podcastinsights.com/podcast-statistics/

Pot, J. (2013). The Evolution Of The Podcast — How A Medium Was Born [Geek History]. Retrieved 4 June 2020, from https://www.makeuseof.com/tag/the-evolution-of-the-podcast-how-a-medium-was-born-geek-history/

Bhattacharya, A. (2019). India’s podcast buzz is now getting loud and clear. Retrieved 4 June 2020, from https://qz.com/india/1744657/podcasts-may-be-key-to-apple-spotify-jiosaavn-streaming-war/

Telling stories through audio to ‘Mann ki Baat’, the rise of podcast in India. (2019). Retrieved 4 June 2020, from https://economictimes.indiatimes.com/small-biz/startups/newsbuzz/telling-stories-through-audio-to-maan-ki-baat-the-rise-of-podcast-in-india/articleshow/71370865.cms

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