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Will Podcasting switch to subscription model in future?

Steve Jobs was right in predicting that Podcasts would be the future of audio. "Podcasting is the next generation of radio and users can now subscribe to more than 3,000 free podcasts and have each new episode automatically delivered over the Internet to their computer and iPod,” he said, soon after Apple announced that they would support Podcasts on iTunes. 
 
Fourteen years later, podcasts have taken a giant leap where many brands, celebrities and companies are entering this space and trying to offer niche content. In these challenging times for publishing and journalism, thinking creatively and coming up with innovative business models and content formats is crucial in engaging audiences and monetisation. In such a context, audio fits the bill perfectly. 
 
Although podcasts initially began with a focus on English language content in India, they now have a regional appeal with content in Indian languages such as Hindi, Telugu, Marathi, Tamil, Punjabi, Bengali, Assamese, Rajasthani and Bhojpuri, among others. 
 
Usha Raman, a columnist with the Hindu, writes “In some ways, 2018 may be the year of “coming into its own” of the Indian podcast. Several new indie shows got off the ground, other mainstream media outlets began looking at podcasting seriously, and old-timers like the BBC began seriously considering the Indian podcast-listening market. So I guess I was pleasantly surprised, to discover that we are getting on the podcasting bandwagon after all, and with some energy.”
 
Some of the famous podcasts in India are 3 Things (News), Aakashvani (Cricket), Anupama Chopra Film Review (Films), Audiogyan (Arts & Philosophy), Baalgatha (Stories of Panchatantra, Jataka, etc), Culture chaos, Inside Line F1 Podcast, SynTalk (intellectual discussions), The Real Food Podcast (Food), The Indian Startup Show (Startups) and others.  The iTunes store has over a million podcasts to choose from. 
 
Meanwhile, the podcast industry has seen a huge spike in consumption and production in the last couple of years. Though the podcast industry is still in its infancy, its tremendous growth has also commercialised the space with advertisements bombarding the platform. Podcasts are also being used as a means to grow one’s brand. As Seth Greene of Market Domination LLC.com says “For the next three to five years, [it will be] like the new ground floor of podcasting. There are a billion listeners and that’s supposed to triple in the next few years.” 
 
However, there is no single platform for consumers to listen to podcasts. Recent data from Anchor says that 52% of podcasts listeners listen using Apple’s podcast app, 19% on Spotify, and the rest is a big 29%-long tail. While Apple never saw podcasts as a way to make money, Spotify is leveraging the platform well. According to research, nearly 20% of the listening share might already be enough to persuade some podcasts to let Spotify run their ads for them. 
 
Several listeners, however, have been annoyed by the ads in between the podcasts. Some podcasts such as Luminary Media has been runnings ads and has been cuing its listeners to avail premium ad-free content for a monthly subscription of $7.99. What one needs to understand is that creative talent and great quality content also requires a lot of investment. Therefore, subscription models allow for direct investment in talent and content.
 
In India where the industry is still at a nascent stage, podcasts are mostly ad-free and a better alternative to FM stations, which are constantly buzzing with advertisements. For a nation that has grown up listening to radio and a nation where proliferation of smartphones is skyrocketing, podcasts could pave the way forward! 
 

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