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Author : Shefali Soni

Today morning, when I opened up LinkedIn as a part of my daily routine, I came across this post and was quite surprised because I didn’t know so many people were now using Clubhouse.

This social media audio-only networking platform has taken the internet by storm. If I were to explain it in simple terms, I would say it is something like multiple TED Talks happening at the same time, but 1. You can be a part of the conversation 2. You cannot actually see the speaker, only an image of them

In spite of being iOS and invite-only, it has increased its user base by 5x times in the last 2.5 months, the success of which can be attributed to one fact: the rise of digital audio content.

Within the ecosystem of the Indian users alone, listening to audio streaming platforms has gone up by about 42%. What started on radio sets in the past has now spread to Spotify, Gaana, Apple Music, YouTube, and several other platforms. On Spotify alone, the popularity of podcasts has increased by 24%.

With monetization on the cards, organizations have already started trying to use the platform for advertising, marketing, promotion, and so on. This extends to radio ads, voice search, and on-demand streaming. A recent survey showed that 41% of listeners claimed that they trust the ads that they hear on podcasts.

But why are people listening to podcasts so much?

  1. People feel like they are directly being spoken to. A lot of podcasts have only one speaker, while others have one more guest indulging in a fun conversation, that sometimes requires the listener to think, too.

  2. The range of topics being offered as podcasts is HUGE. Right from mythology, to daily news, to poetry, to business stories, podcasts seem to have it all. The duration, too, is flexible - whether you wish to hear something motivational on your 20-min drive to work, or perhaps a story before bedtime. They are available in Hindi, Kannada, Bengali, etc, and are not constrained to any one language or area.

  3. As compared to audio-visuals, podcasts do not require your complete attention. One could simply be chopping vegetables, and learn something new about their country’s history in the meantime.

  4. The lockdown has been hard on people, and podcast serves as a nice source of both entertainment and inspiration as well as a source of company. A lot of consumers think it reminds them of their childhood when their grandparents would read out stories to them.

Like every other form of media, digital audio too has been used as a tool in the bad light of things. One instance is the usage of Clubhouse clips of Prashant Kishor, used out of context during the recent Bengal elections. An upcoming worry about digital audio as a whole is how speakers can often preach the wrong things, and a large community (of up to 5000 people on Clubhouse, for example) would listen to it, and probably not fact-check things before considering that a concrete opinion/statement. A toxic extreme-positive-hustle culture is on the rise, and the last thing this generation needs is another platform to convince them of it. Without moderation and accountability, like every other social media platform, Clubhouse is capable of becoming a space that people use for hate generation, propaganda, and more.

What does the future look like for digital audio content?

With its ease and the level of creative freedom it provides, audio content is not going away anytime soon. In fact, Apple alone has 1.96 million podcasts, a number that is increasing by the day. It seems to be a complement instead of a supplement to other sources of content consumption. Will people choose it over, say, Netflix or YouTube videos? Perhaps not. But podcasts are sure to be more significantly engrained in the life of individuals and as learners, give several opportunities to hold conversations with people we consider role models.


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