Aurora Magazine

Promoting excellence in advertising

Podcasts Everywhere

Mariam Shakil on the growing ubiquity of podcasts.
Published 17 Jan, 2024 02:04pm

Once a specialised format intended for discussions on technology, podcasts have grown into one of the most widely consumed forms of media, covering topics spanning comedy and news, pop culture and crime and more – and as the topics have expanded, so have their audiences.

A 2021 Statista analysis of podcast listenership worldwide found audiences to have consistently grown. In 2020, 332.2 million internet users worldwide listened to podcasts; by 2021, that figure had increased to 383.7 million. Reportedly, over two million podcasts were available worldwide, offering 48 million episodes.

Significant investments, such as Spotify’s one billion-dollar investment in 2020 were crucial to this transition and recently IHeartMedia reported that “podcasting contributed a record 10.5% to the business’s revenue” in the second quarter. So where do podcasts stand in Pakistan?

Since 2020, the post-Covid era has been shaping the world – as it has Pakistan. Let’s face it, it was boring to be at home and people were searching for entertainment online and in many ways quarantine was the internet renaissance for digital marketers. In Pakistan, between 2020 and 2021, the number of internet users increased by 11 million and, as a result, active social media users grew by nine million (almost 24.3%).

According to Google Trends, 2020 was the year when podcast trends spiked and the demand for personalised content increased daily. I am sure you must know at least one podcast producer.

In Pakistan, after Imran Khan was removed as prime minister in April 2022, the mainstream media was instructed to avoid giving him coverage, but with podcasts outside the purview of PEMRA, the former prime minister decided to give his first tell-all interview to the top content creators in the country. A historical analysis of Google Trends indicates a surge in podcasts in the first week of May 2022, coinciding with Imran Khan’s interview.

Given the surge in podcasts, you may well ask, what about radio (another listening medium)? The answer is that unlike podcasts, radio rarely devotes much time to a single issue. Radio caters to a ‘more the merrier’ approach, while podcasts focus on a more niche audience. Yet, in 2021, the Government of Pakistan inaugurated the Radio Pakistan Podcast, highlighting the critical need for “narrative building and countering fake news to stop sensationalism and uncertainty.” These are not my words but the words of Dr Arif Alvi, the then President of Pakistan.

The fact that a radio station launched its own podcasts demonstrates the importance of open conversations in a format that is more young people friendly – and an important fact to keep in mind is that mobile phone users in the 21 to 35 age bracket comprise 77% of Pakistan’s population. These are the Millennials and they are drawn to subjects that shape their world and which they perceive as crucial to their future. Millennials also tend to focus on issues that foster critical thinking. Young people are no longer restricted to the TV screen; knowledge is now easily accessible and available in various formats.

The trend towards podcasts is likely to continue as content creators experiment with new topics and formats. As technology advances, podcasts will become more interactive and accessible, and include features such as immersive experiences, live streaming and improved algorithms. As podcasts become ubiquitous, there will be more ways to draw in revenue from them in the form of sponsorships, merchandising, subscriptions, and offering premium subscribers access to exclusive content.

Mariam Shakil is a media planner, Brainchild.