A podcasting market/ecosystem can be divided into 3 aspects:
- Technical data. Country listenership rates, audio consumption, salary rates for producers, revenue gained from podcast advertising per region. These give us a practical outlook on whether or not a market is viable, sustainable and on the rise.
- Community: Number of discussions, facebook groups, aggregators, companies within the industry. Essentially all the buzz and activity that happens around podcasting within that country - the more it happens, the more potential listeners it all attracts. It’s a cycle.
A combination of the first two will give you a healthy, mature market. eg. Supply/demand, monetary support and sustainability. Grants, funds, etc. US, UK, Australia are great examples.
The Third, and defining Asia as one market
You can't define Asia as one ecosystem.
Asia consists of many countries, cultures, subcultures, languages and different levels of technological development. To call it one market is inaccurate.
Though many markets here are at infancy stage, they are on the rise and with that comes opportunities.
The third aspect needed to grow a podcast market, which creates these opportunities, is what I call Market-specifics: points of interest that make a market unique, deriving from culture, regulation, and many other factors.
A lot of Asian markets have common Market-specific points of interest. Some examples:
- According to GlobalStats, over 80% penetration rate by Android mobile phones compared to Apple mobile devices comprising just over 15%
- Q: How do you tap into a market where a majority of potential users use Android devices? As much as listeners would tap into the podcasting space via a few platforms namely Spotify, Google Podcasts, Castbox, Podchaser on web, how will you go to where your listeners are?
Differing Standards of success
The global standard of what a successful podcast is doesn’t necessarily translate to the same in Asian countries. Some examples of:
- Leaders of Learning is a top-ranking podcast with over 400,000 downloads in 2 years
- India’s Indian Noir podcast is a critically acclaimed crime and horror fiction podcast with raving reviews and loyal listeners across India as well as the rest of the world
- Philippines has reports of podcasts with $5k/m in revenue
- Japan had an independent podcast reaching up to 8k/month in revenue, though these are outliers
Success is defined on a spectrum as opposed to a definition
A standard commonly seen globally for a successful show is 5k unique downloads per episode because by most hosting company standards, that’s when you can monetise. This could be considered the critical mass of listeners
But given how a lot of Asian podcast markets aren’t as mature, it’ll be very difficult to achieve similar numbers in countries here.
There are some exceptions however, and that brings to my next market-specific point: Listenership.
Listenership rates and podcast consumption vary across the entire region
- India: End of 2019, 40 million of India’s nearly 500 million internet users listen to podcasts. Compared to 2018, there was a 60% growth in podcast listeners. See: Qz Article and Economic Times article
- Further East, The highest listenership rate in the world is in South Korea, 58%. It’s a country with a strong radio culture and a very interesting business acumen, they’ve been podcasting since 2005
- China has a $7b audio market (not just podcasts, but also other audio educational content which is quite the unique business model)
These are countries with a very strong podcast culture, or at least with a number of listeners large enough to be worth looking into.
Note that listenership for Asian podcast markets does include non-English shows. Multilingual listenership is a rising market-specific
- Though there is a prominent English-speaking audience listening to English language shows both locally and from around the world
- There is a rapid rise in context-specific shows: podcasts in local languages that cater to those immediate audiences
- After passing the 1 million mark on total podcasts globally, Asian podcasters have mentioned that as first-movers within Asian podcasting, their English shows will thrive but once more and more non-English Asian shows pop up, they will make the bulk of the next million podcasts to be published online.
Censorship and Topic Sensitivity
- Political issues and topics have a degree of sensitivity.
- There are cases of shows being under fire for inappropriate comments on powerful figures (not to highlight a show that did this recently)
- There were talks about episodes labeled as explicit to have less visibility in Asian countries but there is no clearcut information on this being true. So for the time being, swearing and adult themes seem just fine.