What can content creators learn from the growing popularity of podcasts in Indonesia?
Analysis by Linnah Tan
Design by Eeza Sheren
Words by Michelle Lee
Data by Yi Kuang Loh, Ankit Kalkar
This boom has driven fresh demand for digital entertainment, where YouTube currently reigns supreme as the most popular social media platform in Indonesia. Indonesians go to YouTube to be entertained, to feel connected to others, and to relax, with the platform even characterized as a digital “friend”.
While the growth in demand for video is well-documented, there’s a lesser-known digital entertainment format that’s growing - podcasts.
Indonesia listens to podcasts more than any other country in Southeast Asia.
Over 20% of Indonesian Spotify users listen to podcasts every month. And with the growing need for at-home entertainment during COVID-19, listening rates have only risen further.
Global platforms have started to take notice of the opportunity Indonesia presents as a podcast market. Streaming giant Spotify acquired exclusive rights to nine podcasts in May 2020, including Rintik Sedu, a literary podcast hosted by novelist Nadhifa Allya Tsana, and Kinosgina, a podcast about family and relationships.
As the interest in podcasts grows, we ask: what can content creators learn from the growing popularity of podcasts in Indonesia?
Searches for podcasts in Indonesia have seen a steady rise over the past 5 years, hitting new peaks in June 2021 (Source: Google Trends)
We created a dataset of 4,519 Indonesian podcasts, collected from Jan to Dec 2020.
We looked at both the top-ranked and top-searched podcasts for a holistic overview of the market. Top-ranked podcasts represent existing favourites. Top-searched podcasts are those that listeners are currently curious about, and are high-profile titles with promising acquisition potential.
When creating the podcast dataset, our primary data sources were charts (including but not limited to Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, Spotify, PlayerFM, myTuner, Chartable) and local listicles. We used Google Adwords to identify the top searched podcasts.
Let’s take a look at what we found:
Podcasts for entertainment
The mobile-first market of Indonesia is uniquely suited to podcast adoption.
Smartphones are the primary means by which Indonesians consume media, no matter the time of day. As such, Indonesians don’t differentiate between mobile content and other content based on occasion. Unlike markets like the US, where podcasts serve as bite-sized servings of information consumed during one’s commute, Indonesians prefer to listen to podcasts before bed to unwind. This coupled with increased accessibility through partnerships between entertainment providers and telcos, have helped podcasts to break through in Southeast Asia’s largest economy.
The most popular podcasts promise listeners entertainment, however their topics ensure that this is intertwined with societal issues and surface important cultural conversations. A common format for podcasts involves entertainers and guests discussing social topics and current affairs in an irreverent manner. On Hiduplah Indonesia Maya, the comedian Pandji Pragiwaksono performs 20-30 minutes long stand-up on a variety of topics from COVID-19 to plant-based diets. Close the Door, hosted by YouTuber Deddy Corbuzier (who has an IG following of 9.6 million), similarly tackles topics ranging from cryptocurrency to cancel culture.
Storytelling podcasts fill the gap between video and literature
Many of the most popular podcasts in Indonesia focus on telling stories.
Horror stories are a hugely popular subgenre, including notable podcasts like Podcast Malam Kliwon and Do You See What I See. The growing interest in horror reflects the resurgence of home-grown Indonesian horror films in a new format.
Bedtime stories form another subgenre, with podcasts like Teman Tidur (Sleep Friend) promising to lull listeners to sleep. The popularity of these shows reflects the way Indonesians use podcasts as short-break entertainment to relax and unwind, particularly before bed.
The popularity of the storytelling format could potentially be linked to the lack of a reading culture in Indonesia, with a 2016 study ranking Indonesia 60th out of 61 nations when it comes to reading interest. Instead, Indonesians typically prefer to consume their content through video: 88% of Indonesian internet users actively watch YouTube.
Podcasts fill the gap between video and literature. The audio-only format encourages the use of the listener’s imagination in the same way literature does, with Podcast Malam Kliwon describing its aim as ‘bringing you into the theatre of mind’ [membawa anda ke masuk dalam theater of mind].
In addition, podcasts can allow for unique crossovers between traditional fiction and a digital-savvy millennial audience. One of the most popular podcasts at the moment, Rintik Sedu, is created by the novelist Nadhifa Allya Tsana. The writer, whose podcast has 2.2m Instagram followers, shares her personal love stories and experiences on the podcast, bringing a new audience to her fiction at the same time.
Relatable life experiences fulfil desire for social connection
Sharing of life experiences was another common topic among top podcasts, with many popular podcasts stating that their aim is for the listener to feel less alone.
The popularity of relatable content is driven by Indonesians turning to content to meet certain social and emotional needs. We see this on YouTube, where Indonesians turn for relaxation and ‘me-time’, forming emotional connections to creators and engaging with personal, authentic, content. Podcasts can be seen as an extension of this desire for parasocial connection. At the same time, the more intimate audio-only format facilitates the discussion of more serious topics, such as mental health and relationships.
Menjadi Manusia (Being Human) provides a platform for diverse perspectives from underrepresented minority groups, describing itself as providing a “glimmer of hope” [setitik harapan] to its listeners. Married couple Baba and Bibu, the hosts of Obrolan Babibu (Babibu Chat), share the trials and joys of running a household. Similar to Menjadi Menusia, they hope that their stories can be relatable to other married couples, “keep[ing] you from being lonely even in a crowd” [membuat kalian jauh dari kesepian walaupun di tengah keramaian].
Love and heartbreak is another popular topic, with podcasts like Teman Tidur, Rintik Sedu, and Podcast Patah Hati (Broken Heart Podcast) providing a platform for hosts to muse about the topic of relationships.
As a result of social stigmas and limited access to medical professionals, some podcasts serve an important need of educating listeners about mental wellness and providing emotional & psychological support through life’s challenges. Satu Persen (One Percent) focuses on self-growth, with episodes covering topics like impostor syndrome, attachment styles, and toxic social media. Ngomongin Hidup (Talk About Life) similarly discusses topics like self-love and finding one’s purpose in life.
Grasping the podcast opportunity
How can content creators and digital audio platforms break into the Indonesian podcast market?
In Indonesia, YouTube continues to dominate. Yet, as podcasts continue to rise, we see them take on a complementary role to video.
Podcasts offer several advantages over video for both creators and listeners. For new creators, podcasts are a cheap and accessible route to market. For creators with large followings, podcasts are a way to A/B test new content and extend their reach to new occasions and audiences. For listeners, podcasts are easily and cheaply streamed due to their low data requirements, fulfilling a desire for anywhere, everywhere, any format content from their favourite creators.
We’re already seeing a large crossover between YouTube and podcasts: most of the top podcasts are cross-posted to YouTube. In fact, popular YouTubers like Andrii helped to build podcasting as a format in Indonesia by starting podcasts and bringing over their existing audiences. Opportunities may involve helping YouTubers with production as they move into podcasting, and vice versa.
As YouTubers move into podcasts, they can succeed by adjusting the formulas that made them popular on YouTube for the more immersive, thought-provoking podcast format. For example, creators can keep producing the personal, authentic content that is popular on YouTube, but capitalize on the audio-only format by telling stories or discussing difficult topics.
For us, a next step could be layering genres of popular YouTube content with podcast data to discover the gaps in video content that podcasts can fill, whether topics, demographics, or listening occasions.
Some quick facts about podcasts in Indonesia:
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