We at Kamakshi Media ran a Beta program for our new podcast, where we used WhatsApp as the only distribution channel. Given that about 80% of smartphone users in our target demographic use an Android device, we did not want to make them/ teach them how to download and install an app to listen to podcasts. More importantly, we did not want to get into tech support of how to add a podcast feed to the app. For the beta testing, we also wanted to stay away from iTunes as the main platform till Google Play Music comes to India.
WhatsApp fit the bill because nearly 60% of Indian adult smartphone users (and nearly 80% of people in our networks) use this app.
We began with 50 Beta testers, and are at 60 listeners at present. Over a ten day period, we sent them 10 stories. We had over 400 downloads and 90% positive feedback for the stories, narration, ease of receiving the content. (The other 10% preferred video over audio).
It is summer vacation for schoolchildren in India, and while speaking to a few parents, we realized that finding good stories to narrate to children is a problem they face a lot. Earlier, grandparents used to be the storytellers, but that is not the case due to smaller families, and YouTube videos featuring childrens’ stories often don’t make the cut. The production quality is poor, music is loud, most importantly, it is a visual medium, and not quite a “bedtime story”. That’s how we came up with the idea of Baalgatha, targeted towards the parents with children below 5 years of age. The parents could listen to a short 5 minute story at work or during their commute, and narrate it to their children. Gaatha means a“Story” in many Indian languages, so it is easy to remember and understand.
Before launching the podcast, we wanted to test the idea. Lets call it our MVP. We created a channel on Audioboom (our media host), used Canva for making a podcast logo, and contacted parents within our immediate and extended networks to create a “WhatsApp list” of about 20 parents. They in turn suggested 30 more names. We did not want to make a WhatsApp group because it can lead to spamming or users forwarding information that may take the focus away from the objective. We thought of using WhatsApp’s Broadcast feature but more on that later.
The stories were narrated by our neighbor, who is a schoolteacher and a mother of two boys aged 13 and 4. Her younger son became our ‘live’ listener/ reviewer, and ultimately a superfan. Till date, we have recorded about 60 stories in English and Hindi languages, these are bedtime stories of about 5 minutes each. I did the intro/outro voiceover , and the music was creative commons licensed music. I did the editing myself.
We thought that a WhatsApp Boradcast group would be the most efficient way to send the link. We used goo.gl shortlinks for sending the story. WhatsApp broadcast group are like a “read only” message- and one can send the same message to upto 256 contacts at a time. Because our beta group was about 50 listeners to begin with, we added their phone numbers to the list and we thought all was good!
Day 1: May 1, 2016 Sunday. We sent the first story (in English) at 10 AM India time, hardly bedtime. By 3 PM, we received only 20 downloads, and a lot of parents wrote to us that they did not receive the link to the story. It turns out we had only added their number to our contacts- they had not, as a result, they did not get the message. We decided to manually send the link and the message to every user. Painful, but we simply did not want to use WhatsApp Groups. Downloads at the end of Day 1: 48 (That is nearly a 100% conversion- beginners’ luck?)
Day 2- Story was in Hindi- 40 downloads. Great feedback.
Days 3–7 (Wednesday — Saturday)- Word had spread among mothers in particular by now, and we received about 10–12 additional requests from listeners asking us to add them to the Beta group.
Day 8- Sunday We deliberately decided not to send any story today. We did get a couple of messages that asked “Where is today’s story”?
Days 9 and 10 — Looks like we have found our core audience of between 22 and 25 listeners. They interact, they give feedback, and they want to know what are the next steps once the Beta program ends.
For the rest of the month, we will send only two stories every week- one each in English and Hindi, while we focus on recording more content and working on the full scale launch. And we will get a professionally made logo, of course! The current logo is cute, it works, but needs a professional touch.
For now, we are excited that the idea works, the goo.gl link takes them to the page from where they can listen to the story, they can hit rewind if they want to listen to it again.