How do you raise a reader during the age of the iPad? As children’s attention spans get smaller, how does one convince their child of the idyllic joys of reading and storytelling? Juggernaut Publications, along with Soha Ali Khan, may have arrived at the perfect solution — the podcast.
Story time with Soha Ali Khan , an eight episode podcast released this week, has Khan reading out a new children’s story every Friday. “As a mum myself, this is quite exciting for me,” she says, adding, “New parents have a lot of struggles, and keeping their kids entertained and busy is a big one.” Juggernaut has collaborated with Hubhopper, an Indian podcast distribution platform, and the stories chosen are uniformly short to retain the child’s attention. Juggernaut has also collaborated with six other Indian children’s books publishers, including Rupa Publications, Harper Collins India, Pratham Books and Karadi Tales for a selection of titles that are as diverse as they are engaging. There is The Rumour by Anushka Ravishankar and Night of the Doberman by Lavanya Karthik, to name a few. The first episode, which came out yesterday, is about 16 minutes long and has Soha reading The Watermelon God by Neha Singh in a slow and deliberate monotone, probably in a bid to ensure that bedtime goes as planned.
Audio streaming advantage
Audiences for audio content, specifically podcasts, are at an all-time high. Over 40 million users in India were consuming podcasts in 2019 and the number has only been growing, thanks to a combination of long commutes and slower data speeds that don’t allow for quick video streaming. The difference between podcasts and written content, says Khan, is that the former are “easy to consume”. “You can listen to audio content while driving, cleaning the house, cooking,” she says. “As for this podcast — it is special to me because I know how important and difficult it is to find good content for your kids.”
Chiki Sarkar, co-founder of Juggernaut, believes that the success of podcasts lies in the fact that they’re “essentially lazy reading”. “You get the book,” she says, “but with less effort.” Sarkar is confident about the market for audio books in India. “We’ll soon audio enable the entire app and materials there,” she says, referring to the Juggernaut app platform. “That’s our first priority and we are looking to convert our text into audio.”
More than 40% of new internet users globally in 2018 were children, according to a PwC report from last year, resulting in an estimated 62 million children, if the proportions are applied to Indian audiences. “Print is no longer the only way to reach readers,” agrees Tina Narang of HarperCollins, adding, “We need to find new and evolving formats to get children hooked to stories and storytelling and the podcast is an interesting way forward.“ Khan is confident that children will find it a good substitute to video. “It brings back the magic of oral storytelling,” she says. ”That is special and irreplaceable.”