Uncovering the What and Why Behind the Audio Boom

Audio Landscape

The audio landscape has been transformed in the past 25 years.  The number of options and opportunities to listen to audio has exploded, creating a new excitement around audio in all its forms.

The challenge for firms or organizations who are mapping out an audio strategy—or advertisers looking to capitalize on the growth of audio—is to keep pace and understand the implications of all this change.

What’s happening, and why? New developments in ‘big data’ combined with survey research are helping to answer these big questions as we move forward.

The What

Across all industries but especially media, the shift to a digital economy is delivering boatloads of data. It was estimated that, by 2020, every person on earth generated 1.7mb of data every second. Meanwhile, increased computing power and the cloud make that data more accessible than ever.     

Audio has been a bit behind the curve on this. Unlike the Facebooks or Googles of the world, a lot of audio consumption happens offline, beyond the reach of digital data. And that often puts it out-of-sight of agencies and advertisers.

Broadcast radio is particularly vulnerable. Radio’s superpower has long been analog in-car listening. When people get in their cars, they reach for the radio—it’s muscle memory, even among younger demos. Radio in the car steers listeners to bricks and mortar retail where most consumer purchases still take place. Yet radio doesn’t get full credit because most of that listening is done out of the purview of any kind of digital measurement. Even PPM audience measurement in the US and Canada doesn’t break out in-car listening from other out-of-home listening.

Podcasting has its own measurement gaps. While you can get census level download data, downloads don’t always equal listens and there is limited visibility on who’s doing the downloads.  

Prospects for the audio equivalent of ‘big data’ are however encouraging:

  • Slowly but surely, more listeners are streaming broadcast radio, providing a digital proxy for offline listening. This is leading to new measurement initiatives. Commercial Radio Australia just announced a new hybrid audience measurement that will bring streaming data into their radio ratings system.
  • Meanwhile, Drive Time Metrics out of the US has secured patents for collecting holistic in-car audio consumption including over-the-air radio listening that promises to deliver attribution as well as audience measurement.
  • Finally, thanks to efforts from attribution companies such as Podsights and Chartable and audience measurement innovations from firms like Triton Digital, podcasting is rapidly closing the gaps around measurement and targeting.

The Why

While these digital capabilities are providing increasingly granular and accurate data on what’s happening, they alone often fall short in helping us understand why.

That deeper level of understanding continues to be the domain of survey research. It’s not just about asking podcast, radio or streaming listeners why they listen the way they do—they often can’t tell you. It’s more about opening the window to what’s going on in people’s minds that allows survey research to add insight and understanding to consumption data.

Brand Lift Studies for audio are a perfect example of this. We’ve had the good fortune to do a lot of these over the past few years, giving us the chance to experience this first-hand. Digital attribution studies are incredibly helpful at tracking the effectiveness of an ad campaign to drive visits to a brand’s website or driving sales conversions. But they can’t offer any insight into a campaign’s ability to change how a listener thinks or feels about a brand.

Is the campaign helping to make the brand top-of-mind in its category? Is it building consideration or changing brand perceptions? Is it setting up the brand for long-term success? The big brands now coming into audio are asking these questions. It takes survey research to deliver the answers—and offer insight into what’s working and what’s not. The bonus with survey research is that you can get the demographics you can’t always get with digital data.

Digital data and survey research have traditionally lived in separate silos, but it’s becoming increasingly clear that one plus one can equal three.

Staying with the example of Brand Lift Studies, we’ve recently been conducting pixel-based surveys that digitally capture exposure to an audio ad campaign and deliver those listeners a survey to gauge the campaign’s impact on things like brand awareness, favourability and consideration. This real-time capture of exposure brings survey research into the digital realm to deliver top-of-funnel brand metrics.  

Keep an eye out for other opportunities where ‘big data’ and surveys are working together. By addressing both the what and the why, the audio industry and those working within it will be best positioned to profit from the changing audio landscape.

At Signal Hill Insights, we love talking audio. And we love working with publishers, advertisers and agencies to customize the brand lift solution that makes clients come back for more. Let’s set up a time to talk Brand Lift Studies: email Jeff Vidler or Joanne Van der Burgt. We’ll share what we’ve learned from the different types of studies we’ve done and talk about how we can help you.

Signal Hill Insights is an audio research consultancy. We partner with publishers, broadcasters and advertisers to tap new opportunities in audio. If you’d like to know more about our brand lift studies or the other audio research we do, visit us at https://signalhillinsights.com/