With behavior shifting, the audio market’s growth offers a unique environment for brands to stay top of mind with consumers.
While consumers are settling into their new routines of life at home, consumption habits are shifting dramatically across digital mediums.
For the first time in history, we are seeing a decline in live TV viewership during a crisis. Typically, natural disasters or public crises are a driving force behind rising time spent with live TV, but not in this instance. In its place, consumers are turning to mobile now more than ever to stay connected and informed through social media, radio, and podcasts.
Nielsen estimates that Americans are spending just shy of 12 hours each day with media platforms. With hundreds of millions sheltering at home, listening behaviors are beginning to change.
Genre choice reflects listeners’ attitudes
For podcasts, in particular, downloads are up. The industry saw the highest number of downloads within a five-day period in mid-March. Listeners have shifted categories and are spending more time with news programs, resulting in a 30% increase in downloads. Contrary to typical podcast listening trends, a majority of podcast listening is now occurring throughout the day instead of primarily during commuting hours.
Additionally, we are seeing content focuses shift to fit the current state. Podcast genre choice reflects listeners’ attitudes towards the world around them. We’re seeing that users are focusing their podcast listening time on self-improvement and spirituality. Within the first two weeks of March, Italy experienced enormous growth in those two topics as religion and spirituality podcasts were up 1500%, and self-improvement podcasts increased 500%. While U.S. trends resulting from the novel coronavirus outbreak trail a few weeks behind those of Italy, books are already up by 250%, and religion and spirituality are up 160%, according to Katz. As sporting events are canceled or postponed indefinitely, sports-related podcasts are taking a hit. Listens to podcasts in Acast’s Sport and Recreation category over the weekend were down -2% globally. However, it is likely this trend may reverse as sports podcasts adapt their content for the current circumstances.
It’s no secret that people turn to music in tough times. iHeartRadio digital listeners grew by 21% at home. Broken down, the increases were 30% among the top 3 smart home speaker listeners (Alexa, Google Home, and Sonos), 20% for those listening via the web, and 23% listening through smart TVs. And it’s not just the content that’s benefitting, it’s the people as well. Based on a Pandora user study, 88% of people reported that music improves their mood, 89% said music relaxes them, 85% said music makes them happy, and 74% said music motivates them.
Audio meditations, work from home playlists, and SiriusXM content are all resources and key content verticals listeners are going to lean into as we adapt to a “new normal,” according to Pandora. As increased domesticity becomes the norm, we’re seeing an increase in cooking and housework playlists, as well as children’s music, and a move away from music intended for group celebrations and work.
Brands embrace audio
As consumers are turning to audio to pass the time, brands need to reassess their marketing strategies to leverage these mediums. At a glance, here are a few thought starters for brands to consider as they look to embrace audio:
- Seek additional forms of human connection. Prioritize audio inventory within content that has on-air personalities to reach consumers who are engaged and seeking connection and comfort.
- Develop an audio content strategy that demonstrates awareness and sensitivity of the current climate and consumer mindset. Consider switching up your digital audio context to include more types of channels — i.e., calming channels, meditations, work from home playlists, and children’s music.
- Offer consumers value as they look to escape and unplug. Be willing to try new targeting strategies while also being agile with messaging against the current environment.
With consumption behavior shifting and engagement rates surging, the audio market’s growth offers a unique environment for brands to stay top of mind and further drive consideration amongst consumers. And while the current climate is a challenging one, the brands that deliver successfully against the new consumer expectations will position themselves for strong growth after the crisis abates.
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