IAB: Digital Audio 2017

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Do you hear what I hear?

If you’re anything like me and many brand marketers, you’re increasingly noticing the connection consumers are making with a medium we all love: digital audio.

Audio is becoming more and more relevant to the digital media marketer. You don’t have to look further than the commuter with earbuds tucked into his ears to understand why. Chances are, they are listening to digital audio. According to Edison Research’s 2016 study of audio sources consumers listen to on their smartphones, nearly half of that listening is to digital audio. At IAB we’re very tuned in to the exciting play that digital audio can offer marketers. Our audio members are diverse platforms from all facets of the space.

Consumers and marketers are all ears for digital audio this year. Half of Americans listened to online radio in the past week, and 155 million in the past month. Compelled by the highly personalized and social aspects of streaming, listeners discover and listen to specific artists, build playlists and share their experience with their friends. These activities create exciting options for brand marketers and a surge in listening that earns mainstream status for streaming audio.

Meanwhile in September we watched podcasting take center stage as this year’s new digital media darling during the 2016 IAB Podcast Upfront which featured an impressive lineup of celebrities, journalists and broadcasters touting their programming to a standing room only crowd of marketers. A vast array of content delivered in short segments for easy and appealing consumption has created enormous media buzz, attracting marketers. Listeners, captivated by the content, respond favorably to podcast ads. In fact, podcast publisher Midroll reports that 61% of listeners have made a purchase after hearing an ad in a podcast.

From a marketing standpoint, audio’s ability to deliver highly impactful messaging in contexts where other digital media struggle, such as while a consumer is driving or exercising, or even housecleaning, is exciting. Connected cars give listeners access to digital audio in their cars, and provide touch points that can be close to point of purchase, an attractive feature for brands.

Audio is the only digital media that does not rely on a screen to deliver an impression. It moves with listeners throughout the day, capturing their attention and creating a soundtrack for their lives. Digital audio is a highly mobile media. A recent report from Triton Digital shows that more than 80% of digital audio consumption takes place on mobile devices.

Today’s media landscape has moved beyond connected devices like phones and tablets to include wearables, home appliances and responsive devices like Amazon Echo and Google Home. These devices and appliances enable constant connectivity and illustrate the central role that audio messaging has assumed. Many of these new devices have no keyboard, relying on voice activation and voice recognition instead, and underscoring the shift toward audio and away from touch as the central point of contact.

Another factor driving the growth in digital audio consumption are vast choices in content. Major streaming platforms offer sophisticated, personalized listening options and provide listeners with easy, unlimited choice. Meanwhile, podcast content has exploded, offering programming from celebrities as diverse as Shaquille O’Neal and Katie Couric, news outlets like Bloomberg, NPR and the New York Times, and topics from relationship advice to investing.

As we approach 2017, we at IAB see the central role of audio in the digital media landscape as it continues to expand. Programmatic access to inventory will fuel advertiser interest as more audio publishers opt into automatic trading in 2017. Factors such as impressive growth in audience, the reliable delivery of impressions whether the screen is on or off, and the impact those messages can have on active, mobile consumers will encourage advertisers to invest more dollars in audio advertising in 2017 and beyond.

Today’s often cluttered digital media landscape is challenging to marketers looking for impactful messaging strategies. Digital audio offers an innovative solution to that challenge.
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