Monetizing our Ears
I came across an article the other day from Ad Age that reported findings from a study that was conducted by Ipsos for iHeartRadio. The following quote from the article is what jumped out at me, “According to the Ipsos-iHeartRadio study, Americans of all ages listen to an average of 17.2 hours of audio per week, with millennials topping the list at 18.8 hours per week each and baby boomers coming in last at 15 hours per week.”
That’s a pretty high weekly average, even if you factor in traditional radio.
A few months back, I wrote a two piece column for Voicebot about what I considered to be the impending, “Cambrian Explosion of Audio Content” (if you’d like to read it, here’s part 1 & 2). The reason for this impending explosion is based on a few things. For one, there is a burgeoning set of new devices – smart speakers, smart displays, connected cars and hearables – that are conducive to on-demand audio consumption.
The second facet is that the attention economy is moving toward our ears. The “currency” of the smartphone era is our attention (time) and the apps that have been most successful in this era, tend to be the ones that dominate our attention (FB, IG, Snap, Twitter, Netflix, YouTube, etc). These companies have been monetizing our eyes via ads or subscriptions to the point where we’ve pretty much maxed out the attention that can be derived from our eyes. There’s only a finite amount of time we can dedicate our busy lives to the attention economy through our eyes. So, what we’re starting to see is an emerging “aural attention economy” where companies are beginning to exchange audio-based content (and ads) for our time.
The most prominent example of this migration is the explosion of podcasts among the last few years. According to Edison Research’s Infinite Dial Report, the US population of 12+ year olds saw an increase in the weekly average listenership by 5% year-over-year. At 22% of the total population aged 12 and older, roughly 62 million people in the US are listening to one or more podcasts weekly. That’s an increase by about 14-15 million people in the last year alone, whereas we were seeing an increase in only about 7-8 million people each of the previous three years.
In the same way that visual-based digital content evolved beyond text, to images, memes, videos, etc, we’ll likely see audio content evolve and take different shapes. One early example of these new shapes is that as podcasting might represent long-form audio content, flash briefings offer micro-doses. As the barriers of audio content production continually get reduced by companies that are rushing in to arm publishers, there will likely be a multitude of new forms of content production, similar to how the publishing tools during the mobile era armed publishers with camera apps (snap/IG) and instant publishing (twitter/FB/etc) to allow for new types of content creation.
Ultimately, the stage is set for the aural attention economy to really blossom. New devices, means more opportunities for consumption. More consumption means more incentive for tool makers to enter the market and better enable production. It’s a virtuous cycle of value creation that compounds its own growth; a network effects of sorts. Major publishers, like the New York Times, will likely make their content accessible via the audio platforms of tomorrow, the same way that they leverage Twitter and Facebook to push their articles today. Indie publishers, like bloggers and influencers, will view audio as another avenue to grow their audiences. We’re only getting started with he ways in which we monetize our ears.
-Thanks for Reading-