Turn up the volume: why publishers should think audio, too

Nieman Lab recently reported that Slate, an early investor in podcasts, has tripled its podcast audience in the past year, as “its bet on audio over video continues to pay off…with six million downloads a month and a growing set of live events, Slate is showing one potential path for publishers in the post-Serial world: using conversation to build connection.”

It is just one of several reports online about the value of audio and publishers will do well to pay heed, considering the further impact developments such as connected cars and wearable technology might bring, writes FIPP’s Cobus Heyl

Below is a round up of some of what’s being written online.

Rupert Murdoch’s grandson launches audio news service

Marketing Week has a story [subscribers only] headlined “How Rupert Murdoch’s grandson wants to sell news back to millennials.” 

According to the article, Grace Regan (see this HuffPo piece she had written) and James MacLeod (Murdoch’s grandson) co-founded Clippet, “a short-form audio news service that offers quick-fire stories on mobile lasting approximately a minute.”

Clippet ()

According to Clippet’s FAQs page, the reason for thinking audio is this: We don’t believe that scrolling text on a phone is a smart way to read the news, and videos aren’t just data heavy but also require you to be looking at the screen. Audio allows for true multi-tasking – listen while cleaning your teeth, walking to work, checking your email or on the tube [train]. 

The Economist sees audio as “a great opportunity for publishers”

Journalism.co.uk quoted The Economist’s Robin Raven, VP of product management: digital solutions, in October last year as saying “audio offers a great opportunity for publishers.”

The Economist (a FIPP member) offers word-for-word audio files of the content in its weekly editions – online and via iOS and Android apps. Expanding their audio reach, The Economist also offers “The Economist Radio” (in beta) on Facebook (see the page here). 

Monocle’s investment in digital radio

Digiday has a story about Monocle, explaining how its biggest investment in digital has been in digital radio. 

“Audio has been huge for us. It’s a very personal medium in a tone that works well with our mission. We’re able to address topics with the warmth, levity and lightness of touch that we do with our print magazines,” Tom Edwards, Monocle’s executive producer, told Digiday. “We’re also finding it’s a great way for people to discover the brand online.”

The car – a ‘perfect medium’ for audio content

New York magazine writes here (“The great podcast renaissance”) about how the car as “medium” is perfectly made for audio content.

“The secret to radio’s success has always been the drive-time commuter. An estimated 44 per cent of all radio listening [in the US] takes place in the car, and that’s the way the radio industry likes it. Car-based listeners are captive, they tune in for long stretches at a time, and they’re valuable to advertisers. And drivers’ dedication to the AM/FM spectrum has made radio a remarkably stable medium — even in 2013, according to the Pew Research Center and Nielsen Audio, 91 per cent of Americans over age 12 listened to the radio on a weekly basis.

“Now, though, cars are going online. Both Google and Apple have rolled out connected-car platforms (Android Auto and Apple CarPlay, respectively), and most new cars sold in the US these days come with the ability to play smartphone audio over the car’s speakers, either through Bluetooth connectivity or through a USB or auxiliary plug.

“Connected cars are a boon for the entire streaming audio industry, but they’re especially exciting for podcast makers, whose shows are perfectly suited to in-car listening. Just as TV watchers can now choose Netflix or Amazon streams over surfing channels, radio listeners will soon have a bevy of on-demand options at their disposal.”

Incidentally, at the 2014 Media Hackday @ DIS, organised by FIPP, VDZ and Axel Springer’s Media Entrepreneurs, the winning team, Pressty (photo below, during their presentation at the DIS), developed a prototype that allows users to save articles for later, well, listening. [Think saving an article to Pocket to read later, but in this case the article is converted to and audio file to listen to later, for example while commuting (there is a brief video of it here)].

DIS Hackathon 2014 winners ()

The topic for this year’s Media Hackday, is the “connected car” (the hackathon takes place 21-22 March, ahead of the Digital Innovators’ Summit –Media Entrepreneurs’ colleague Jan Bechler talks about it here) and one can see how audio might feature here again.

Small screens = audio opportunity?

Adweek has an article on what wearables could mean “for your social media strategy. It says, “Wearable technology will alter how customers receive media messages because the screens for these smart devices are much smaller (about 42 mm) than a typical smart phone or tablet.”

While not on audio per se, it does not take a massive leap of the imagination to understand how audio could work with wearables too. For example, Pando has a story here, asking the question whether, “Thanks to Apple Watch, is the time finally right for a ‘Twitter for audio’?”

Umano co-founder on audio content on the go

Umano (which launched in late 2012) is described as an audio-centric app that allows commuters and others to listen to, instead of read, a selection of articles from the web. Content partners on the website include Forbes, Venture Beat, Mashable, Entrepreneur and MIT Technology Review.

While it was written to promote their new writers’ platform, this piece by co-founder Ian Mendiola on Medium has some insight into how and where audio content fits into busy lives.

The future of web audio

Finally, Knight Lab has this story on “six product categories creating the future of web audio.” They are:

1. New networks for podcasts

2. Social networks for audio content

3. Mobile operating systems in cars

4. Integrating audio into maps

5. Producing audio collaboratively 

6. The “Pandora for news apps”

Get in touch:

What are your thoughts on this? Email me.

Don’t miss

The Economist’s Robin Raven will speak at this year’s Digital Innovators’ Summit in Berlin on 23-24 March. Learn more at innovators-summit.com.

Rather watch than listen? Here are some stories to read:

YouTube, FB and Twitter square off: where do content businesses fit in?

Opinion: The three tiers of online video

Vice: targeting millennials with hip, video content

Mobile, video drive biggest increases for fifth consecutive month in the US

How video is giving content a lift

How media owners are making the most of video content

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