Back in February 2019, when I started writing this blog, two words were at the center of it:
The media world was undergoing a rapid expansion to the eardrums, getting to know and embrace an innovative way to connect with its audiences on a more personal and intimate level. More and more people embraced the on-the-go model of doing things, shifting how they consume their content.
I’ve been fortunate to witness firsthand this amazing, transformative change and be an active part of creating an entirely new world of audio experiences.
In this ever-evolving audio world, every format, platform, and device has a role in forging deeper and more meaningful relationships.
These days, content creators of all shapes and sizes are focusing on creating engaging audio content that perfectly aligns with their audience’s daily media habits, distributing it smartly and reaching more people where they’re at - listening.
How audio journeys have evolved
In these times of efficiency where most of us are accustomed to doing multiple tasks at once, it was imperative for publishers and brands to provide their audiences the ability to listen to their content, thus kickstarting their audio journey.
A text-to-speech solution was and still is the logical first step to getting the show on the road. It’s simple to integrate, cheap, and highly customizable and scalable thanks to the inherent AI element. The end result is a native listening experience that is in line with the current needs of a growing audience of listeners.
On a side note, TTS is also the easiest and simplest solution to identify if your audience is interested in audio content in the first place.
It’s very easy to test it out and feel the pulse, so to speak. If the sentiment is a positive one, which it usually is, it’s a straightforward path from there to build on that foundation by gradually increasing the pace and creating an entire universe of audio experiences. Because once you enter the audio world, that’s where things get really interesting.
With the reality of a pandemic looming over us, media behaviors have evolved. Most of the media industry was expecting to see sharp drop-offs in time spent listening because the commute, one of the favorite listening times, practically disappeared overnight.
Instead, audiences came back. In fact, time spent with digital audio actually increased 8.3% to 1 hour and 36 minutes per day. That strong listening bond will be reinforced by adding three more minutes to daily consumption in the next two years.
Because the loss of commuting time means that people are simply listening at different times, most notably at home. While there may not be spikes during commute times anymore, there also aren’t any significant drop-offs during the day. It’s spread out throughout the day.
As a medium, audio has everything: dramatic storytelling, fancy sound landscapes, and a convenient way to obtain information.
The ease of use is a major point to be aware of. I’m the living proof: I browse most websites for a very short time but have no problem listening to their audio versions for five, ten minutes, or longer for podcasts. I do it virtually any time of the day, at work or home.
Don’t you too? I know for a fact I’m very mainstream in that respect.
To top it all off, for us listeners, there is an abundance of options when it comes to content that interests us and how we can listen to it.
In other words, listening is an experience, and you have to treat it as such.
It’s something that simply happens to you. It doesn't require active involvement on our part, and it progresses with or without us. We are free to stroll around in our minds, tune in and out. Yet, the forward motion of the story will be there.
So, offering your content in an audio version is a good start. Creating all sorts of smart audio experiences, as you’ll learn below, is the natural next step.
Winning over ears
Now, the question is: how do you do that?
I’d argue the first thing is to think more holistically about two things:
How audio fits into a listener’s daily routine
How the resulting engagement can become a more strategic part of your media mix.
Content has outgrown traditional user behaviors. Supported by new technologies, it has evolved dramatically.
The underlying message of this tech-driven transformation of the media ecosystem is very clear, or at least should be to content publishers of all shapes and sizes: now is the time to innovate to keep up with user behaviors.
Let’s start with the basics. Thanks to AI, a listener can change the gender of the voice, switch to a different language (in some cases even the accent), set the playback speed, and more.
Then, it’s possible to tweak almost every aspect of the listening experience, from the smallest details such as the pronunciation of specific words or phrases to different voices for different paragraphs, different speech patterns for each voice, multi-language support, and so on.
Historically speaking, audio has been the fastest way to deliver information. As such, readily available audio content can be further repurposed, such as recording breaking news briefings multiple times a day to keep content fresh and your company connected to your community.
Audio has a huge reach and holds a special place in listeners’ lives so the next step is to maximize its exposure and value.
There is content available in almost every format, topic, and length, making for a portable and more accessible solution than text or even video.
Our choices are largely based on our mindset and activity, as well as the time of day.
For a short burst of information, there’s a flash briefing skill only a shouting distance away from the voice assistant of your choosing, regardless of the device it inhabits. A long story with developed narratives is what podcasts excel at. If you want news updates and daily posts, audio articles have got you covered. Both formats can easily be leveraged through mainstream audio platforms.
With AI-generated audio content, you’ll quickly accumulate a library of content you can leverage to target listener segments. By aggregating various forms of audio content such as audio articles, sound bites, podcast episodes, radio shows, and similar across your individual ecosystem and the Internet, you can create targeted playlists.
Compile all the relevant content you published and create a playlist for a specific segment like finance, for instance. Mix and match between various types of audio content to provide a broader understanding of related topics, or simply provide your listeners with updates.
This can be especially beneficial when trying to engage listeners and increase organic reach with user-generated or branded playlists that act as audible representations of a certain company, its product or service.
In short, there are plenty of options to create portable, personalized streams of information and further build smart experiences crafted for eardrums.
Audio is a trusted and versatile medium that offers magnificent opportunities to consumers, creators, and advertisers. It’s a reliable companion and a trusted authority that keeps listeners updated on the go, anywhere they may be, whenever they want to connect.
As the world of audio continues to expand and evolve, publishers and brands need to adjust their playbooks to deliver on listeners’ evolving demands and needs. To win attention, you have to work harder than ever to make sure what you’re delivering are relevant experiences through different formats, platforms, and devices.
With the resilience and adaptability shown in the worst of times in 2020, there is no stopping audio. For those looking to create content for a mass, highly engaged audience at scale, it is at the core of the most practical content strategies.
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