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  • Writer's pictureRon Jaworski

Report: how users are engaging with audio content and audio ads in 2020

Updated: Feb 10, 2022

There is an audio revolution sweeping the speakers and headphones across the globe right now. The world is moving at a faster pace little by little each day (maybe not according to physics but from a human behavioral and tech perspective). People are constantly on the go and audio fits this mode perfectly. The passive nature of audio requires less involvement than its video and text peers, which makes it a particularly attractive content option audiences are already comfortable with.

It’s a widely accepted fact that audio is a highly intimate medium that forms strong connections with the listeners. But just how strong are we talking about? That’s what we set forth to figure out.

What enables us to have the relevant info?

Here at Trinity Audio, we are fortunate to be a part of the audio revolution (or renaissance, as some like to call it) by helping audiofy the Internet and allowing publishers and content creators to offer a listening experience in 20 different languages. We’re doing it through the use of text-to-speech (TTS) technology.

So we’ve dug deep into our data to bring you relevant insights into listening habits across the globe.

Our key takeaways

Based on data from 40 news outlets that feature our audio player, there was a lot of listening going on between the months of July and September 2020 (Q3). Our main findings were:

  1. People are using their eardrums: the total listen-through rate (LTR) for audio content was 59%, which means that more than half of the total listenership listened through the entire content.

  2. Audio advertising is extremely receptive as people are listening to entire ads during their audio content consumption experience: audio ads had a whopping LTR of 91%.

  3. The longer, the better: long-form content had three times higher engagement than short-form content.

  4. Obtaining information is the favorite audio pastime with news being by far the most listened to category.

Let’s dive into details.

How people are engaging with TTS audio content

The main story here is that an encouraging percentage of listeners listened to the audio versions of news articles and blog posts from start to finish. Out of 350 million player loads, 59% of users played the content and followed through the entirety of it, which clearly suggests that the ability to consume content via audio is serving a market need.

Unsurprisingly, long-form content (five minutes and longer) is enjoying a higher LTR than shorter content. When it comes to content up to three minutes long and content between three and five minutes long, both had the exact same LTR at 55%. On the other hand, content lasting five minutes and more had an LTR of 70%, once again showing that audio is an excellent alternative/substitute for long(er) reads as it provides the listeners with an opportunity to get on with their day while absorbing the information they want.

Percentage of content LTR based on content length

In addition, CTR (people that clicked on a player) on long-form content was three times higher than that on short-form, including editorial articles and short stories and novels. This is likely tied to audio’s ability to be a portable and constant companion in situations where looking at a screen isn’t an option. This makes audio the medium of choice during increasing home activities due to its multitasking enablement, as well as decreased but still present commute times, whether in a car or via public transportation.

One interesting fact that we discovered is that there is a high engagement in countries where English isn’t the native language but people enjoy English-based content. This is primarily evidenced in traffic from Scandinavian countries like Sweden and Denmark but also in countries like Germany and Italy where English has widespread use in education and society in general.

This suggests that having an audio solution is relevant for countries that are no stranger to English but still have certain difficulties in reading a full article – similar to having English subtitles along with original English audio for easier following.

As for when users were doing the most listening, morning hours between 7h and 10h, as well as evening sessions between 17h and 20h registered the highest spikes. The most listened to category was news by a considerable margin, followed by finance/business and sports. The point here could be that more listeners are switching from light use to heavy use, forming a habit to consume certain kinds of information via eardrums.

Audio ads are working

So far, we’ve seen (or heard) that audio infiltrates our brains. The question right now is:

can that screenless link between a brand or a business and potential consumer be monetized?

It turns out – yes, very much so.

Thanks to our programmatic audio advertising (automated selling and insertion of ads in audio content) capabilities, every piece of audio content was accompanied by an audio ad. The total ad completion rate was 91%, meaning almost everyone who listened to the audio content in question also listened to an advertisement in full, which is an extremely rare occurrence in the advertising world.

These were standard, dynamically-inserted recorded audio ads, available in three lengths: 15, 30, and 60 seconds. Ads were evenly placed in pre-roll (before audio content) and mid-roll (during a section in the relevant place within the content) positions. The 30-second ads represented the majority of ads played with a 75% share, 20% of ads were 15 seconds long, while the rest were 60 seconds ads.

Percentage of ads listened and the type of ads

Interestingly, there wasn’t any significant difference in terms of which ads performed better as the margin of difference in completion was barely above 1% between the ads:

  1. 15-second ads had a 91.7% completion rate;

  2. 30-second ads had a 90.5% completion rate.

This shows us that due to its simplicity and personal connection, audio represents a new, yet familiar way to advertise, which is why listeners don’t mind it at all. Thanks to dynamic ad insertion (DAI) – a server-side audio ad technology that enables advertisers to serve audio inventory both into linear programming (live or recorded) and on-demand audio content, listeners were served the best ads, inserted contextually.

Thus, it’s fair to assume that audio advertising has a growing importance in delivering a great user experience as it’s able to reach the listener at the right time and place, and perhaps even more importantly – in the right context.

What we’ve learned

Within the entire media spectrum, audio content’s greatest advantage is the lack of screen dependence to get a message across, and it seems audiences are slowly realizing it. While a fair amount of the information outlined above is specific to certain publishers and campaigns, our data shows that audio can be a very effective option when it comes to two things (especially where other channels are helpless):

  1. increasing the reach of content

  2. boosting ad engagement

Further research will be necessary to quantify the impact of audio advertisements regarding brand recall, but the fact remains that intelligent ad technology has widened the extent of targeting. Besides the usual options, it is now possible to target audiences based on custom data points such as location, time-of-day, and similar, along with the option to contextually insert ads relevant to the topic the content consumed is about. This only adds to the personal nature of the ad creative, filling a gap in the customer journey that happens with a screen-first approach.

We hope this report primarily helps advertisers and publishers looking for an alternative and/or sustainable sources of monetization of audiences. With the ever-present screen exhaustion, the ability to connect with the audience in a natural and contextually relevant way becomes all the more important in an attempt to fill the gap(s) in the customer journey. With it, we expect audio to become equally important.


Starting with July 1st and ending with September 30th, data was compiled from 40 news outlets across the globe. The audio player was loaded slightly over 350 million times during the period, serving tens of millions of users.

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