Audience Engagement Digital Publishing
4 mins read

Why publishers remain hopeful with audio in 2023

72% of publishers plan to invest in audio this year, to engage subscribers and attract new users

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72% of publishers plan to invest in audio in 2023 as a new way to engage subscribers and attract new users. This continued focus on audio is no surprise when diving into the latest statistics in the 2023 BeyondWords 2023 Audio Engagement Report.

46% of Americans consumed spoken word content on a daily basis in 2022. For these users, spoken word makes up 51% of daily audio consumption. This is 2% greater than their music consumption, with an average listening time difference of 13 minutes per day. Clearly, demand remains for spoken word audio content. So what are publishers doing to meet this demand?

Source: BeyondWords

Recent reports suggest a slow down in podcast creation

Podcasts are the most hyped audio format but they appear to have dropped in popularity in 2022. Research from Chartr found that the number of new podcast launches in 2022 declined by 80% compared with the 2 previous years. This meant 219,000 shows debuted in 2022, a sizeable drop off from 1,109,000 in 2020 and 729,000 in 2021. In a recent interview with The Observer, award winning podcast producer Kate Taylor diagnosed that the world of podcasts is dealing with ‘the jitters’ and is in the well-known ‘difficult second album’ stage feared by musicians across the world.

This decline in launches only tells part of the story. Podcasting is a nascent market and the slowdown in creation is widely seen as a solidification of existing brands. For example, Goalhanger Podcasts launched “The Rest is Politics” podcast in March 2022 and it ended the year as the biggest podcast in the UK according to Goalhanger Podcasts Managing Director Jack Davenport. The following grew so big throughout 2022 that the podcast was able to sell out London’s Albert Hall for a live show in December 2022, just 9 months after launching.

Demand remains despite declining podcast launches

Despite declining launches, demand for podcasts remains. As of January 2023, Demand Sage reported that there are 464.7 million podcast listeners globally. Consumption is particularly strong in the Nordics according to Reuters. In Sweden, where podcast platforms Spotify and Acast were founded, podcast consumption grew by 7% to 44%. Norway placed just behind seeing 5% growth to 42%.

Publishers have seen demand for podcast growth and have increased their bundle value by providing podcast content. Dedicated audio apps have proved a hit for publishers in Europe. We have seen launches such as NRC Audio and Die Zeit Audio offering paywalled access to some specific popular podcasts. Traditionally both publishers have an older male demographic, but audio consumption has brought in both a younger and more female audience. This is no surprise with podcast audiences skewing younger, and figures such as Emma Tucker believing it is conceivable that more content will be delivered in audio than print in 10 years time.

In the US, The New York Times have also begun to experiment with their own audio app. With their bundles driving subscription growth their audio app could add to the user value of this bundle. The current state of the podcast market was brilliantly explored in an episode of the BBC podcast The Bottom Line available here.

Voice notes moving from messages to medium

Voice notes are a medium subject to a growing amount of experimentation. In the US, local news startup Sahan Journal have launched a voice note newsletter ‘Tani waa su’aashayda’ to reach Somalis in Minnesota. Sahan Journal was founded in 2019 to serve the news needs of immigrant communities in Minneapolis and the wider state of Minnesota and the audio-only newsletter is their latest way of doing this. The newsletter is distributed daily to subscribers via text with a playable voice note MP3 file. This gives them direct reach to their audiences via some of the most intimate forms of communication rather than having to rely on other mediums like social media.

Eleswhere, the BBC have widened the usage of voice notes as a method of audience engagement. For certain live shows and podcasts, listeners are invited to send their questions or comments to production teams via Whatsapp voice notes. Selected messages are played and addressed through the shows. This is a step into a new form of audience engagement. It encourages greater interaction for a public broadcaster struggling with its future identity.

Audio articles adding value

Audio articles continue to see adoption and innovation from publishers. In late 2022, Le Monde added audio functionality to their “La Matinale” app. This added another level of engagement to their interactive swiping the news experience. Articles added to the daily reading list can be played individually or will autoplay in playlist format, with a background playing functionality. This adds greater autonomy and smoother user experiences with audio articles and is a step towards better functioning audio products.

AI powered audio articles seem to have driven greater engagement with audiences in 2022. BeyondWords analysed 17 million audio plays on their integrated players and found:

  • An average listen rate of 4.19%. This means 1 in every 25 audio player loads resulted in a click.
  • An average playback duration of 59%, around 3 minutes 45 seconds. This is a greater than the average time on page of 55 seconds.

These statistics suggest greater attention is paid to content with an audio option. Their ability to allow users to multitask could be a handy engagement tool for publishers.

Source: BeyondWords

Despite concerns around drop offs in audio, the medium appears to alive and kicking going into 2023. As publishers bid to retain their subscribers by giving them more bang for their buck, expect to see more experimentation with the format.

Matthew Lynes
Media Innovation Analyst @ Twipe

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