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The Next Frontier for Radio

At a time when brand safety is a critical consideration for advertisers online, digital audio stands apart as it offers a premium, brand-safe environment, writes Lee Thompson. 

The digital audio market represents one of the least cluttered spaces in digital advertising and therein lies the real and present opportunity.

In the last 6 weeks alone, there have been significant moves by key industry actors highlighting a market that is ripening quickly on the back of growing listenership worldwide. In February
news emerged that AudioBoom, the UK podcasting company will be merged with larger US rival Triton Digital in a £134m deal. In March, Pandora, the largest music streaming service in the U.S.,  announced that it would acquire AdsWizz, the global leader in digital audio ad technology. Both deals will allow the combined entities expand quicker in the fast-growing market for digital audio advertising.

Digital audio is more than just radio online. It covers a wide range of services including broadcast radio stations online, online only radio stations such as RTE Pulse, on-demand music services such as TuneIn and Spotify and podcasts.

“At an all adult level, smartphone listenership declines with age whereas FM listenership increases with age.”

All of the above can be accessible via a publisher’s desktop player, its native apps or via third parties like TuneIn or aggregation services such as iTunes.

At a time when brand safety is a critical consideration for advertisers online, digital audio stands apart as it offers a premium, brand safe environment.

Allied to this is a listening environment which is sought out, on-demand, pristine and uncluttered.

Concerns regarding ad-blocking and ad fraud, which are very real in the digital display and video worlds, don’t apply here.

With over 70% of users consuming content with their headphones on, digital audio provides a media experience which is intimate and immersive and given that mobile is the primary access device,  digital audio is truly with listeners throughout their day. This dynamic creates powerful opportunities for building frequency and ensuring continuity of advertising message.

The degree of engagement with digital audio content is also unequalled. Whereas the average listen length for a piece of video is 2 minutes, for podcasts the average listen length stands at 20 minutes.

Podcast listeners are a very select club. According to Acast, a global leader in podcast hosting and monetisation, they are very hard to reach. 81% cannot be reached though Spotify and 62% do not listen to Commercial Radio (Source: Acast Listener Survey, 5000+ respondents, 2016). Aha!

Some local research we conducted confirms that digital audio listenership is different and distinct from FM listenership. This is reassuring for advertisers and the programmers themselves as they can rely on digital audio to add cover or incrementality to existing FM radio plans. Digital audio’s peak listening hours happen outside of the peak listening hours for FM ie. it over-indexes versus FM before 9am and after 5pm.

In keeping with FM, digital audio offers daypart and geographic targeting. The model is cost per thousand impressions and unlike video where very often viewers lose a large chunk of their lives to consecutive pre-roll video ads, there is just one pre-roll audio ad. Digital audio offers, either via first party registration data and/or third party mobile ID data, demographic (eg. households with children) and interest targeting opportunities (eg. interested in Technology or Cars).

In terms of metrics, post campaign reports focus on listen though rates (LTR) which correspond to the % of the audio ad that is listened to in full. Across the campaigns we have run at i-Believe, we see an average listen through rate of 90%. This compares with a much lower average for video. This reflects the fact that digital audio is a deeply personal medium with limited to no visual media distractions.

A very good research reference point to understand digital audio listener behaviour, albeit in the UK, is Rajar’s quarterly MIDAS survey.

In its latest wave 42% of the entire population have either listened to an on demand music service,  podcast or a listen again service in the past month. Where on demand music services are a big hit with 15-24 year olds, podcasts are more popular amongst 35 year olds+.

At an all adult level, smartphone listenership declines with age whereas FM listenership increases with age and interestingly on mobile, consumption of on-demand music services and digital track listening eclipses live FM radio listening.

Yes this is a different market but in the absence of similar local research, directionally I think it is spot on. Intuitively and anecdotally, we all know that digital audio is the thief of a growing proportion of our leisure and commute time.

And in keeping with all nascent media, where consumers have adopted quickly and in growing numbers, advertisers generally have been much slower to react.

That said, in the UK, Radiocentre has estimated digital audio ad spend at 5% of total Radio commercial revenues.

In Ireland, based on agency estimates, we believe that total digital audio spend in 2017 was a very meagre €750,000 which equates to well under one percent of total commercial radio revenues.

Suffice to say there is a long way to go to calibrate consumption with ad spend. In that vacuum lies a bright opportunity for smart planners and clever clients.

At i-Believe we are attempting to bridge the gap. We have launched a digital audio proposition called Audio One. Audio One is a mobile-led digital audio marketplace, giving advertisers a single digital audio buying point across all types of digital audio inventory including FM broadcasters, on demand music services and podcasting platforms.

With a monthly reach of over 750,000 adults, a listened yesterday share approaching 10% of FM listenership and audio advertising opportunities across some of the best loved and most popular local and international radio stations, on demand music services and podcasts, we expect to play an important part in making this market.

Lee Thompson is co-founder of i-Believe, Insightful Media and Sing!

First published in Irish Marketing Journal (IMJ March 2018)© to order back issues please call 016611660

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