The content landscape is a crowded one. But we already know that.

As marketers and content creators, it’s our job to help audiences wade through the free-for-all that is today’s internet. We need to rise to the demands of customized experiences to deliver only the most relevant, necessary content.

However, ‘what’ is only part of the personalization puzzle; the ‘how’ and the ‘when’ is just as important.

Content consumers are moving to a medium that can shift with them throughout their day and be utilized anywhere, anytime, hands-free. That format, of course, is audio.

Audio has the ability to connect with listeners at times that weren’t previously possible, such as at work, during commutes, or while at the gym. The ability to reach audiences through audio during content ‘blackout’ hours is huge, offering the opportunity to reach new people or gain additional traction with existing followers. (Heidi Cohen)

Aside from audio’s versatility and portability, there’s also the fact that people just like listening.

With the average American spending a whopping 16+ hours per week consuming audio, if you’re not adding audio into your content strategy, you’re running the risk of being left behind.

From long-form to short-form, from creating new content to repurposing existing material, here are 7 ways you can start leveraging audio to increase engagement, accessibility, and adoption of your brand.

1. Audiofy existing content

While the idea of introducing a new content medium into your strategy may seem overwhelming, an easy place to start is in your published content archives. Consider adapting both written and video content into an audio format.

Doing so can help with:

  • Accessibility — publishing your content across several mediums will make your content more available to those with physical and learning disabilities. Consider recording narrations of your written pieces to be embedded alongside the original content, or turning YouTube and Vimeo videos into audio only files for posting across non-video platforms
  • Portability — Busy schedules call for content that is multitasking friendly. Though someone may not have the time to read posts or watch videos, tuning into your content via a podcast or audio clip can be done while on-the-go
  • Relatability — Written text can be moving, but nothing connects more to the core of who we are as people than the sound of the human voice. For brands looking for a way to communicate on a more personal level, providing a vocal delivery of a human interest piece, or a personal anecdote will help you connect more deeply with your audience

You already have tons of quality, on message content — use it!

2. Pull from/curate outside content

Utilizing existing content is a great idea; however, if the financial or technical resources aren’t available, the use of outside content is also a solid way to introduce audio into the mix.

If there’s one person on the internet who does content right, it’s Rachel Miller. While you may know Miller from her work at Buzzfeed, she’s also published a book and has another on the way.

The way I know Rachel’s work, however, is through her blog.

There have been several blog iterations over the years, but Miller’s current blog focuses on “shar[ing] practical, doable tips for taking care of yourself, your home, and your people.”

While my biggest love is her weekly link roundup, her site’s monthly ‘Just Good Bops’ series, written by the blog’s designer Kiyana Salkeld, is an excellent example of how curated audio might fit into your audio strategy.

Just Good Bops: May / Just Good Shit

Once a month Salkeld handpicks a playlist of songs to go with the month at hand and publishes it on Spotify.

Then she blogs about her choices, utilizing the Spotify embedded player to embed the audio directly into the post:

Just Good Bops: May / Just Good Shit

The song and artist choices are diverse and on brand with the type of sound that Miller’s audience (i.e. me) would likely be attracted to.

It’s delightful.

If music isn’t the right approach for you, Audioburst has the spoken word equivalent to Spotify’s playlist and player functionality. Audioburst Studio allows website owners and app developers to select from 14 expertly crafted playlists.

Selecting a playlist / Audioburst Studio

In addition, Audioburst offers the option to customize your own playlist from over 100+ categories and topics, allowing you to dial-down to the specific interests of your followers.

Building a playlist / Audioburst Studio

Once you have an expertly crafted spoken-audio playlist, it’ll be time to….

3. Add an audio player to your site

Adding an embedded audio player to your website is hardly a novel idea; however, they have come a long way since the days of looping midi files on Geocities sites and spending hours picking the featured track for your MySpace page.

Back in the internet days of yore, we essentially foisted our audio tastes on others without taking their preferences into consideration.

Nowadays offering audio on-page or in-app has a lot more to do with what value you’re bringing to your audience:

  • Is it something they can’t get anywhere else?
  • Will it increase user engagement?
  • Does its implementation add to or take away from the overall user experience?
  • Is it personalized to fit your users’ preferences?

If done right, adding audio can give your users that little something extra that will encourage them to stay a few minutes longer or even be the tipping point between your site/app over another.

For instance, take another look at the example above. I remembered seeing May’s ‘Just Good Bops’ post when it went live a few weeks ago. I didn’t check it out then, but when drafting this piece, I remembered and took a listen. I ended up leaving the embedded player running in a tab while writing, and then moved on to Spotify proper so I could favorite it for later use.

Just Good Bops: May playlist via Spotify

If there had just been a link to the playlist on Spotify, it’s unlikely I would’ve taken the time to check it out, but with it right there on page, I not only listened to the playlist but made a note that when my music rotation needs a refresh, I should look to these monthly posts.

My new love for curated monthly bops aside, you should know that adding an audio player to your site also has other benefits on top of increased user engagement such as giving you a boost in search, something that should interest any content marketer.

Sold? Here are some players you might want to give a whirl:

Music

Podcasts

Note: Most of the above players are provided by podcast hosting sites. I’ve notated any that are standalone (i.e. anyone can use them) with an *

Combination

4. Podcast

It may seem like everyone is creating a podcast these days…and spoiler alert, they are. But for good reason:

First, Edison’s Share of the Ear report disclosed that “the share of time spent listening to podcasts among Americans aged 13+ has risen by 122% between 2014 and 2018.”

That. Is. Bananas.

Secondly, Edison also found that when a brand advertises during a podcast, 54% of listeners surveyed revealed that they are more likely to consider the brand.

With an ROI like that, who wouldn’t want to start a podcast?!

The Podcast Consumer / Edison Research

There are many examples of branded podcasts, and what’s more, there are even podcasting companies producing them as a service.

Gimlet Creative, the podcasting company’s branded content arm, has partnered with many well-known brands such as Adobe, Lyft, and Squarespace to create quality, brand-relevant content.

Gimlet Creative Branded Shows

However, if partnering with a resource like Gimlet isn’t in your budget, don’t panic — while there is a learning curve to producing a quality podcast, with a little planning, practice, and patience, you too can produce a great show for your brand.

If you’re ready to hop on the podcast train, check out this post for tips on starting your first podcast.

5. Go short form

So now that you (potentially) have started a podcast, you’re going to need to find a way to promote that content.

An interesting way to pique interest in a podcast is by creating short-form snippets — clips that are easily searchable and shareable and can give potential listeners a sneak peek into what you have to offer.

Marketing expert Heidi Cohen notes that:

“It’s 1.6 times more likely people will listen to short-form content in the form of curated news summaries.”

This explains why podcasts such as NPR’s ‘Up First’ are so popular. It’s quick, to the point, and gives you everything you need to know about the world in 10–15 minutes, allowing listeners to tune in while getting dressed or heading off to work.

However, this ability to sneak content into a listener’s routine doesn’t need to be reserved only for news broadcasts. Instead, consider making short-form snippets of podcasts, webinars, or audio narrations of your written articles. Your audience may not have 45 minutes to dedicate to your content, but they may have 5 or 10.

A few minutes may not seem like much, but in today’s busy, hectic world, it’s a lot.

A short-form snippet about short-form snippets. Very meta.

Aside from just creating content specifically tailored to the spare moment, short-form audio can also be used to build anticipation for your longer pieces.

This post from Insiders Radio Network lays out the theory nicely:

“…if you give [listeners] the full meal at once, they’re satisfied and will then look for the next thing that catches their attention so they can ‘feed’ again. But if you give them an appetizer, and learn to drop bread crumbs, they will follow along as long as those bread crumbs keep coming.”

Frankly, it’s just like watching the local news. You’re really only tuning in for the weather report, but if they give that to you right away, you’re going to turn the channel.

So in between each story, you get a little piece of the weather puzzle, keeping you tuned in so that you also wind up seeing the rest of the news segments while waiting for the weekend forecast.

Going short-form will allow you to encourage your audience to get excited for your metaphorical ‘weather report,’ keeping them interested and on-board for the long haul.

(Full disclosure: I live in the Midwest, so if you don’t experience all 4 seasons in one day where you live, you may need to replace the above example with something more relevant to your person… 🤦‍♀️ )

How to create short-form snippets:

Audioburst Creators is a free tool that can automatically create short-form ‘bursts’ of your content, allowing you to easily share via your favorite social media channels or embed them directly into blog posts and websites.

‘Burst Editor’ / Audioburst Creators for Blubrry

Beyond Audioburst, you can obviously use any audio editing app to slice up some tasty short-form content, however, you can’t beat the ease of letting AI do the heavy lifting!

6. Switch out text with audio for long-form marketing collateral

Many B2B marketers rely on ebooks for educational content, case studies, and other long-form marketing collateral; however, given recent trends, it might be time to consider replacing the ebook with the audiobook.

Last year’s Association of American Publishers’ StatShot report noted that “downloaded audio remained the fastest growing format, with 28.8% year-over-year growth from 2016 to 2017.” In addition, “55% of all audiobook listeners are under the age of 45,” making audiobooks an even better bet for attracting younger audiences.

The move towards audiobooks is fairly logical, given the hectic lives of today’s consumer. Audiobook listeners report that they enjoy audiobooks because (Perspectives on Reading):

1. They can do other things while listening

2. Audiobooks are portable, and people can listen wherever they are

3. They enjoy being read to

Get more eyes (or ears) on your content by making the shift to audio!

Pro Tip: See item 5 when it comes time to market your audiobook.

7. Get your audio discovered (and indexed!)

While you can make great strides in marketing your audio content independently, you’re ultimately going to run up against one big issue:

If you only market your content via your own website and social media pages, you’ll be missing out on all of the potential content consumers who aren’t already following you.

Sure, maybe some new users will come from social sharing or some may find your site by the grace of Google, but given that there are no major search engines serving up results by audio clip, your success may be limited.

Photo by Samuel Zeller on Unsplash

Adding your audio to distribution platforms will put your content in front of wider audiences and help circumvent the audio discovery conundrum. Here are a few to get you started:

Bonus: Make a voice skill or action

It isn’t just audio on the rise, but also the use of voice itself.

Photo by Status Quack on Unsplash

66.4 million adults in the U.S. own a smart speaker and “96% of retailers are investing in technology to allow consumers to shop for their brand on smart home speakers” (source), so if you have the resources, finding a way to get your content in shouting distance of the nearest Amazon Echo or Google Home device is worth considering.

How brands are using smart speaker skill/action technology:

  • Butterball — created a skill to help Thanksgiving cooks make the perfect turkey
  • Headspace — created a hands-free way to enjoy their guided meditations (available on Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant)
  • Podnews — the popular podcast news source created a skill for listening to their podcast (available on Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant)
  • UPS — created a skill that lets the user know if they have a package coming or assists in locating a UPS Store location
  • Blue Shield of California — offers a skill that provides information on typical insurance questions (i.e. “How does a deductible work?” or “When can I change plans?”)

Conclusion

When it comes down to it, the audio integration strategy you choose should be based on your unique audience.

Some factors you might want to take into consideration:

  • Is your audience crazy for podcasts? For sports radio? For local weather reports?
  • Do they love smart home technology?
  • Where do they listen to audio, and on what devices?
  • Is your potential ‘audio’ audience the same as your primary target audience?
  • How does their audio content consumption differ from their print and video consumption? How is it similar?

No matter what the answers to these questions are for you and your brand, there is an audio strategy that will work for you.

It’s news to no one that in 2019, content consumption is at an all-time high. We’re living in an age of dawn to dusk connectivity where it’s extremely difficult not to be distracted by the next news story, viral meme, or cat video.

One thing that might be surprising, however, is that even with well-known channels like Netflix and YouTube constantly vying for our attention, audio is still a primary format for popular content consumption.

  • 92% of Americans listen to the radio each week (Nielsen)
  • Streaming audio has become a weekly habit for 60% of Americans, with the average American spending 16 hours and 43 minutes listening to online audio per week (Edison Research)
  • Podcasting is also taking off, with American’s share of time listening to podcasts has grown 122% since 2014 (Share of Ear)
  • Podcast revenues are forecasted to reach $659 million by 2020, a 110% hike from 2017 (IAB)

More and more listeners are grabbing their headphones and tuning in, but in a culture where most people can’t even get through dinner without checking their smartphone, can audio really be as captivating as these statistics imply?

In a World Always Looking to the Next Big Thing, Why Audio?

Instead of asking why audio, you might start by asking, “Why anything but audio?”

For the majority of human history, communication has primarily been carried out through the oral tradition. It’s only in the last 6,000 years that anything else has been in existence.

Human language is thought to have developed around 200,000 BCE, with no evidence of symbol usage present until around 30,000 BCE when the first examples of cave paintings appear. Fast forward through the Upper Paleolithic period, it isn’t until 3500–2900 BCE that we see the early signs of written communication emerge with the Sumerians’ invention of the cuneiform and later, the Egyptian’s development of hieroglyphs.

While the Phoenician alphabet came around 1050 BCE, it still took another 3,000 years to get us to email, smartphones, and the internet, with the majority of today’s tech innovations occurring in the last 200 years.

Graphic: Conversation Design by Erika Hall

Throughout all of these advances in delivery, the oral tradition persisted. In fact, no matter what “the next big thing” is, we always seem to revert to voice.

The invention of the printing press, film, and the electric telegraph were answered with the telephone, phonograph, and radio, indicating that the urge to connect, preserve, and share ideas through voice and sound is an innate human desire.

Today we are in the midst of another audio renaissance.

Though much of the last 70 years focused on 20th-century advances like television, video, computers, and the internet, all of these technologies, while aiming to bring people together, have instead helped create the detached, complicated, and hurried lives we live today.

The response? Looking for connection in a more intimate form. As such, people are yearning to return to audio and voice, a more natural, personal, frictionless medium.

A New Era of Audio

In an article from the Atlantic, Emma Rodero, a communications professor at the Pompeu Fabra University in Barcelona, is quoted as saying, “Audio is one of the most intimate forms of media because you are constantly building your own images of the story in your mind and you’re creating your own production…and that of course, is something that you can never get with visual media.”

This intimacy, personalization, and connection to content are the driving forces of this new era of audio.

Today’s listeners are from a generation where choice and on-demand experiences are the norm. They only seek audio they can genuinely relate to on a visceral level, and anything else is just noise.

Aside from listening experiences needing to be personally relatable, contemporary audiences are looking for media that can adapt to a life of constant transition. Audio content is innately portable and available across virtually all popular devices and platforms. This ease in mobile consumption makes audio the natural choice for people on the go.

Lastly, modern audio is built around a lifestyle of multi-tasking.

Unlike video or print, audio is not reliant on visual or tactile interaction with its delivery device. Audio is in your ear, and easily controlled through voice technology, making the listening experience as hands-off and screen independent as is dictated by a given situation. Whether navigating through heavy traffic, working out, or the more mundane task of brushing teeth, the ability to consume content while focus is elsewhere is an absolute must.

With Popularity Comes Growing Pains

As the demand for audio content has risen, the space has grown increasingly saturated. The influx of content and interest has created many challenges, but some of the main pain points center around Discoverability, Accessibility, and Monetization.

Discoverability

A recent blog post by Chartable notes that “in 2018, an average of 575 podcasts were started every day — that’s about one podcast every three minutes” and TechCrunch noted last June that “Apple Podcasts currently hosts north of 550,000 active shows.”

That is a lot of podcasts.

Given the sheer amount of content being put onto the metaphorical airwaves each day, it becomes near impossible for listeners to uncover new material that might be relevant to their interests as there are no tools to navigate the space.

On the opposite end of the spectrum, podcasters want to step in and get their content in front of the right audience, but being heard above the din of the crowd is extremely difficult.

Podcasts, however, are not the only format struggling.

Traditional AM/FM radio remains the most consumed form of audio, but it has a major Achilles Heel that is rarely discussed. In a world where every aspect of life is documented, shared, and forever preserved, terrestrial radio fades into the ether post-broadcast.

There is no easy way to easily revisit or share a favorite moment from a radio story — even if it was streamed.

While some radio broadcasts are archived online, it’s usually in large audio files, which may or may not include show notes or segment timestamps.

The magic of audio is nestled in those small snippets of content that you want to preserve and share, but when people don’t even have the time to listen to a podcast at normal speed, who has the time to dig through hours of content for 30 seconds of audio? Or worse yet, go through a database of hundreds of thousands of podcasts looking for something relevant?

Without a way to search through all of this audio contextually, there is no way to create the personal, intimate listening experiences that today’s audiences demand.

Accessibility

Cloud-based services have taught consumers to expect media to smoothly flow with them from one device to another, from one task to the next. Listeners need to be able to seamlessly move from the car to their office to making dinner, all without having to pause.

While great strides towards this goal have been made, for all audio aside from music, the results are a mixed bag.

Smart speakers still haven’t fully embraced podcasts, and when it comes to the news, they rely on flash briefings from a computerized voice.

Advances in artificial intelligence have made smart assistants more personable; though it still isn’t the same as hearing content in its original voice .

Native audio in cars allow for content direct from radio sources, but access to podcasts still requires a peripheral device. Smartphones, tablets, and computers do the best job of providing seamless listening experiences, but users still must rely on multiple applications to fully meet their listening needs.

Another barrier to users accessing audio is the modern-day problem of context-switching.

While you might not consider this an obvious barrier to the medium, the issue crystalizes when you consider how distracted and overwhelmed we are as a society. An infographic by Inc. notes that we spend an average of just 1 minute and 15 seconds on a task before being interrupted.

That is not a lot of time. To make it worse, Inc. also points out that it takes a whopping 25 minutes to resume a task once interrupted.

With the average radio show lasting 2–3 hours and podcasts usually coming in at 30–45 minutes, finding an audio format that will meet the distracted listener where they are is a huge challenge.

Monetization

It is often reported that podcasting is easy to get into because all you need is your voice and a recording device, and while technically true, the idea is misleading. Even if the host chooses to go with a minimalist equipment setup, podcasts also require substantial time commitments for not only recording, but for research, editing, and promotion.

The adage ‘time is money’ may be cliche, but for a reason. Many podcasters embrace sponsorship, reading out commercials about everything from mattresses to underwear in order to bring in revenue to sustain production, but if your show doesn’t have a large following, sponsorship deals can be sparse.

Companies and App Developers also struggle with audio monetization. The two populations see the benefit of adding audio to their products — increased engagement and retention. However, beyond avoiding churn, what else is in it for them?

Companies, Developers, Creators, and Listeners all feel the draw to audio, but still aren’t exactly sure how to get content when they want, how they want, and how to benefit from it once they have it.

What is needed to resolve these pain points is a native audio solution that will:

  • Work in an omnichannel setting
  • Be tailored to a multi-tasking world
  • Present both deep and contextual audio content
  • Personalize the listening experience
  • Give companies actionable listening insights
  • Shed light on the monetization possibilities of audio

It’s a tall order to fill, but there is a solution that is up to the task.

Connecting Listeners to the World’s Audio Content

Audioburst’s vision is to empower the proliferation of ideas, knowledge, and perspectives through universal access to the world’s audio content. The best way to do this in a hectic, fast-paced world is to make sure that you’re meeting users where they are…

…and the best way to do that is to be everywhere.

Audioburst works with the world’s leading companies in seamlessly integrating next-gen audio content solutions to increase user engagement, gain valuable insights from audio analytics and listening data, and create new revenue streams for brands and content creators.

We provide not only access to content, but also the tools that it takes to navigate that content, which in turn, eases the friction of interacting with audio for companies, developers, creators, and ultimately, listeners.

How it Works

Using Automatic Speech Recognition (ASR) and Natural Language Processing (NLP), Audioburst listens, distills, contextualizes, and indexes audio content from both podcasts and radio into bite-sized “bursts,” diffusing the noise, and creating the short-form building blocks required for deeply personalized, immersive listening experiences, ideal for the busy lives of today’s listeners.

We then partner with companies to seamlessly integrate our solutions into their products through the use of our easy to implement APIs.

This opens the door to data-driven audio content experiences, including personalized playlists based on listening identities, real-time audio alerts for user-specified terms, and access to a robust audio search engine that provides results not based solely on keywords, but also intent, context, and timing.

Our solutions form a complete audio ecosystem that removes the difficulties of navigating a densely populated audio landscape:

Discoverability

Radio broadcasts that previously went uncaptured and podcasts that got lost in the shuffle are now easily accessible with the help of a powerful AI-driven audio search engine that draws on context and listener identities to provide a customized experience.

Accessibility

With Audioburst technology baked into a diverse array of products and applications, the on-the-go user can easily move between multiple devices, our personalized listening experience providing short form, digestible content that transitions with them without skipping a beat.

Audioburst Wizard

Distribution & Monetization

Partnerships with leading brands such as Bose, Samsung, and LG allow content creators to benefit from increased distribution and visibility, while both partners and creators gain access to new monetization opportunities via rev-share.

Data & Analysis

Partners and Developers benefit from access to essential listening data and audio content analytics that can unlock what drives customers — their interests, behaviors, and values.

Audio is here to stay

It’s an exciting time for both Audioburst, and for audio itself as a vehicle for information, engagement, and entertainment.

Our focus remains on bridging the gap between knowledge and access, listening for new ways that we can ease any bumps in the road that get in the way of audio’s continued success.

While some might worry that audio is yesterday’s news, we take comfort in knowing that it will be tomorrow’s as well.

In the modern world where we have access to whatever music and audio we like on demand, it’s crazy to think that just over 160 years ago none of this was possible. Whilst today huge libraries of audio content (like Audioburst’s) exist, there used to be no recorded sound or audio at all as technology simply hadn’t developed to that stage. It was a totally different world! We’re so used to being able to listen to music whenever we like but it wasn’t that long ago that all music was live, and there was no real music industry to speak of. No chilling with your favorite track on your way into work!

So, if you’ve ever wondered about the history of audio technology and how we got from no recorded sound at all to being able to carry around thousands of songs in a device that fits in our pockets, wonder no further. McGowan Transcriptions have put together the following infographic to explore the intriguing history of sound recording technology. It covers all the key developments, from the earliest acoustic technology through to iPods, smartphones, and digital storage. Take a look below to find out about the awesome inventions that made the modern music scene possible!

 

With Star Wars: The Last Jedi coming out this year, we thought it was time to highlight Alexa’s favorite movie empire.

If you’re binging the entire extended trilogy (4-6, 1-3 and then 7 of course) in preparation for the latest Star Wars movie this winter, then you’re going to love this.

Read more