For your ears only – the rise of social audio

For your ears only – the rise of social audio

With more than two million shows and in excess of 48 million episodes online (as of April 2021), podcasts are still growing in popularity. The global pandemic also gave rise to a new trend in the audio space: social audio.

Everyone from major publishers to smaller creators are creating podcasts, and the topics are as varied as their hosts. While it’s difficult to find statistics for podcast listening globally, more than 60 percent of American adults from age 18 to 34 listen to podcasts monthly. It’s projected to be a 1 billion USD industry by the end of this year.

Social audio

Still, there’s an even newer phenomenon that has emerged on the audio scene in the last year or so. It’s called social audio. It started when Clubhouse hit the scene in 2020, and it gained a lot of traction as the Covid-19 pandemic had people all over the world sitting at home, starved for human connection. The Clubhouse app was, at the time, invitation-only, growing slowly but steadily over time. But in the wake of its rising popularity, other platforms saw an opportunity.

Platforms that already had significant audiences, such as Twitter, Facebook and Spotify, threw their hats into the ring and created their own versions of places for people to connect via audio. Even Amazon is reportedly creating a live audio business. In gaming, voice chat has been huge for decades, allowing players to talk in-game, and that phenomenon has been extended to external platforms like Discord, which has become more of an all-around voice chat and streaming platform.

As to why audio has become so popular across channels, tech analyst and investor Jeremiah Owyang describes it as a Goldilocks medium. “It’s not as impersonal as text but also not as invasive as video — something particularly important for the Zoom-fatigued user”, he says. There’s also a case to be made for audio as a more human and authentic medium.

Important source of income

For publishers and advertisers, the growing audio space has a lot to offer. Subscription-based products have become some of the most important sources of revenue for publishers, whether paid for by users or advertisers. Audio can also be a way to create stronger connections with your audience and to humanise your brand.

As social audio and, perhaps most notably, podcasts grow, advertisers will follow suit. Global podcast ad spend is predicted to double, reaching 1.6 billion USD in 2022, according to a study by the World Advertising Research Centre (WARC). Another study, the Super Listeners 2021 report by Edison Research, shows that podcast advertisements are the most recalled type of ad, with 86 percent of respondents saying they remember seeing or hearing an ad.

For Schibsted, podcasts are an important part of its core business, as shown by the company’s increased stake in the podcast company Podme. The audio space is especially important in the Nordics, with Sweden being one of the world leaders in podcast listening, according to the German market and consumer data firm Statista. The Nordics have a long history of qualitative audio media, with global tech giants, including Spotify and Acast, originating in Sweden.

Although the audio climate was disrupted at the start of the pandemic, especially with podcasting being a favoured commuting pastime, it didn’t take the expected downturn, but instead came out of the crisis on top. And for everyone from listeners to publishers and marketers, it looks like it’ll keep on climbing.

Camilla Buch

Camilla Buch
Advisor Editorial Content
Years in Schibsted: 1.5