What You Need to Know About Audio Right Now

By NPR InSites Archives
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Thanks to abundant content and changes in technology supporting new ways to access and listen, audio is enjoying a moment as the "it" medium. Consumers are exploring innovative content, led by podcasting, and listening via traditional means and brand-new tech. In turn, brands are intrigued and eager to reach the medium's loyal, engaged audiences.

These shifts are ushering in new creative possibilities — from audio-driven experiences to multisensory ones where visual and audio strategies interplay in new ways. Gina Garrubbo, president and chief executive officer of National Public Media, the sponsorship subsidiary of NPR, explains how the audio landscape is changing today, where it's headed and why brands should prepare in a new audio lesson available on the Giide app through MediaVillage.

Garrubbo points out that all these changes to how listeners access audio are broadening the definition of who can participate in it. Brands are creating native audio content and weaving audio into video productions. HBO, for one, has created dozens of audio integrations to complement its TV productions, including Alexa voice-activated skills and podcasts.

With the audience for podcasts soaring — one-third of Americans listen monthly, according to Edison Research — major brands have trained their audio focus on podcasts. They're attracted to podcast's loyal, engaged audiences, Garrubbo notes. In fact, 70 percent of podcast listeners report they listen so intently that they aren't focused on anything else, she points out. Podcast fans are also heavy consumers of all audio, tuning in for an average of 5.7 hours of audio content per day.

With consumer demand booming, publishers and tech companies are prioritizing audio and, in particular, podcasting. Garrubbo cites streaming audio provider Spotify as an example. It's investing in original podcasts, partnering with content producers on shows such as "Your Daily Drive," which melds music and spoken word, and is helping listeners explore content options, including NPR's news programs.

As consumers dive into more audio and find their favorites, they'll encounter familiar sounds in programs and advertising, Garrubbo says. Such sonic branding is emerging as a key ingredient of any audio strategy, with marketers and producers seeking to establish an audio imprint that makes their content immediately recognizable to listeners.

Of course, no discussion of audio would be complete without including the burgeoning voice industry. Nearly one-quarter of Americans own at least one smart speaker, presenting brands with a new opportunity to deliver dynamic ads. In this fast-moving audio ecosystem, Garrubbo advises, brands should dive in and experiment with the medium.

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