By Jeffrey Bayram

2020 is quickly approaching, and with it, another decade of digital innovation is on the horizon. During the holidays there is always buzz about how marketers will shake up the new year with innovative strategies. There’s no doubt that today’s staples will have a place in 2020, but there’s one medium that continues to emerge and prove itself as a powerful channel, digital audio.

Digital Audio is making a boom (audio joke!). Digital music, streaming radio, and podcasts have experienced exponential growth over the past few years, and marketers are beginning to take note. In 2019, more people have listened to podcasts and streaming audio than any year before, and this trend is slated to continue into 2020. eMarketer found that 61% of ad buyers had plans to spend more on digital audio ads in 2019 and only 9% planned on reducing their spending. Not only are more Americans listening to digital audio, but Americans are also listening for longer. Among digital audio listeners, there was a 10-minute increase in time spent with digital audio between 2017 and 2018.

Unlike other digital mediums, advertisers can use digital audio to target consumers even when they don’t have a screen in front of them. Pandora argues that one in two Americans stream audio weekly, with an average of 4 hours per week.

Listening to Musing in the Modern Age

For many, the most obvious avenue of digital audio marketing is streaming audio. This is mostly a combination of online radio stations, such as iHeartRadio, and music streaming platforms like Spotify and Pandora. These platforms allow marketers to reach a large range of listeners who are leveraging the platforms for free, exposing them to ads in exchange for bypassing subscription costs. eMarketer estimates that nearly 20% of the U.S. population currently listens to Spotify, and that number will continue to grow up to 23% in 2023. One fifth of the country is an impressive statistic and a huge opportunity!

Listeners spend hours every day listening to their favorite songs and discovering new artists. To take advantage of their diverse user base, streaming services allow advertisers to deliver targeted ads to connect with the right listeners. Marketers can decide to serve a multitude of ads to connect with all kinds of demos.

Using streaming services to convey your message can also be targeted more precisely than a regular radio ad. Online music services allow marketers to tune in (another audio joke!) on their ideal customer with layers of targeting that regular AM/FM radio simply doesn’t provide.

The Podcast Revolution

Another centerpiece of digital audio advertising is through podcasts. Americans have been consuming more and more podcasts each year. It’s estimated that nearly one in three Americans listen to a podcast every month and over one fifth of Americans listen to podcasts weekly. This is a huge pool of listeners, stretching across all kinds of demographic and interest groups.

However, one of the biggest hurdles that audio advertising needs to overcome is that most internet users consider audio ads to be the most annoying to encounter.

It’s true that standard audio ads can run during a podcast, but what really sets the medium apart is the opportunity to have a host endorse your product or brand. People might tune out as soon as they hear the makings of an advertisement, but when their familiar host begins to advocate for a product, it may have the opposite effect. Listeners – like me – often times feel a connection with their favorite podcast hosts. It’s safe to assume product reviews from them have a positive influence on our shopping habits because it’s coming from someone that we know and trust.

Podcast ads are also a bit more difficult to distinguish from the content of the program, which makes them more natural for listeners and therefore turn them away less.

Smart Speakers

While podcasts and digital audio streaming services are hitting full stride, another digital audio medium to look out for is the smart speaker. Americans are listening to the radio, podcasts, audiobooks, and the like on their smart speakers more and more each year. In 2019, over 30% of digital audio listeners have used their smart speaker to listen in. While smart speakers serve mostly as compliments to other digital audio formats, they could also be a valuable source for advertisers in the near future.

Digital Audio: Past, Present and Future

Ten years ago, everyone had their own MP3 players to listen to their own music after paying a per-song premium. Now users are staying connected while playing their tunes, which has opened up a whole new avenue for marketers to connect to their desired consumers.

Americans are listening to digital audio almost any time they are on the go, which gives advertisers a medium to reach potential customers when they are already out and about and more likely to make a purchase.

So, whether you’re using Pandora, SoundCloud, Spotify or anything in between, digital audio has an avenue for everyone. We recognize that digital audio stands out as a medium that can deliver long-form, impactful messaging to a highly targeted audience. NSA has taken advantage of the medium countless times in the past, always with first-rate success. The key is to define your customer base, then analyze the best channels to reach them on. When you are able to modify your audio spots to perfectly focus on your ideal customer, audio messaging becomes a force that can’t be muted (last audio joke!).