Streaming media is now well and truly mainstream – but it’s time to stop thinking of it as a homogenous mass. The different types of media we stream, and the ways in which we stream them, are creating new opportunities to connect with audiences – and to better understand them.
Nearly half the online population now streams entertainment content on a weekly basis, according to research by GroupM and Spotify – but what’s most interesting is how audiences are consuming different types of streaming media. 60 per cent of music streamers are listening on mobile devices, compared with 40 per cent of TV and movie streamers – and they’re listening to audio in places that video simply doesn’t penetrate.
For example, commuters are five times more likely to stream audio content than TV or video. When you’re working out, you’re 3.5 times more likely to be listening to content than watching it. And when you need to concentrate, the last thing you want is to be distracted – so it’s not surprising that three times as many people who are focusing listen to audio rather than watching video.
Audio is a particularly evocative medium. Podcasts directly address the listener, as Lea Thau, host and producer of the podcast Strangers (Radiotopia and KCRW) points out: "People actually listen…you are talking right inside someone’s head."
Music builds an even more emotive connection, with studies revealing that people use music to regulate their moods and emotions. Streaming audio offers insights into why listeners have picked the tracks they’ve chosen, too; the 1.6 million followers of Spotify’s Dance Workout playlist are likely feeling very different to the 380,000 who are listening to Breakup Songs. Where social media enables people to present their public face to the world, music creates a more personal, intimate bond with listeners. "There is a really strong connection between music and experiences," says cognitive neuroscientist Amy Belfi. "Music can take us back into a specific moment and cause us to feel all the emotions we were feeling then."
The good news for brands is that many streaming audio listeners are expecting to hear advertising alongside their music and spoken word content. While many services offer a paid, ad-free tier for subscribers, ad-supported free options are also available. An estimated 15 per cent of the internet-using population is currently streaming music weekly using free services – going up to 20 per cent in mature streaming markets like Sweden and the US. It’s not surprising, then, that the music streaming ad revenue opportunity is worth $1.5 billion today – and it’s expected to reach at least $7 billion by 2030. The market for contextually-relevant, emotive and intimate advertising on audio is here – and it’s growing.
Three ways brands can use the power of audio to reach consumers
Build intimate, one-to-one connections with consumers
Audio has 100 per cent share of voice, and audiences are primed to listen – so think about how you can use native content and dynamic creative to reach them.
Target moods and activities
Correlating data such as time of day, location and playlist titles, it’s possible to gauge listeners’ moods, whether they’re working out, concentrating or getting ready to go out. Use this to direct targeted advertising that builds emotional connections.
Consider how people are listening
Listening in the car, on mobile devices and on smart speakers are very different activities and demand different types of messaging. Think about whether you’re addressing people directly, through their headphones, or making up part of the "background noise" as they drive, cook dinner or relax.