When the pandemic started, the concern for podcasts and audio to text was that with people not commuting, we would see a big drop in audience. But Twipe reports that “research from GlobalWebIndex found the decrease in commuters has been offset by people who are listening to more podcasts (ranging from 13-16% globally). There has even been growth in advertising revenue for podcasts.”
“This is backed up by publisher experiences as well,” writes Mary-Katharine Phillips, “with Norwegian media group Schibsted still expecting to see podcast ad revenue growing by 50% this year, due to factors beyond the pandemic such as the maturation of the market.”
There’s also evidence that audio to text has accelerated during this time. Dutch news website The Correspondent recently launched a new audio app for members. “We were a text-based site mostly, and our members asked us if we could also provide audio, because it’s easier to combine it with different activities like travelling or working out,” CEO Ernst-Jan Pfauth told What’s New in Publishing. “We figured, well, it’s not our mission to provide text. It’s our mission to be a daily antidote to the news grind, to give an insight into how the world works. The medium isn’t that important, so if voice works better, let’s introduce that.”
Here are some other factors on the growth of audio:
Your audience may soon expect it. “Unquestionably the standard should be that you have either vocalized your product, or at least designed your website content to work with text-to-speech systems,” wrote Molly Raycraft on the site B2B Marketing. “So while you may have aspirations of doing something futuristic and ground-breaking with voice tech, make sure you’ve got the basics covered. This could even be as simple as filling in a proper description in the ‘alt text’ box on website images.”
Audio has many uses. From Raycraft: “B2B tech copywriting agency Radix Communications gives a great example of how effective it can be to simply repurpose what you have into audio in order to increase its accessibility… The agency has been experimenting with reading its blogs aloud. This makes the content more accessible to those who potentially have a visual impairment, as well as those who are on the go and can’t sit down to read.” (Guilty.)
Paywalled podcasts. More and more, I’m going on media sites to listen to their podcast and they’re paywalled off. The Economist uses podcasts both as a subscription driver and as a retention tool. “Podcast listeners tend to be very curious and very engaged with their interests, which is also true of Economist readers, so podcasting is an ideal way to reach out to potential new subscribers,” Tom Standage, The Economist’s head of digital strategy, told Which-50. Bauer Media has launched a subscriber-only podcast, published twice a month, and also gives subscribers access to the podcast archive which was previously free. Even during lockdown in the UK, this subscriber-only podcast saw a boost of 77% in listeners.
An audio success story. When the Danish digital magazine Zetland was preparing to launch its daily news operation, they asked supporters what they wanted from the publication. One thing kept coming up: audio. “After months of persistent requests from readers, ‘Zetland decided to do the most simple version,’ says co-founder Hakon Mosbech. They had their reporters read stories into a microphone. The first audio article went online in fall 2016. The user experience was definitely really clunky, Mosbech says of the audio player embedded on the website. But people listened.” By 2017, Zetland reporters were narrating every story they wrote. Now, when the magazine’s 14,000 subscribers open the Zetland app, they get a sort of playlist for each day, starting with a conversational podcast and moving into narrated articles.
Closer to home, audio all the time. MediaPost reported in the summer that audio versions of all Washington Post articles are now available on the Postapp for Android and iOS. “Using text-to-speech capabilities built into the Android and iOS operating systems, every Post native article now has an audio option, indicated by a headphones icon.” And as I said above, the thinking that a commuter-less world would lessen that audio desire has been abated. “We conducted user research and learned that users want to stay informed but are busy,” Emily Chow, the Post’s director of site product, said. “So they appreciate an option to get up to speed on the latest news developments while cooking dinner, running errands or exercising.”
Podcast producing also fits today’s new normal. I wrote earlier in the week that member Putman Media’s Food for Thought podcast launched in early summer and is building audience each week. “We’re going to produce a lot more podcasts because we’re going to be stuck inside again this winter,” Putman’s digital strategist Erin Hallstrom told me, also saying that “adding the transcripts became a huge thing” as far as growing audience.