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2020: the year that propelled digital audio into the spotlight

Released in April, the IAB UK’s 2020 Digital Ad spend report included digital audio for the first time, reflecting the mounting significance of audio within the digital landscape. The report concluded that the digital audio market grew by 17% year-on-year to £103.7m, with podcast expenditure increasing by a monumental 43%. Whilst these are encouraging statistics stemming from unprecedented circumstances, early indicators suggest that digital audio has secured its place on the media plan and is ear to stay.

Recent research conducted by Bauer Radio, found that 26% of respondents said their radio consumption increased throughout the pandemic, out of whom, 81% agreed that their elevated listening will continue in the future. Amid shifts in media consumption, flexible working patterns and ever-improving targeting and measurement capabilities, online listening shows no signs of slowing.

Adding to this, a YouGov and IAB UK survey expanded on how listener behaviours have evolved in the last year. Of those who already listened to digital audio, 66% stated that their podcast consumption increased since the start of the pandemic, whilst 54% reported that they streamed more music. But what are the driving factors? Entertainment, relaxation and “keeping me company” are the most common responses.

Prior to the pandemic, the notion shared by publishers and advertisers alike was that podcast consumption and the commute were intrinsically linked. Nonetheless, as the commute was quashed by Covid-19, podcast streaming only grew, underpinning the appetite audiences have for audio. Prolonged time at home nurtured new routines which was echoed by when and where audiences listened; with smart speakers, consoles and connected devices becoming the medium of choice. Advertisers were quick to adapt to shifts in consumption and many entered the market.

Putting some numbers to this, Acast reported a 51% surge in listeners across their network in 2020 with their in-house creative team generating a 250% increase in branded content revenue, supplying brands with longer spots of greater production value.

The migration to audio has already pricked Zuckerberg’s ears with Facebook launching their Spotify Player last month; allowing users to seamlessly stream Spotify content from within the Facebook environment. However, it doesn’t stop there, Facebook have also confirmed plans to release their own in-app podcast player later in the year, which we cover in the following article.

Whilst the pandemic has brought disruption to almost all avenues of life, it has revived the golden age of radio, throwing audio back into the spotlight, but this time digital. The combination of a surge in demand, an ever-increasing number of brands adopting the format and the arms race amongst publishers to refine its programmatic capabilities via DSPs suggest that this is only the beginning and the sky is the limit when it comes to advertising on digital audio.

All Response Media viewpoint

Until now, the advances of digital audio have been largely anecdotal across the industry, however, IAB UK’s recent findings validate the market’s growth. 2020 saw a rise of digital audio spend across ARM, with a large proportion of clients adding it to their media plans. Whilst the pandemic may have temporarily stunted the growth of many brands, here at All Response Media we continue to work closely with publishers to develop our strategy and stay at the forefront of digital audio advertising.

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