Audio is having a moment - here's how marketers can make the most of it

Podcasts and traditional radio are booming in Ireland.

By Emer Lawn Director, Mediaworks

WE ARE A nation of listeners, driven by the personalities and the music that fills our airwaves.

According to JNLR data, over 80% all adults in the Republic of Ireland still listen to radio on a typical weekday.

Furthermore, recent research conducted by Core reveals that 20% of Irish internet users listen back to radio programmes weekly online.

Is audio alive and well from a consumer behaviour perspective? Absolutely.

The already fragmented radio landscape continues to grow this year, due to the many ways we listen and the expanding choice of content.

Three key developments are worth noting:

  • Voice device access is growing. Based on research we conducted at the end of 2018, it currently stands at 15% of Republic of Ireland households (Amazon Alexa, Google Home or Microsoft Cortana)
  • Use of voice assistants – such as Siri – is growing, as our smartphones and operating systems present better and more accurate options
  • Podcast listenership is growing; 19% of internet users in the Republic of Ireland listen to this format on a weekly basis, across an increasing array of platforms

So, how do we adapt to these trends? While we cannot abandon tried and tested uses of the radio medium, marketers can strengthen their approach if they embrace this transformation in the audio world.

Combining forces in audio content

Radio stations deserve applause for the work they have begun in recent years. The major players embrace the power of digital platforms and the Irish Radioplayer app is a great example of collaboration between businesses, which normally compete for ad revenue, in order to achieve long-term success.

However, there should now be a renewed commitment and joint approach from broadcasters to address future challenges by creating a compelling listening experience that unites all content produced.

Without increased cooperation, it will be difficult to build the scale needed in this fragmented landscape to make individual platforms succeed commercially.

Working more closely together will ensure that digital audio benefits from the same broad reach as traditional radio, while making life easy for listeners by bringing the content into one place.

Building the Radioplayer into a one-stop shop for all Irish radio and podcasting content would be a good starting point that would help the industry compete with platforms like Spotify.

We must reassess the role of audio

Is it fair to continue defining audio as that ‘hard-working’ medium that will deliver high frequency and low-cost reach? If marketers continue to define it in this way exclusively, they will miss out on the opportunity to leverage the medium to its full potential.

If you close your eyes and simply listen, what do you hear? The power of the images we can create is underutilised, but many examples do exist of brands getting this right – browse the Cannes Lions archive to be inspired by brilliantly written and produced radio commercials that use the medium to its creative best.

With the rise in digital access to audio content, there is an opportunity to create messaging that is more contextual or native to the listener’s environment. Do they hear the commercial message over the radio in the kitchen, in between their favourite songs or podcasts, or while listening to Spotify on their phone?

If calls to action were more considerate of this, marketers would deliver better outcomes.

Finally, there is an underlying watch-out for marketers looking to reassess their approach given the growth of ‘voice’ this year.

Marketers must gain permission to be in the space by ensuring that they say something valuable and that there is a clear brand connection, rather than blindly intruding on a listener’s experience.

Emer Lawn is director of Mediaworks.

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