Best Audio Content Guide: What You Need To Know

Audio Content GuideIs audio content part of your content marketing strategy?

No? Don’t worry—you’re not alone!
Because many marketers overlook the ever-increasing power of audio content.

In a voice-first world, however, audio is no longer a nice-to-have content luxury.

Because your target audience’s audio consumption habits matter, not yours nor those of your management team!

Further, when 80% of the over 18 US  population owns a smartphone, they have a device in their pocket that they can talk to and listen to.

Your prospects seek and listen to audio content. So provide quality options via the device, platforms (including apps), and formats they use. Further, deliver audio when, where and how they want it.  

Otherwise, your business remains invisible to them! 

Instead, findable competitors and new entrants will meet their needs!

This guide will help you provide audio information to potential listeners seeking your content. In the process, you’ll stay competitive by being visible and viable across audio platforms.

Table of Contents


Audio Content Defined

Audio content consists of a combination of  sounds and words that together create information and/or data listeners consume.Click To Tweet


Most importantly, audio offers listeners a hands-free and/or screen-free content experience.

So listeners can focus on another unrelated and/or boring non-content activity. These include driving, commuting, doing chores, and/or exercising. As result audio formats offer unique media day-parts. These media periods will increase and change with evolving voice-enabled devices.

Your audio can be recorded in advance or presented in real time. This depends on your editorial calendar, talent availability and distribution schedule. 

Your audience can consume your audio by listening in real-time or by saving it for later consumption.

Further, audio information can be delivered one-to-one or one-to-many. This depends on the device, platform and context of the audience.

Lastly, use natural language processing (NLP), a form of AI, to transform text  into audio AND audio into text. This helps expand your audience.


Why You Need To Add Audio To Your Content Marketing

Adding audio to your content marketing mix provides 3 key benefits to your marketing strategy:

  • Gives your marketing a human quality. Our desire for the human voice started when we were crying babies. Also the human voice adds emotion to your marketing and engages your audience. And it helps define your brand. As Edison Research’s Tom Webster explains, “[Audio] is a more primal path. When you hear a baby cry or when you hear someone scream, it instantly goes into your brain and you understand that this is something that is grabbing you on multiple levels.”
  • Expands the reach of your marketing. It  attracts people who prefer audio content. Also, it reaches people when they can’t use other forms of content. And they find your content on other platforms.
  • Adds information to your content. Without realizing it, people automatically assign features to a voice they hear. Therefore the voice you use for audio content has implications for the audience you seek to attract. These factors include age, sex, regional origins and level of education. According to Wharton Professor Jonah Berger, “There’s really a power of voice that we often don’t think very much about.”


Audio Content Research: The Data You Need For Your Business

Unlike text, images, video and presentations, audio content can be consumed as background during otherwise non-media time.

As a result, audio listeners can increase content consumption.

The caveat:
While audio often is a secondary activity, consumption tends to be less fragmented or distracted than text and visual formats! 

For example, in addition to consuming audio during daily commutes, at home audio consumption has increased due to smart devices in multiple rooms.


How Consumers Listen to Audio: The Consumption Statistics, Data And Charts

Americans consume an average of 2 hours and 32 minutes of audio during a media day of 12 hours and 13 minutes.Click To Tweet


Note: Multitasking creates a 31 hour and 29 minute day if each activity were done alone. 

While video remains a white-hot content choice for consumers and marketers, audio ranks second in daily US usage. Attribute this to audio’s role as a secondary activity. Further, listeners don’t need to handle a device or see a screen! 

With the increased popularity, marketers use  earcons to show audio content availability.


Unlike other forms of content, consumers use a variety of devices to listen:

  • 31% use their mobile phone 
  • 19% still use AM/FM receivers (Yes, you read that correctly!)
  • 17% get audio on their computer
  • 17% get audio from smart speakers (The same percentage as listen to content on their computer!)
  • 6% use TV audio channels
  • 5% get audio from internet connected devices

Further, don’t assume new audio formats will reduce older ones! Since AM/FM content consumption via smart speakers increased from 19% in 2018 to 24% in 2019.

Smart Speaker Audio Listening

US adults pay $92 per year for audio content or 6% of their total average household media spend. This means audio subscriptions.Click To Tweet


[Note: These numbers differ from the Activate chart since they exclude Internet connectivity.]

Audio accounts for a relatively small portion of the annual US consumer media spend. Since many audio options remain free or ad supported. This includes AM/FM radio and podcasts.

Average annual household internet and media spend

Although consumers pay for audio content in the form of listening to advertising and sponsorships. Some also make contributions either directly or through Patreon.


Audio Content Landscape: How To Understand Audio Media And Competitors

From a marketing perspective, audio remains critical to staying competitive in a content saturated marketplace.

Regardless of your business and/or content focus, you compete with major media and tech giants for fragmented attention.

To maintain their marketshare and standing, media companies continue to expand and invest in existing and evolving audio options and programs. Further, they have the resources to support this expansion.

For example, as an audio-first brand, NPR reclassified their audio library for better findability and curation. Further, NPR attends, exhibits and presents at relevant conferences.

To understand this dynamic audio marketplace, examine these different perspectives on the competitive set.

Translation for your content and marketing strategy:
Use a variety of audio formats and promotion tactics to get heard.

Podcast Landscape

Further, other content rich media entities and businesses continue to expand into audio content.

Media company audio use

At the same time, strong audio audiences provide opportunities to expand into other content formats, especially video.

Daily Media Hours By Type: 2017 vs 2021-Chart

To expand your audio content audience and visibility, improve your content distribution.

  • Add better metadata to aid  findability across search options and devices. Consumers have trouble finding music and spoken word audio content.
  • Provide audio options with text, visual, video and presentation content. Beyond improving audio findability, it expands your audience to audio-first and visually impaired audiences.
  • Make downloads easier. Provide audio download instructions.

Increase audio listening despite challenges


What Makes Audio Important To Marketers Now? [aka: The Business Case]

Use these 5 reasons to make the business case for adding audio content to your marketing mix. Since they result from evolving AI and technology, they may lag consumer awareness and adoption.


1. Device and Technology Continue To Evolve

Ownership and use of voice-first devices has crossed the technology adoption chasm. This includes smartphones, voice-enabled assistants, and the Internet of Things (aka: IoT). 

Technology Adoption Life Cycle CurveNew smartphone unit shipments declined from 0% in 2017 to -4% in 2018 (Mary Meeker 2019). As the most used voice-enabled device, smartphone shipments reveal a mature market. 


  • Replacement and upgrades requiring new smartphone purchases out number new users and additional phones for existing users. 
  • The secondary market for still-viable smartphones also reduces new smartphone demand.  

New Smartphone Unit Shipments

With more technology options, improved audio quality, and lower price points, owners want more content to make devices more useful and entertaining. 

For marketers, the key issue:
How do you create unique audio content tailored to your audience that sets your business apart?

Supply content they can’t get elsewhere! And make the cost of switching high for your audience. For example, if you want the unique television content fromAmazon Prime, you need to purchase a subscription.


2. Improve Customer Experience To Meet Audience Content Needs And Demands

To  provide a more integrated, omni-channel approach, many  marketers overlook audio’s ability to deliver a better customer experience. 

How does audio improve customer experience?
Audio allows listeners to get content on their schedule across a variety of devices. Even better, offer to notify listeners of new content by sharing their contact information. (Of course, keep this information promotion-free!)

To provide an optimal customer experience with your audio content:

  • Offer consistent content to your addressable audience and others on a regular schedule. Aim for at least weekly distribution!
  • Provide optimized audio content on-demand to give searchers the best to answer their questions. Further, link to deeper information and offer live support!


3. Add Data To Optimize Audio For Findability And Distribution

While audio content has existed for decades it was broadcast across terrestrial radio and television. Also people could listen to content that they had purchased.

Running on AI, newer devices allow listeners to search and find audio content faster using voice and other search options. As a result, this has facilitated users’ ability to find and consume more audio content. In addition, the AI and audio combination provide additional data to personalize your offering.

To tap into this trend, add metadata to make your content more findable. To get the maximum value from existing audio content, apply a librarian approach to make your audio accessible to listeners.

Beyond this, restructure your overall content to facilitate content findability by category.


4. Audience Audio Preferences Shift To Spoken Word [Translation: Opportunity]

With more devices and audio content options, listeners increasingly seek spoken word content.   

Due to this shift, people spend about 3/4s of their time listening to music and ¼ of their time listening to the spoken word across devices.

Share of time spent listening to audio content type daily

To meet this increased spoken audio need, businesses are changing their offerings.

Most notably, in 2019, Spotify diversified their audio offering by spending $400 million for:

  • Gimlet Media, one of the best podcast creators and
  • Anchor, a top global audio creation platform.

Don’t take my word for the importance of voice, listen to Spotify’s CEO Daniel Ek:

Based on radio industry data, we believe it is a safe assumption that, over time, more than 20% of all Spotify listening will be non-music content.” Daniel Ek


5. Content Saturation Reduces Marketing Visibility and Profitability

The difficulty breaking through crowded text and video platforms reduces marketing ROI since it costs more to attract each impression. Even worse, since your audience’s attention is fragmented, your marketing must answer their need fast or they’re gone!

By contrast, audio content allows marketers to reach listeners when their attention is less fragmented.

In the short-term marketers have a window of opportunity to build an audience of listeners. But work fast since audio-based content competition will increase with evolving voice-first and audio-enabled devices and services.

Due to content saturation, total media consumption will grow 2% or 16 minutes over the next 5 years.  While audio accounts for 37.5% of this growth, audio listening could increase media time more.

Can audio content consumption grow despite content saturation?
Evolving AI-driven technology will create more specialized devices including hearables, in-car experiences and the IoT. In turn these options will allow users to add personalized audio to support their other activities.

Average Media Day by Activity


Top 5 Audio Formats For Content Marketing

Audio Content Format is defined by the underlying structure of the content combined with specific device and/or platform requirements.Click To Tweet


Further, specific devices and/or apps may limit access to specific audio formats.  

When adding audio to your content offering, incorporate it into your content management system (aka: CMS) to ensure tracking and findability going forward.

Further, classify existing content, information and/or data to use and curate in the future. As part of this audit, assess audio across your business. Include audio from sales, customer service and technical specialists. Also add presentations and recordings like investor briefings. This is critical for businesses with large amounts of unclassified content.

To provide a better customer experience, assess how you can add a mix of the 5 top audio content marketing formats. Since audio reaches listeners all day long regardless of other activities except sleep! 

Further each audio content marketing format has unique attributes that attract different target segments. 

For example, while specific AM/FM Radio programs and channels attract different age groups, they’re all free to use. To reach special segments, place paid advertising or sponsorships.


1. AM/FM Radio

AM/FM Radio includes satellite radio. This traditional format is location-based. Although some stations, notably NPR, have extended their reach through newer technologies. Marketers either pay for promotion or get guest appearances.

AM/FM radio listening has moved from other devices to smart speakers and accounts for 25% of smart speaker listening. Further, AM/FM radio listening exceeds any single streaming audio service on smart speakers! 


2. Streaming Audio

Streaming audio provides personalized listening experiences based on AI-driven technology and learning. Listeners pay for subscriptions to these services. To access this audience requires paid advertising.

Audio streaming consists of a broad array of options. Surprisingly, YouTube tops the list with the most extensive catalog. But YouTube’s audio catalog includes “gray music” like remixes, compilations and live performances. (That said, DJs and others generate revenue and stay visible with these videos!)

Further over 3-year-old music accounts for 50% of listening. No surprise since people tend to listen to music that was popular when they were teenagers. 

Additionally, like other audio options, consumers find it difficult to locate music they like and want to hear. YouTube fulfills this need better than other services.

Streaming Tracks/Subscribers by service


3. Podcasts

Podcasts provide regular servings of content and/or conversation. They’re distributed through feeds and syndication. Apple and Spotify offer more distribution. Serve podcasts on a regular schedule to develop audience listening habits.

Podcast listening continues to grow. In 2019, US monthly podcast listeners increased 23%  according to Edison Research. 

Among the challenges podcasts pose for consumers: 

  • Finding new podcasts they find interesting.
  • Locating specific information within a podcast.
  • Downloading or streaming podcasts on their device of choice. Apple and Spotify provide different options for creators and listeners.

Download vs Streamed Audio Content

From a marketing perspective, podcasts provide audio content that can be published on your own media, ideally a blog, and other third party search engines and platforms. 


4. Voice-Enabled Audio

Voice-Enabled Audio refers to content created for voice-first devices. This includes Amazon Echo, Google Home and other devices. These audio formats allow content marketers to create both short and long content (at least on Amazon.)

But beware of this important marketing caveat:
Voice-enable audio content lacks consistency across device manufacturers and does not have URL-equivalents.

Despite the additional work involved, these voice-enable devices need MORE CONTENT to make them more useful. So content marketers still have a window of opportunity to break-through. 

For example:
Crest and Oral-B used Gimlet Media to professionally create audio content for Chompers starting in February 2018. It’s a podcast (delivered via Gimlet Media) and an Alexa Skill (Amazon) to encourage children to brush their teeth. (It also gives parents a reason to install another voice-first device in their bathroom!)

Welcome to Chompers


5. Audio Transcription From Other Content Formats

To expand reach, distribution and platform visibility, transform content from text, video, webinars and live events. For video, webinars and live events, you can strip out the images and use the audio. It’s a great way to extend your content reach on the cheap! (Of course, I strongly recommend editing your audio to remove filler words and sounds!)

Chris Penn does this for his weekly, “You Ask, I Answer” blog posts. He starts with video and transforms it into audio and text.

Chris Penn Blog Post: You Ask I Answer

By contrast, Jay Baer adds machine generated audio to Convince and Convert’s articles.

Jay Baer Audio Example

In addition, create direct-to-audio books and take advantage of Amazon and other audio platforms for distribution. While many authors are testing an audio-first approach, most notably Joe Pulizzi, the Godfather of Content Marketing, few marketers have tried this approach.

Since very few marketers transform either new or existing content into audio format, this remains a marketing opportunity!Click To Tweet

Top Audio Content Marketing Types

Audio Content Marketing Types are defined by the presentation of content, information and/or data to fulfill a listener’s needs or wants delivered through a device. 

5 Audio Content Marketing Types include:

  • Information, News and/or Data provides timely delivery of content. Due to the time factor, this content may not remain unique and useful as it ages.
  • Educational, How-To and/or FAQ Content teaches the listener to learn and/or do something to fulfill a specific need. Marketers often overlook the potential for transforming educational information into audio formats and distributing it post-purchase to support on-boarding and to reduce returns.
  • Talk, Interview, Call-in and/or Opinion Content offers a human connection with the host and/or guest(s). From a trust perspective, the listener not only develops a relationship over time with the host but also builds a listening habit. This supports consistent content.
  • Pillar, Thought leadership and/or Documentary Content provides non-entertainment information and data that remains relevant over time. Like good investigative journalism, this content results from research. Further, this content provides a neutral perspective and remains partisan and opinion-free. As a result, it increases trust and reputation.
  • Entertainment Content includes music, drama and books. This content may have copyright restrictions. It aims to evoke emotions in its audience.



Audio Guide Conclusion

Audio remains uniquely placed to strike the balance of being relevant and engaging, whilst continuing to be the ultimate 1:1 companion for audiences whilst they work, travel, exercise, eat – even as they shower and sleep.

In 2020 and beyond, marketers will add more audio to their content mix and overall strategy. Since post-Seismic Marketing Shift, they’ll need to attract new audiences via voice-enabled devices. In turn, audio provides the contextual data marketers must have to deliver personalized experiences. 

Further, while audio may not be your initial content marketing format. Your marketing needs to be heard to extend your reach.

In a saturated content environment, add audio content to attract ther maximum audience. 

Don’t take my word for it!
Spotify spent about $500 million to make the spoken word 20% of their future revenue!

And spoken word audio is what your audio content marketing is!

So figure out how to develop your audio content offering now!

Key Audio Data Sources:

Happy Marketing,
Heidi Cohen

Heidi CohenHeidi Cohen is the President of Riverside Marketing Strategies.
You can find Heidi on FacebookTwitter and Google+.

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