The New Content King: Short-form Audio

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Audio is regaining its crown after 100 years.

A lot has changed since the TV pushed the radio off of its living room throne. TVs are still there, but are complemented by a multitude of device screens throughout the house, which in turn are reliant on streaming services such as Netflix. 

OTT binge-watching has exploded, especially during the pandemic, and so has the consumption of short-form video from YouTube and, more recently, TikTok.

Audio’s return

But, with so many hours in the day, people are getting screened out. That’s why audio is coming back with a vengeance. Unlike video, people can consume audio while living their lives — whether they’re exercising, cooking, or driving. With audio, the audience’s ears are “busy” while their hands and eyes can be doing something else. Additionally, the vaccine rollout portends freedom from our four walls and the ability to soon return to a sense of normalcy, including greater freedom of movement.

Here’s the problem: As people resume their busy lives, their available free time will become shorter and more precious. While podcasts have made their mark on our listening habits and have long passed the tipping point, the 30 minutes or hour required to focus on the content isn’t always available. That’s why audiences will be looking for new ways to optimize: shorter intervals as they emerge from pandemic hibernation. 

Short-form audio’s opportunity

Bite-sized audio allows people to get the highlights of the information they want to hear without having to invest significant time or effort finding the content that interests them.

With short-form audio, consumers can have a full buffet of audio information at their fingertips. Instead of listening to a one-hour political analysis, all the media reports about the single issue of most interest to a consumer can be presented to them. They can get the highlights about their favorite team without having to sit through the entire sports weekly wrap-up for their home city. The person who just moved from out of state can listen to the local news and sports to have something to talk about tomorrow at the physical or digital water cooler. The options are limitless.

The bottom line: Short-form audio allows us to get the information we need in the time we have.

Audio-enabling technology

Technology is accelerating the advancement and ubiquity of audio, overtaking screens. Hundreds of millions of smart speakers are in our homes, waiting for us to open our mouths. It is estimated that Apple sold more than 100 million AirPods last year alone, allowing consumers to talk” directly to Siri in their ear without having to touch a single device. Many mobile apps are adding native voice activation, and mobile voice search is gaining traction, too —  one out of four mobile Google searches is voice activated, and that number is rising. 

As we switch to eyes and hands-free voice activation, short-form audio will be the answer and natural response to our voice commands. We will expect voice prompts to provide us with information, directions, music, and relevant news. 

Local listening experiences

Another area where short-form audio will shine is localized experiences. Content recommendation in the audio space has become much more advanced, enabling a mix of listening preferences and geo-locations to customize content recommendations. For example, if a history buff is walking by a sports stadium, a nugget about the local team’s past might surface.

There are opportunities for local businesses to get involved in the creation of unique experiences, too. They can add value for their customers by sponsoring short-form audio about the local sports team, politics, weather, traffic, or content related to their specific business, adding even more value to the audio programming their customers already love. There’s even opportunity for highly localized promotions and voice-operated purchasing, based on where the consumer is and what they are doing

Making it real

Almost every science fiction movie from the last 50 years has featured voice-based human-machine interactions. Short-form audio has the potential to become the new face of content: personalized channels consolidating audio from across the web to give consumers exactly what they want. The audio will also feature brands providing the content for ‘free,’ of course.

For consumers, audio delivers more value, quickly. Short-form audio gives them the information they need and want in an easy-to-digest-form, keeping them up to date with exactly what they need to know, no matter where they are or what they’re doing.

Besides, freeing us from screens sparks our imagination. We can paint our own pictures of the audio, immersing our other senses. 

It’s time for audio to take back its crown, allowing us to wear the mantle of audio no matter what our eyes are doing.

Amir Hirsh is Co-founder and CEO of Audioburst.

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