Can you hear that?

25th February 2019

Can you hear that?

In 1979, The Buggles told us that ‘Video Killed the Radio Star’ and until recently that seemed to be the case. But everything comes back into fashion eventually (except for those weird long white wigs) and it seems that audio is very much alive. So alive that it’s outperforming visual consumption by nearly double. And when we say audio content, we aren’t talking about the classic cheesy disc jockey, talkback radio or top 40 countdown. We’re talking about more accessible mediums that give people control of what they’re listening to – the podcast. Podcasts are doing to audio what Netflix did to TV, making content available on-demand – giving us control of what, when and how we consume.

We’ve become so used to on-demand consumption that even video streaming services like Netflix and Stan are falling behind audio content. There seem to be three major reasons for this. Firstly, you can literally listen to podcasts anywhere – something video doesn’t give you. You can’t go about your business or interact with the world while watching something. Whereas anyone can listen to audio content while cleaning the house, catching the bus, exercising, walking the dog, lying in bed, driving, and the list goes on, it’s the most accessible medium in this era of highly accessible content. It also allows you to multitask in terms of engaging with other media. These days people are consuming multiple media sources at once and it’s much easier to check an email or scroll on social media while listening to a podcast than watching a TV show. It’s giving people time back and, in a world that’s getting faster by the day, more time is a very desirable thing.

Secondly, it’s probably the most intimate way to consume content, because it’s just us and the voice, without visual distractions. Now, we’re no scientists but we do know that some people a lot smarter than us have figured out that the human brain processes audio into emotions faster than anything else. We form connections with audio way before we process sight.

And thirdly, the listener has full control over what they’re consuming. There is probably a podcast on anything you could possibly think of. Do you want a comprehensive history of the English language? To learn Spanish? An episode by episode run-down of the X-Files? To find out about a vague true crime case seemingly lost to time? There’s a podcast for it. You always have full control of what you’re listening to at all times.

In terms of marketing, this opens up a huge range of possibilities. On the one hand, the huge amount of content out there means a lot of it gets lost. But on the other it means, if done right, a brand’s content could gain huge amounts reach and impact. You can engage with an audience that wants to hear what you have to say by tailoring specialised podcasts to people – without being too ‘selly’ of course. As long as you make content that people are interested in. For example, science innovation brand GE produced an eight-part Science Fiction podcast called ‘The Message’ which ended up achieving millions of downloads. ‘The Message’ is a great example of what podcasts can achieve. It garnered huge amounts of brand awareness without ever actually trying to sell anything. But the thing is it did sell, because people who listened to the podcast gained a strong connection to the brand. Then you’ve got Sephora who, to promote a new lipstick range, launched the podcast ‘#LIPSTORIES’ which told the story of “influential female founders, creators and thought leaders”. And within weeks of it launching #LIPSTORIES already had a 5-Star rating on iTunes.

There is so much opportunity in the world of audio content, and as you can see the radio star (in a sense) has well and truly come back into fashion.