Amongst the 900,000 podcasts created last year, Sortlist launched its very own, ‘Beyond Marketing’, in August of 2020.  With only 300,000 new podcasts created in 2019, we decided to investigate this rapidly growing medium.  We asked 500 CEOs, managers, and team leaders of small and medium businesses (SMBs) across Europe about their audio content use as both consumers and as an advertising strategy for their business.

Here are some of the main things we discovered:

  • 76.2% of people listen to more audio content since the beginning of the pandemic
  • Radio is still the king of audio, and Clubhouse has yet to make its mark
  • Only 10% of people listen to audio content related to their job vs 29% for hobbies
  • 78% have, or are open to buying products from advertisements on audio content

Table of contents

COVID-19 Boosts Audio Consumption by 76.2%

The Covid-19 pandemic may have been a blessing in disguise for the audio world.  Here is what our survey revealed.

An overwhelming amount of people answered that they frequently listen to audio content.  Every country had at least 90% of answers as yes with a high of 92% in France.

In correspondence with the previous question, we asked whether their audio consumption had increased or decreased since the first Covid-19 restrictions came into place.

76.2% of those who consume audio content said that their consumption increased due to the pandemic, 13% consume the same, and only 2% listen less.  Furthermore, all countries, with the exception of the Netherlands, revealed that their consumption increased significantly.

The Commuting Twist

For those who responded that they consumed audio content, we also asked them when they would most likely listen to it.

Every country, with the exception of the Netherlands, had at least 53% of people responding that they listen to audio content while commuting or doing repetitive tasks.  Although only 33.63% of Dutch respondents gave this response, it was still the winning answer just in front of listening whilst at work (32.74%).

Though an estimated 40% of Europeans were forced to work from home as a consequence of the pandemic, thus eliminating the commuting time, people have found substitute times to listen to audio content.

Radio is King, Podcasts are Rising, but Clubhouse…?

We asked people which was their preferred kind of audio content.  One thing we learned is that radio is not dead.

Almost 50% of people prefer Radio – Spain with 56%

Although the number of people listening to the radio is declining (especially amongst younger generations), it continues to surpass its more modern competitors.  With a 46% majority in France and a high of 56% in Spain, all countries favoured this traditional medium over others.

Podcasts are a clear 2nd favourite with 36% of listeners

Although not as high as radio, a significant amount of people in some countries answered that they preferred to consume audio content via podcasts.  In Germany, preference for podcasts is 8% less than it is for radio, while in France, it is only 6% less.  However, those surveyed in the Netherlands responded with 11% fewer podcasts over the radio and an impressive 20% less in Spain.

Considered radio’s biggest rival, podcasts have continued to grow in popularity in the past few years and in contrast, they are able to draw in the younger generations.  18 to 44-year-olds make up 67% of the podcast audience around the world.  With time, these generations will eclipse those who show a preference for radio.

Clubhouse’s exclusivity means only 3% of people use it

Ironically, for a social network app based on voice, Clubhouse seems to be all talk and no action… Backed by big names such as Oprah Winfrey, Elon Musk, and Mark Zuckerberg, this much-hyped app is now worth over $1 billion dollars after just 10 months of existence.  However, from what our survey shows, it is hard to tell where this worth is coming from.  Less than 3% of Europeans are actually using this app!

With a high of 2.65% of audio content consumers using Clubhouse in the Netherlands, 2.63% in Germany, 0.87% in France, and 0% in Spain, this form of listening to audio content still has a long way to go if it wishes to compete with the rest.

Could this be due to its exclusivity?  In order to use the app, listeners must first have an iPhone and then receive an invitation.  But CEO Paul Davison says that he intends to open it up in the future.  He may want to speed up the process though since competition has just gotten harder.

You won’t believe what Spotify just did…

Spotify is launching itself into live audio content too.  The audio streaming platform is buying Betty Labs, the creators of the live audio social app ‘Locker Room’ which focuses on sports.  Spotify announced that their collaboration will add “unparalleled data, insights, and strength in user experience, to build-out a full complement of live and on-demand offerings for users and creators across the globe.”

Could this mean the rise and fall for start-ups like Clubhouse?

Maybe…maybe not.  For Thomas Angerer, co-founder and CCO of BeInfluence Europe, Clubhouse is a promising social network platform that is giving rise to audio content in an exponential manner.  For him, the invitation system for professionals gives businesses the opportunity to position themselves as an expert in their field in relation to other professionals that may be interested in your industry.

With BeInfluence, we started the adventure at the end of February with the creation of a weekly “room” on Tuesday mornings in which we discuss the latest trends in influence, as well as a club gathering users interested in the subject. We have an average of 80 listeners per room and the club already has over 500 members and followers! There are real business opportunities. I’ve met some really interesting people for BeInfluence over the course of the rooms and two clients have already contacted us to offer our influence services after listening to us on Clubhouse!”

User Intent: What’s Flowing Through the Headphones?

We wanted to get an insight into what type of content people were listening to.  Our results lined up with Manuel Fraga’s most famous slogan: “Spain is different.”

Although France (34.78%), the Netherlands (29.2%), and Germany (35.09%) listen mostly to audio content related to hobbies, Spain was even more spaced around content related to the news (29.82%), stories, and entertainment (28.07%), and hobbies (27.19%).

We also wanted to take a look into the listener’s main intent when listening to audio content.

In alignment with the previous question, those from France (37.39%), the Netherlands (43.36%), and Germany (34.21%) listen in majority to audio content to help them relax and Spain (40.35%), to learn new things.

Start Mixing Business With Pleasure: 3x the amount of people listen to leisure vs business content

According to Chartable, the leading category for new podcasts created in 2020 was education with 133,107.  Leisure, however, came in 10th place with only 47, 584 new podcasts.

From our survey, it seems like supply is out doing demand since a large portion of listeners steers away from the educational content.

What does this mean from a business perspective?

If businesses are looking to expand into audio content, it is important that they remain flexible and create content that appeals to users’ wants.  Although business podcasts were the 4th most launched podcasts in 2020 with 85,155, only 10% of people listen to audio content related to their job.  That is double the amount of new podcasts for an audience that is almost three times smaller (29%) than those who prefer content related to leisure.

Audio content may just be the place where you should mix business and pleasure…

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The Love/Hate Relationship Between Advertising and Audio Content

Consumer Perspective: 46% of people are persuaded by audio advertising

Podcast advertising seems to have a positive impact on listeners’ purchasing habits.

46% of listeners can imagine themselves purchasing a product thanks to an advertisement they heard on a podcast, and 31% have already taken the step and done so.  Only 8% stand with a firm no.

Business Perspective: Only 19% of businesses had advertised on audio content

Although those surveyed seemed to have adopted a positive purchasing attitude towards audio content advertising, their business strategy does not reflect that of their consumer’s.

49% of CEOs, managers, and team leaders can imagine themselves advertising on podcasts and only 19% have already done so.  On the other hand, in the Netherlands, more people were inclined to say no altogether to advertising on podcasts (29.2%) versus those who had already do it (17.7%).

Audio content and advertising are starting to have to sit comfortably together nowadays.  In 2020, there was an average of 160 new advertisers per week on podcasts.  In January of last year, each advertisement was appearing on average on 3.6 shows and by November, the average jumped to 6.2.

With a podcast being created every 30 seconds around the world, there is plenty of space for businesses to create advertisements.  Podcasts are also the best place to catch the eye of younger audiences48% of US monthly podcast listeners are between 12-34 years old. This age bracket that steers away from radio and uses adblockers on various other mediums is an easy catch on podcasts.

Additionally, in 2018, podcast advertising hit $479 million in revenue and it is projected that in 2021, the number will hit $1 billion.

The Advertising Catch

Although some may have shown an interest in advertising, they have also shown the intricacies that come with it.

Roughly 63% of all people surveyed responded that they have stopped listening to audio content due to advertising.

Advertising may be great for some, but it can also turn others away.  Businesses need to find an original way to keep listeners engaged during their advertisements to avoid the audio advertising catch.

Closing Minutes

Audio content may be changing, but it’s still old school.  People still like to tune into the radio and are taking their time in their transition to more modern ways.  However, the time will indeed come when we show preference to streaming devices.

Businesses are also taking their time to hit the advertising sound wave, but as consumers, they have already been convinced…although, beware of the overadvertising catch.