Mon, 31 Jan 2022 / Published in Audio Streaming, LATEST NEWS

The new year is in full swing, and the audio revolution is showing no signs of slowing down. Audio creation and consumption have both gone through major shifts over the last two years, as the world continues to grapple with the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic. The face of audio is set to continue changing in 2022. Perhaps even faster than we might think. 

From the rise of unconventional new competitors, all the way to opportunities to listen to, repurpose and distribute an abundance of premium content from all over the world, there’s quite a bit going on. Mindful of this, it’s worth taking a look at the potential impact of these changes within the evolving audio landscape over the next twelve months.

Radio’s essential role during the pandemic

Although it might feel like the first lockdown in 2020 was a long time ago, in the grander scheme of things the pandemic has only been a part of daily life for a relatively short period. Radio has been one of the mediums that really stepped it up since then, diving in head first and keeping people entertained and informed in a period of high uncertainty, and with the threat of fake news around every corner.

This has contributed to the now booming face of audio — which has long been on the radar of tech companies and Silicon Valley startups — but is only just beginning to gain a lot of mainstream momentum. The widespread adoption of voice notes have played an important part in this too. Radio is the master of reinvention, but as powerful as it is, it is going to come under more pressure from a variety of new sources this year. This is especially true considering the revenue growth numbers many commercial radio stations are posting in what is a very delicate global economic climate.

The revised face of audio?

The changing face of audio might be better described as a revised face of audio. Media consumption habits are going through major shifts all over the world. In the US, the average adult consumes about 11 hours of media every day; 20.2% more than a decade ago. Mobile consumption is up to an average of a rather staggering 252 minutes a day.

Audio content creators and distributors are having to think out of the box to meet the changing needs of their audiences, in order to get a slice of the (attention) pie. These all have to be mindful that consumption habits are generation-specific too. Baby boomers still prefer traditional media, whereas GenZ’s are quite predictably glued to their mobile devices. Knowing who you’re speaking to matters, but it’s about more than just high quality content these days. How it gets delivered and how that slots into the life of the consumer can mean the difference between good engagement, or simply being passed over for something else.

New competition from non-traditional establishments

Not being passed over means keeping an eye on all the new competition popping up. These are increasingly coming from non-traditional establishments that spot the opportunity of poaching a traditional radio audience. A prime example of this is the Los Angeles Times; formerly a written publication that has had to pivot over the last decade to counter dwindling revenues in print media.

By creating The Times — a popular daily podcast that has great monetisation potential — they have successfully navigated some very murky waters. They haven’t changed what they have always done best: high-quality journalism. The difference now is that these in-studio interviews, detailed reports and more are all going to live online forever, with the potential to repurpose the content elsewhere at a later stage too. Other podcasts are knocking on the doors of the attention spans of traditional radio audiences too.

Wonder(y) and podcasting power

That’s not to say that radio isn’t ready to put up a good fight. In a bid to get ahead of the curve, African Media Entertainment recently signed a deal to partner with Wondery, the biggest independent podcast distributor in the world. The collaboration means that AME has the rights to promote some of the countless Wondery podcasts through subsidiaries, like Algoa FM and OFM.

The latest PWC Media Outlook estimates 19 million monthly podcast users in South Africa by 2024.  By working together, both radio and podcasts have the ability to transform the audio landscape even further. I have a particular love for podcasting, and thoroughly enjoy being a guest on insightful shows like The DOC and the GURU. From a content creators perspective, podcasting is fun, engaging and relatively uncomplicated to get going with. Done well, it can be alluring to listeners in the same way radio has always been. It will also be big business in the future.

A view towards the year ahead

It’s safe to say that 2022 will see more players entering an already competitive audio landscape. On top of new apps entering the market, streaming platforms like Spotify are gunning for radio listeners in a big way. The Swedish powerhouse has already launched its own morning show that is free to listen anytime from 7am on weekdays. It differentiates itself from traditional radio by (1) letting the listener consume the content on their own time, (2) by allowing them to skip stories they aren’t interested in, and (3) by playing music specifically curated to the individual.

Online audio is only going to continue to explode during the course of this year. More people are going to open their own stations, dabble with podcasting and explore new ways of finding niche audiences. Radio has got to do what it can to get ahead of it, or to collaborate with the platforms in a mutually beneficial way.

By having the training, skill and expertise to create better products than the average teenager in their bedroom, the industry does have a leg up in many ways. How it uses that to satisfy the ever changing habits and needs of audiences begs to be seen this year.

Who else is ready to give it their best shot?

Dave Tiltmann is group chief executive officer of African Media Entertainment.