Here’s a rough picture of my 2 cents on how things look from a web-based content perspective. On one side, there are publishers who are doing their best to manage campaigns across different channels and devices and trying to keep up with necessary adjustments for better user engagement and usability. The other side is occupied by a variety of bloggers and independent content creators that are plagued with distribution issues and typically lack technical skills.
Whichever side you’re on, you share the same frustration: a highly competitive landscape that makes it tough to cut through the noise and get the audience’s attention. As such, you are leaving money on the table, which is where audio-based monetization kicks in.
What’s happening right now
The current supply-demand state in the audio landscape is very much centered around audio streaming platforms like Spotify and Pandora, who have their own self-serve ad platforms and are constantly increasing their investment in voice technology. Just like with the beginnings of the smartphone/apps revolution and the always relevant and growing video space, publishers are largely missing out on the opportunity to make their inventory available in audio and hop on the gravy train.
Although digital audio advertising is advancing slowly, a quick glance at the numbers shows year-over-year growth, both in terms of spend and revenue. From 2010 to 2015, global audio ad expenditure went from $28.43 billion to 30.64, and is expected to reach 31.7 billion by the end of the decade. Total digital audio ad revenues reached $2.3 billion in 2018 – a 22.9% increase over 2017’s revenue of $1.8 billion.
As more and more people are finding voice to be a remarkable way of interacting with technology, so do the usage and importance of audio content increase. Without going into reasons why that is (not that I haven’t covered that before), audio as a channel has exploded this year, reaching a record high in time spent listening to online audio and lots of other usage-based stats. So, how do you leverage it in terms of monetization?
First and foremost – audiofy your content
Apart from syndication and licensing from their peers, it’s no secret that publishers are growingly aiming at technology to produce content at low(er) cost. Now, I know what you’re thinking: it’s relatively easy for publishers to shell out some cash but how does turning to vendors and AI technology help me as an individual on the tightest of budgets?
All you need to do, for starters, is to convert written content into audio. The good news is that partnering up with a technology provider that has this ability is very affordable these days. What’s more, the entire process is super easy. Basically, you insert a piece of code (that turns out to be an audio player) anywhere on your site.
It integrates with the existing website experience and instantly converts your written content such as articles into audio so that your audience can listen to it on any device, wherever they are.
The end result is a built-in audio player that can be further customized to seamlessly blend in with your site’s overall look and feel but more importantly, comes with natural-sounding voices and different languages and settings for a personalized listening experience.
Not only are you allowing your readers an easier and more efficient way to consume written content (and turning them to listeners, de facto), but you are also enabling them access to your content through smartphones, smart speakers, cars, and additional audio distribution channels with the added ability to upsell to an existing audience.
The audio player is an important part of the retention strategy that aims to meet readers where they currently are. From there on, you can think about offering premium audio content such as podcast-like episode that would be available after paying for a subscription, for instance. It’s the same principle as with written content so whatever you’re offering needs to be valuable enough for people to pay for it.
Further monetization is driven by content aggregation and recommendation. The content discovery platform collects both your top trending audio articles and content from across the web (blogs, social media posts, podcasts, radio shows, newsletters, etc.) based on specific keywords and other criteria such as user behavior, contextual analysis, and more.
Then, it recommends it to your readers for an overall enhanced experience. By improving your UX this way, you are keeping visitors longer on site and allowing them to explore and enjoy more content while browsing. That’s a direct impact on your revenue growth.
Finally, from the audiofying aspect, a customized set of voice capabilities/skills that are generated directly from your content allow you to have smart assistant-ready content that can be consumed via smart speakers, smartphones, and other voice-first devices. That’s another (and increasingly popular) way how you can improve readers’ experience and keep them engaged.
Next step – digital audio ads
What’s great about audio is that it allows for a far more personal experience than any other format. There’s actual personality coming through it, complete with the intended tone of the message which is almost impossible to replicate via text.
The numbers back this up: according to Adobe’s State of Voice 2019, almost 40% of consumers find voice ads on smart speakers to be more engaging and less intrusive than online, print, TV, and social media ads.
You’ll need a technology provider to generate revenue this way. Typically, the solution is integrated with the website’s CMS and draws on specifically designed ad servers to dynamically insert ads via Dynamic Ad Insertion (DAI). It can add or stitch custom targeted audio ads into the audio stream, based on the individual user listening to the content in question.
This offers publishers, bloggers, and content creators a method to easily monetize their content through targeted audio ads powered by a wide range of data and insights. As a result, the combined package provides a more engaging and personalized listening experience which naturally improves your ROI.
Audio as a new revenue stream
By transforming the written text into spoken words, you enter the audio era and take the reigns of a new and effective way to engage, grow and monetize audiences. Simply put, it’s content consumption in a more natural and intuitive way that’s widely accessible.
From the standpoint of direct sales, publishers and content creators can sell into the product and grow their direct and premium budgets organically, as well as their programmatic budgets. For many, especially tier-1 publisher, the opportunity and ability to upsell existing accounts is more profitable less risky because there are advertisers who care about the placement of their ads and are more inclined to pay higher prices in order to guarantee such inventory. This makes it a far more appearing and lucrative offering.
One thing that should also be mentioned (but is a totally separate beast) is voice search. Seen by many as the ‘technology of the future’, it’s already making an impact by strengthening the marketing efforts and, in some areas, completely replacing desktop search.
While voice search is largely in its infancy, all the signs point to it playing an important role in daily lives in the coming years, just as smartphones do now. With that in mind, audiofying your content is a step in the right direction when it comes to embracing the monetization opportunities presented by voice search.
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