In a dazzling virtual event yesterday, RAIN Digital Australasia brought together 25 audio professionals from Australia, Malaysia, India, United Arab Emirates, New Zealand, Indonesia, Canada, the UK, and the U.S. in a four-hour sequence of discussions about the state and future of the digital audio business.
The Zoom event was sharp-minded, expertly moderated, and presented a global conversational map of the present and possible futures in radio, podcasting, short-form audio, audiobooks, gaming, advertising, technology, and more.
Following are interesting points and conversational highlights.
Radio competing with streaming
In the Broadcast Media panel, moderated by Kirstine Stewart (Head of The Future of Media, World Economic Forum), six panelists from radio groups throughout the Australasia talked about the pandemic, podcasting, the pressure to innovate, and more. When the conversation swung over to Spotify, and positioning against the global rise of streaming, we heard a combination of respect, apprehension, and confidence.
“We clearly see digital audio complementing regular radio. A lot of our timeless content is available on Spotify.” –Abe Thomas (CEO, Reliance Broadcast Network, India)
“We could find ourselves pushed off to the side, when competing with unified dashboards like Spotify. There is a need for standardization of how ads work across platforms.” –Leon Wratt (Group Content Director, MediaWorks Radio, New Zealand)
“It is so important to connect with the local audience every day — as long as we do that we’ll be stronger than the streaming platforms. The companionship, entertainment, and news content are essential.” –Alex Agishev (Head of Programming, Virgin Radio, ARN, United Arab Emirates)
“Stupidly short” podcasts and other predictions
Francis Currie (International Audio Consultant, UK) moderated a panel titled A Continuously Renewing Currency of Content. He ended the session with a call for predictions, five years out. Here are a few pull quotes from the responses:
“It’s definitely a data play. Audio will shift to a performance oriented medium which can attribute what is heard to a conversion.” –Christian Facey (Founder & CEO, AudioMob UK)
“A continuing disparity between long form, deep dive convos and very short stuff like Tik Tok 15-second time things. Short storytelling — stupidly short compared to Joe Rogan. It will be ultra-short vs ultra-long, with less in the middle.” –Ollie Wards (Director of Music, ANZ @ Tik Tok)
“An explosion of audio to more people. It used to be just radio, Now we can bring that gift of audio to so many different demographics — Tik Tok, Blinkist, long form. It’s going to keep developing. Most important, there will be a unique selling point for each one; different types of demographic. Radio will continue and evolve, along with an opportunity for radio to extend digitally.” –Rachel Mallender (Director of New Content, Blinkist)
“Hyper personalization will hit its stride. Short form audio in personal form directed to you. The space in music industry is fascinating. It has made the complete transition to a digital business.” –Michael Richardson (Country Manager, Australia & New Zealand, SpokenLayer)
“Proliferation of devices plus enhanced measurement paints a great future picture. A truly audio business delivering hyper-local content in as many content brackets as required. Universal measurement will convince our advertisers to a strategic choice. Audio is a truly ubiquitous medium — you can’t shut your ears.” –Brian Gallagher (Chief Sales Officer, SCA Australia)
“There’s a great opportunity for music podcasts. It’s got talent you can put up front. The complexity is in the music licensing. I’m finding it difficult to create podcasts across many music genres. Also the talent — musicians are surrounded by agents and labels, so making the podcast compelling is difficult.” –Courtney Carthy (Creative Director, Podcasts, Mushroom Group)
Endorsements of programmatic audio advertising
In a panel called Digital Audio Trends Across Asia and Oceania, hosted by Triton Digital, the consensus was unsurprisingly endorsing programmatic advertising and dynamic insertion. Sharon Taylor, who heads podcast hosting company Omny Studio with Triton, observed that dynamic ad insertion can be effective with host-read podcast ads (pre-recorded, of course).
“We see audio as resilient to the pandemic. We’ve seen exciting growth in APAC, especially in podcasting. Now delivering 10M impressions monthly for programmatic.” –Simon Lee (APAC Account & Monetization Operations Manager, Triton Digital)
“Weaponizing” successful podcasts via localization
That characterization was uttered by Sharon Taylor. She was referring to how Wondery is regionalizing some of its popular podcasts by re-producing them in other languages — they and other ventures like that are, in effect weaponizing the existing popularity of hit shows by importing them for non-English speaking audiences.
Other speakers dipped into this topic as well.
“Localism is key. 99.9 percent of [non-local] content is irrelevant to our market.” –Leon Wratt
“The other opportunity is in regional podcasts. Previously the international shows were of limited appeal. Now, more genres like sports and true crime are triggering the imagination of the audience.” –Abe Thomas