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InContext / An inside look at the business of digital content

Why publishers should be advertising on audio to improve ROI

June 3, 2022 | By Jay Kulkarni, CEO – Theorem Inc. @theoreminc

As consumer and audience behaviors continue to evolve in the wake of the pandemic, publishers must remain responsive to rapidly changing advertising trends. Omnichannel marketing has become essential for achieving adequate reach, as more channels—from apps and social media to the burgeoning metaverse—vie for audience attention.

Most recently, digital audio has emerged as a major player, with ad spending reaching $4.9 billion (a 58% rise) in 2021. In fact, according to the IAB Internet Advertising Revenue Report, digital audio grew faster than any other online channel last year, with gains doubling that of display advertising. Advertising on audio offers publishers the opportunity to deepen audience relationships due to audio’s highly engaging nature. It gives them a channel in which they increase reach and the impact of their advertising with their potential audiences.

What Is digital audio advertising?

Audio advertising is a simple concept: Ads delivered via digital audio reach audiences while they stream music, digital radio, and other online audio content. This includes podcast listening, which has risen 42% globally since the start of the pandemic. There’s no shortage of streaming channels for listeners to choose from, with some of the most popular being Spotify, Amazon Music, Pandora, iHeartRadio, and SiriusXM. Digital audio can be streamed on a wide variety of devices, including mobile phones and smart speakers, making it an ideal platform for audiences on the go.

If you haven’t yet incorporated audio streaming into your advertising strategy, it’s time to do so. Here are four reasons why publishers should be investing in digital audio ads to improve reach and boost ROI.

Four reasons publishers should invest in audio advertising

1. Audio goes where display and video can’t

Digital audio ads are unique in that they don’t require visual engagement. Unlike video or display ads, audio allows audiences to engage while being involved in other activities, such as driving, commuting, or working out. This makes audio streaming the perfect medium for multitaskers, including key consumer groups like millennials and Gen Zers. According to a report from Adobe, 50% of both groups say they listen to digital audio at home while completing household tasks like cooking and cleaning.

74% of adults ages 25 to 54 listen to digital audio content every month.

Edison Research

2. They’re immersive and engaging (but not overwhelming)

In today’s oversaturated marketing landscape, audiences are constantly bombarded by ads. This is especially true when consumers are using their desktop and mobile devices, as advertising has infiltrated every corner of the screen. Whether they’re checking email, scrolling through Instagram, or receiving a push notification via text, people are now accustomed to seeing (and often ignoring) ads wherever they tap or click. This makes getting and retaining audience attention even more of a challenge than it was before.

With audio ads, the delivery is much less jarring because listeners don’t have to stop everything they’re doing to receive a message. Digital audio ads are also not as easy to skip. That’s why average listen-through rates are close to 98%. And even if a listener is partially distracted, audio ads are still very effective, boasting a 24% higher recall rate than traditional display ads. Podcast listeners are especially engaged: 60% say they’ve made purchases from audio ads, and a whopping 81% say they always pay attention to podcast advertisements.

3. They’re highly targeted and contextual

Because podcasts and streaming sites appeal to very specific demographics, it’s easy for advertisers to target audiences based on categories such as music type and podcast genre. At the same time, programmatic audio advertising allows publishers to leverage valuable behavioral and contextual data, including geographic location, weather, website browsing history, and device type. What’s more, as is the case with all types of digital advertising, key metrics such as engagement levels can be measured in real-time, giving marketers the ability to make tweaks to improve campaign performance and ROI.

By 2025, digital audio will reach almost as many listeners in the U.S. as traditional radio advertising.


4. They create a strong emotional connection

By tapping into the senses using the human voice, digital audio ads can feel more emotional and authentic to listeners than display ads. They mimic the experience of one person talking to another, often via headphones, which make the experience seem even more up-close and intimate.

This allows publishers to build a strong emotional connection with their audience, especially when their ads are read by podcast hosts. Host-read audio ads are essentially another form of influencer marketing, capitalizing on an audience’s familiarity with and trust in the hosts they love to listen to. According to a survey by Morning Consult, 52% of podcast listeners say they’re more likely to try a product or service that’s recommended by a podcast host.

Moreover, the conversational nature of audio can help make calls to action appear more subtle and organic than they would in a visual ad. Rather than prompting users to engage with stilted, sales-y phrases like “buy now” or “add to cart,” CTA commands are naturally softened by a human voice recommending listeners visit a website to get more information.

A listener’s love of music can also help enhance the power of an audio ad. According to a study commissioned by Pandora, audio ads embedded within participants’ personalized playlists impacted long-term memory 49% better than radio, 36% better than television, and 29% better than mobile video ads.

Doing more with digital audio

In a digital advertising landscape that’s overwhelmingly visual, publishers can strengthen customer relationships and ultimately boost advertising ROI by taking advantage of digital audio advertising. In addition to creating an emotional connection with listeners, audio ads can reach users during the screen-free moments of their day, when they’re engaged in other activities but still receptive to receiving information. As more and more people incorporate streaming audio into their media diets, digital audio ads will become increasingly critical components of effective digital marketing strategies–strategies that publishers need to be aware of and using as they seek to grow their audiences.

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