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Building The Future of Audio

Relevance, familiarity and popularity promise a high growth trajectory and a shining future for audio ventures

Photo Credit : Indiapicturebudget


When we think of digital marketing campaigns, we instantly relate them with witty one-liners, powerful images, and eye-catching video ads. Where does audio fit into all of this? It’s one of the oldest mediums of advertising and is now fast becoming an integral part of digital advertising.

Audio has always been embedded in our culture. India has centuries of rich oral tradition and even as recently as two decades ago you’d see people holding the radio to their ear and listening to cricket commentary.

We may not realize this, but even today we are plugged into audio –  from music streaming apps to audiobooks, from podcasts to intelligent voice assistants, slowly but surely, audio is coming back into our lives through new formats.

In a digital age where anyone with a smartphone can record a video, and there’s a video to watch for anything and everything, what role would audio play? Well, to begin with, we are already consuming audio content even through video platforms like YouTube and Instagram reel. The YouTube video platform is currently the largest destination for music in India.

From long-form documentaries to short digital narratives, podcasting, social media, and online streaming options will eventually liberate audio from the confines of a live radio schedule and create new audiences. Yet we must make sure that we build a conducive ecosystem for audio to succeed and flourish in its second coming. Here are the three things that will matter for this to succeed.

Relevance: The first and foremost aspect of any new idea to succeed is its relevance. What role does this play in my life? In fact, it would be a tragedy to get obsessed with the question of – how is audio different from video? The question to answer is – what can audio do?

The first port of building relevance is through content. Introducing content that appeals to a larger audience – cricket, religion, Bollywood, self-help –  will widen the audience base. Gurbani on audio, tips to succeed in IAS entrance exams on audio, learn English on audio, can multiply the relevance of the format instantly. Amitabh Bachchan lending a voice to Amazon’s Echo is a good start.

The second aspect of building relevance is by clearly outlining the role of audio in people’s lives. The big relevance for audio is that it keeps your eyes free. The reason that shops in India had radio commentary on through the day without any loss in business, is because they could go about doing their daily business while ‘keeping an ear’ on the cricket scores.

The great advantage of audio is that it allows you to multitask. In many cases, audio helps in doing something else better. For instance, music helps in your workout. Similarly, you could learn English with audio while going about your daily work, you could listen to a podcast while going for your daily run. Audio makes your dead time, useful time.

Language is another important factor in helping build relevance. Content in native languages can help build deeper connections and significantly widen the audience base. One of the defining trends is voice and vernacular – demand for local, vernacular, Indianized content.
We know that platforms such as ShareChat and Moj are finding great patronage with larger India and one of the key reasons for that is that their content is in regional languages. Similarly, one of the biggest ways for audio to win would be to create content in the language of the people, not English.

Familiarity: There is already a pattern for discovery that we have trained ourselves to, in the last two decades. Till the search for recipes or answers to certain questions doesn’t include audio options as well, audio platforms will stay hidden. New ideas get adopted when friction to adoption is minimized. We mustn’t ask for dramatically new behaviours, just because it’s a new format. For us, it just might be another app, for people, it’s yet another app.

The content must be discoverable on the platforms that the audience is currently at. For example, creating a podcast that is available on popular platforms such as Spotify where your audience is already at, will help your content be more discoverable without them having to switch to a new platform.

Popularity: Or what we call the network effect. People adopt platforms because other people do. To be able to cross the chasm, it’s important for the phenomenon to be socially visible. That lots of people are using it, makes everyone feel that it must be good. It reduces the personal cognitive load on decision-making. For this purpose, it’s important that the relevance and distribution of the platform are universal as well.

If the content that we build is shareable, it helps with the network effect. We must ensure that our marketing, the tech platform and our content allow us to kick in the network flywheel.

For audio, it’s their second coming. The adoption of this familiar medium will depend on how we are able to make it universal and relevant in the new age. The relevance-familiarity- popularity model will come in handy while pushing for its adoption.

Dheeraj Sinha, CEO & Chief Strategy Officer,  South Asia, Leo Burnett

Disclaimer: The views expressed in the article above are those of the authors' and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of this publishing house. Unless otherwise noted, the author is writing in his/her personal capacity. They are not intended and should not be thought to represent official ideas, attitudes, or policies of any agency or institution.

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magazine 27 Sep 2021 music Content Creation

Dheeraj Sinha

CEO & The Chief Strategy Officer- South Asia, Leo Burnet

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