Predictions 2022: Audio's simplification, AI investment and measurement updates

Mariam Cheik-Hussein
By Mariam Cheik-Hussein | 13 December 2021

Next year will be about simplifying audio for advertisers after months of rapid change for the sector, according to industry experts.

The pandemic caused a spike in audio consumption, with 86% of Australians aged 12 and over listening to radio over a one-month period, according to the annual Infinite Dial Australia 2021 study, released by Edison Research and Commercial Radio Australia (CRA).

The study also found that about 5.6 million Australians, or 26%, are weekly podcast listeners, a 53% increase over the 2020 study that was conducted prior to the pandemic lockdown.

Amid this rise in listenership, the industry has undergone a digital transformation, with new apps, investment in AI, and measurement updates.

Nova Entertainment CEO Peter Charlton and ARN chief strategy and connection officer Lauren Joyce argue 2022 should be about simplifying the sector for advertisers.

“Audio has diversified enormously from a format and platform perspective, and the volume of content is incredible,” Charlton tells AdNews.

“Our challenge is how we bring it together for advertisers to make the case for audio obvious and the process of buying it easier than ever. If the audio industry can bring clarity and simplicity to the enormous commercial opportunity on offer here, the advertising community will follow.”

Additionally, CRA CEO Joan Warner says measurement will continue to be under the spotlight.

See the full predictions below:

Grant Blackley, SCA CEO
The biggest opportunity for our business and the audio industry is the accelerating growth and consumption of digital audio. Audio is at the heart of SCA, and we embrace a digital first strategy that underpins every decision within our business.
This journey began many years ago with a review of strategy, a progressive change in behaviour, workforce and digital posture coupled with a deep desire to embrace and unlock a sustainable and exciting digital audio future. In Australia alone, the number of people accessing digital audio is expected to reach 80% of the population by 2024. The result of that strategy is evidenced in LiSTNR - an independent, consumer facing brand, capable of housing our own content, and future licenced content from premium local and international partners.

To stay ahead of the curve, we have equity invested in Australia and the U.S in AI and machine learning companies – the benefits of which will truly be realised in 2022. A new digital monetisation strategy is driving a completely different revenue model. Listeners create highly personalised profiles, improving the user experience and discoverability, and in turn, offering addressable audiences at scale for advertisers. The industry has invested heavily to meet consumer demand for a more expansive audio ecosystem, providing consumers more opportunities to engage with radio and podcasts across multiple devices anytime and anywhere. Listening through smart speakers, mobile apps and connected cars are also accelerating at pace.

Peter Charlton, NOVA Entertainment CEO
I risk sounding like a broken record here (pun intended), but we really are living in the glory days for audio. Not since the advent of the Walkman in the early 80’s have we seen the same kind of exponential increase in personal audio consumption.
We’re seeing considerable, ongoing growth in both audience size and time spent, which is a claim very few – if any – other mediums can make right now. People are genuinely making more time in their day for audio, which we know is a privileged position to be in as a publisher. Now it’s on us to help our partners get the mix right. Audio has diversified enormously from a format and platform perspective, and the volume of content is incredible. Our challenge is how we bring it together for advertisers to make the case for audio obvious and the process of buying it easier than ever. If the audio industry can bring clarity and simplicity to the enormous commercial opportunity on offer here, the advertising community will follow.

Ciaran Davis, ARN CEO
Across the last few years, our industry has spent a significant amount of time and money digitising our offering and now estimated to be upwards of 15% of audiences choose to listen to live and local radio in a digital form. The benefit of this is improved innovation capability across a medium that is inherently trusted. So in 2022, now that we have a much more scaled digital audio offering (across radio, music and podcasts), I predict that the early commercial adopters will start to combine creativity with technology to drive more measurable outcomes. This year in our Neuro Lab, we have been able to identify the nuances that drive attention across various types of audio content. I have already seen our clients start to implement these findings to optimise their approach. It’s no longer enough to enable a presence across the various audio formats, but as audio publishers, we need to go a step further and help our clients make more of every connection we avail them.

Lauren Joyce, ARN chief strategy and connections officer
Audio has been through a couple of years of intense evolution. In fact, the word “renaissance” was being thrown around well before the onset of a global pandemic which saw the smart speakers reclaim radio’s place in the home. This created a fair amount of confusion for advertisers, and now that the market has caught up, there is a demand for dramatic simplification of the platform. From articulation of the product to industry alignment around terminology, the role of the channel and each format; essentially, a consolidation of all of ‘the bits’. If broadcasters are to capitalise on the escalating demand and listen to their clients, they’ll respond in an aligned manner rather than trying to outdo one another. As individual publishers, we have spent a lot of time educating listeners and advertisers on the benefits of the various platforms and formats right across the Audiosphere, and now it’s time to make it really simple to buy into. I think we’ll see a doubling down on the evidence of audio efficacy and greater guidance for advertisers on making the most of their investment in the channel without the previous unknowns of how all of the formats work best together.

Joan Warner, Commercial Radio Australia CEO
Media measurement will be under the spotlight with clients and agencies wanting validated and verified data and insights into audiences. Radio will be ahead of the game with the development of the Radio360 hybrid system with live streaming data integrated into official audited currency by mid next year, providing more granular data on radio’s growing digital audiences. We will capture and report on listening everywhere, on every device. Our system will be future-proofed from any more disruption such as Covid lockdowns with a move away from paper diaries to e-diaries. In 2022 a panel of 2,000 consumers will wear electronic watch meters to calibrate and validate the streaming data and will, in future, enable one off spot surveys to be undertaken such as a summer survey. Next year will be the year of a world first hybrid radio measurement system. I anticipate that advertisers will be happy with the results.

Ken Lam, iProspect national head of investment
With the ad market well and truly back to pre-pandemic levels, I expect radio to rebound in 2022 fuelled by return to office plans and increased commuting, especially across NSW and VIC. Coupled with delivery of the long-awaited converged audience survey data mid 2022, along with the rollout of the automation buying platform RadioMatrix, this together will bring greater accountability and confidence to the channel for advertisers as well as ease to transact for agencies.
And whilst linear audiences on radio remained strong throughout the pandemic, I expect a greater shift to digital audio including podcasts and streaming with increased investment from advertisers fuelled by greater audience targeting capabilities and insights, and more accountable measurement and different metrics including attribution and footfall. Not to mention digital audio can be a much more personalised experience for consumers with tailored content accompanied by personalised ads based on location, interests and contexts all now possible. So in 2022 I see Audio going to the space of what the FTA TV networks went through in recent times with the growth of BVOD alongside linear broadcast to push advertising solutions to be a more converged offering, which agencies and advertisers need to take advantage of.

Kane Reiken, NOVA Entertainment digital commercial director
The golden era of audio will continue in 2022 with audiences spending increasing time within digital audio environments across all devices and speakers, entertained with the introduction of further diverse titles, voices & communities.
The appeal of podcasting is expected to continue to accelerate with advertisers doubling their investment in 2022, matched with more sophisticated tools to provide greater accountability on performance, attribution and measurement to showcase real actionable results to their investment. Dynamic creative will gain further adoption via content and advertising, delivering a more tailored listening experience. We will continue to see the growth in cross-platform publishing, with video and audio content recorded and distributed to all platforms (live & in social format) to match the user consumption requirements while consolidation in the industry will ramp up with the convergence of production, technology and platforms - alongside the increased presence of international players in the Australian market.

Kim Norman, SCA head of commercial - podcasts and partnerships
We will start to see a continued growth in factual and drama-based podcasts, with podcasts playing a bigger role with new forms of journalism and investigative base features. Brands that have already been playing in the podcast space will continue to grow their investments here, which will naturally spark interest in their competitors within their own categories. As podcasts continue to scale, audio has a brilliant opportunity to grow its share, especially against other mediums that engage the commuter, audio is ultimate mobile medium to do this, as it is the only medium that allows the audience to multi-task. 2022 is the year that podcasts can really accelerate the growth of audio spend.

Conor Riordan, Kaimera client director
Covid taught us that we love to live in our own echo chambers of information. We listen to media that reaffirm our opinions and world views. This trend will continue in 2022 across audio as talkback radio continues to grow, consolidating its user base and creating niche pockets of segmented beliefs and opinions. It will become easier for brands in the audio space to align with specific politics or connect with audiences with shared values. Whether or not this is a good thing for us remains to be seen.

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