Why do we prefer sound to text
According to a study by Edison Research and TritonDigital, in 2021, about 57% of U.S. residents over the age of 12 listened to podcasts at least once. For comparison, in 2018 the same indicator was 44%. There are several reasons for such an increase in the popularity of podcasts.
First of all, audio is about the same as video — online or on TV: we are increasingly turning it on as a background, simultaneously doing routine chores or moving around the city. At the same time, we do not need to look at the screen, rewind or scroll through something, as in the case of video or text. This means that even more resources are freed up to do important things.
Secondly, podcasts and audiobooks for many people are almost the only opportunity to get at least some useful information. Every day it hits us in gigantic volumes, and we just don't have time to cover everything. This creates a feeling of anxiety and a syndrome of missed opportunities. Audio helps to partially solve this problem without distracting from everyday affairs.
Thirdly, when listening to audio, there is a feeling that the speaker is speaking directly to you. This creates a more trusting atmosphere and helps to concentrate better. And also to make up for the lack of communication. Eventually, the audio format is very democratic: it is much cheaper to produce than video, and an ordinary smartphone with headphones is enough to listen to.
All this contributes to the growth of audio formats. Now their popularity is growing rapidly all over the world.
Audiobooks are replacing electronic ones
The global audiobooks market size was valued at USD 2.67 billion in 2020 and is expected to expand at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 32% from 2022 to 2027.
Audiobooks are published on the largest online bookstores and on special audio platforms, in the genre of fiction and non-fiction, for children and adults. Their design is complemented with sound effects and music, and famous actors are attracted for dubbing. New hybrid formats are emerging, such as the audio series.
How audio opens the way to the audience
Following YouTube, podcast platforms have opened access to millions of viewers and monetization of content to everyone. It's easy to launch a podcast yourself, even with minimal resources - or if you ask for help from a podcast studio and a recording studio.
If at the beginning this niche was occupied mainly by journalists, presenters and experienced bloggers with their audience, now there are podcasts from psychologists, film critics, directors, musicians, economists. In other words, we are seeing two parallel waves: podcasts for a wide audience and podcasts by interests (about specific problems, professions and hobbies). At the same time, everyone finds their niche and fans.
Another important area of audio content is social audio: when listeners actively participate in a conversation. The request for such content led to the emergence of the Clubhouse social network, but its popularity quickly faded. Obviously, the format "did not take off" due to the lack of a time frame, a clear structure and moderation. In this regard, podcasts are still winning, as they rely on storytelling: that is, stories told according to the script, with an opening, a culmination and a denouement.
How sounds affect us
Sounds are an important source of knowledge about the surrounding world for a person. Although we still get most of the information visually, speaking out loud helps us to better remember and structure things that are difficult to perceive. Sounds can evoke vivid visual images, memories, and even physical sensations in us.
That is why the background sound is so important for establishments, shops or massage parlors: it sets the right mood and encourages certain actions. According to a study by the Sound Agency, noise reduction systems in the office increase employee productivity by 46%. The Sound Design Institute, in particular, is engaged in developments in the field of generative soundscapes — that is, the very background that “programs” us in a certain way.
What awaits audio formats in the future
Audio content has been affected by the pandemic, and this effect is still noticeable. On the remote, people have more time and desire to consume content online in order to somehow distract themselves and occupy themselves. For example, the audience of podcasts on Youtube has grown by 42% during self-isolation. This wave, of course, has already departed, but it has left new users in the habit of listening to audio content and paying for it.
Apple recently added support for binaural au
dio technology to Apple Music, which creates an effect of super realistic sound using the features of our hearing and perception. It will soon be added to FaceTime calls. The first binaural audio series "Calls" about telephone conversations was released on the Apple TV+ platform.
Trailer of the series "Calls"
At the same time, the market for voice assistants is also growing: by 2026, the segment will amount to 489,5 million dollars, according to Just AI. It is through voice commands that music, podcasts and audiobooks are increasingly launched.
New audio technologies are becoming more and more interesting for IT giants and attractive to investors. In the near future, audio content will evolve along with new listening and interaction opportunities. These can be interactive audio series or quests, educational audio simulators or sound collections with special effects for home and office.