Audio needs a vision

Editor: Audio needs a vision
Opinion: 100% Media 0% Nonsense

The sector is more digital and opportunities to reach different audiences are expanding each year. But audio still needs to overcome large hurdles in order to unlock new levels of commercial income.


Audio, oddly, seems to have an image problem within the world of media planning and buying.

The reality is that, in the UK, radio listening is now mostly done on digital devices. Two-thirds of radio is consumed via a smart speaker, internet device, or DAB receiver, which opens up many new and interesting ways of reaching different audiences. And yet, as a media agency planner tells me during my preparation for this event, she still has to make the case that audio is more than just “efficient reach”.

That means getting advertisers to understand the breadth that audio offers. That means getting agencies to acquire audio specialists to inspire more creative thinking about how to reach audiences on digital audio. 

However, measurement (or lack of) is a big hurdle to overcome in digital audio. In this column last week, I remarked how it is becoming fairly standard for audio media owners to collaborate on joint measurement initiatives to ensure that their audiences can be fairly tracked and compared. TV and radio have been doing this for decades; out-of-home is now joining the party, but the major players who dominate the growing digital audio space have not yet found a solution.

In a podcast survey analysis by The Media Leader’s sister company Adwanted Audio, just under one-third of media agency decision-makers had “difficulties with measurement and reporting, making it the most common issue expressed.”

The report adds: “Many raised a lack of trust in the numbers they were given and an ability to coming with different platforms and other types of media.”

Notably, when asked what are the biggest “pain points” when planning or buying podcasts, less than one in five (18%) cited “cost” as a barrier. This confirms with what I often hear anecdotally when asking agencies and marketers whether the increased cost of digital audio CPMs is “worth it” — advertisers get how effective addressable audio and podcasts are but need better tools with which to prove it works. 

Let’s hear you

If you come to our Future of Audio Europe conference in London this Wednesday, you will hear a lot about the opportunities and challenges that radio, digital audio and podcast companies face.

I will introduce the big themes of the day alongside Matt Deegan, co-founder of Folder Media and all-round audio expert, where we will discuss what should be the priority this year for getting more audio on the media plan. 

We will then take the temperature of the room by asking which of these action points should be the key takeaway from this year’s conference. 

  • Improving how we measure audiences
  • Increasing brand safety on digital audio
  • Making audio more sustainable environmentally
  • Changing the way audio is traded
  • Making the audio industry more diverse and inclusive

Then, throughout the day, the conference will focus on asking our guests — media owners, brand marketers, tech innovators, and agency specialists — how to go about each of these important tasks. 

The full agenda is here and features my interview with Spotify’s global head of advertising Lee Brown, Sam Tidmarsh’s buy-side conversations with Tesco and Direct Line, Ella Sagar’s planning and buying deep-dives with media agency mSix&Partners and SiriusXM’s ad platform AdsWizz. Our colleagues from Mediatel Connected will also reveal fascinating research into how word count has a direct impact on an audio ad’s effectiveness, while The Media Leader France’s Francois Quariel interviews the French radio giant NRJ on its digital transformation. 

We will then conclude the conference with a cross-industry debate and ask our delegates to vote one last time for a resolution.

A path to progress

As readers will know already, The Media Leader’s Future of.. events series are not simply designed to be a talking shop for industry practitioners to sell you something. There are enough of those conferences already. 

At The Future of Media in October, we spent two days debating what should be the three issues that The Media Leader champions in 2023. As part of our mission to champion leadership and excellence in media, we strive to be a force for progress in commercial media, not just be a cheerleader. 

There are few sectors that need a guiding vision more than audio right now. As Radiocentre’s Lucy Barrett warned the conference last year, big advertisers “aren’t consistent across Europe” with their audio spend as many see it as an “add-on” to further audience reach on television.

“If the conversation about radio or audio isn’t happening in the head office… this wonderful booming audio revolution isn’t going to get the advertising it deserves,” Barrett added.

Television is important, of course, but audio needs a vision now, too.

Omar Oakes is editor of The Media Leader. 100% Media 0% Nonsense is a weekly column about the state of media and advertising. Make sure you sign up to our our daily UK newsletter to get this column in your inbox every Monday.

Adwanted UK are the audio experts operating at the centre of audio trading, distribution and analytic processing. Contact us for more information on J-ET, Audiotrack or our RAJAR data engine. To access our audio industry directory, visit audioscape.info and to find your new job in audio visit The Media Leader Jobs, a dedicated marketplace for media, advertising and adtech roles.

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