How audio content evolved in 2018

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Audio content enriches people’s lives by providing everything from books to work advice to educational content.

Even though such recorded material has been around for hundreds of years — albeit in various forms — it’s still going through evolutions. Here are five examples:

1. Podcast Listeners Are More Diverse Compared to a Decade Ago

Research on how podcast listenership has changed over the past decade shows in 2008, nearly three-quarters of the audience was white.

However, in 2018, the breakdown of listeners is substantially more reflective of the diversity of the nation. Caucasians still make up the majority of podcast listeners, but the number of other races brought more diversity into the equation.

That’s likely due, in part, to the presence of a growing number of podcasts about diversity, and from hosts representing minority groups. That trend may get even stronger in 2019.

This year, Google partnered with PRX to launch an accelerator program for podcast hosts to remove the barriers that could reduce overall diversity in the industry.

2. Vinyl Record Sales Are Increasing

Vinyl records saw a resurgence before 2018. However, people who believed the renewed interest in vinyl is only a phase were proven otherwise. Record Store Day, a global event that kicked off a decade ago and promotes supporting local stores, helped give the vinyl sector some of its strongest sales ever this year.

The 2018 edition of Record Store Day happened on April 21. When vinyl sales totals came out for the respective week, they revealed 733,000 units sold during the period.

That was the largest ever total for a Record Store Day week, and the third biggest show of vinyl sales since Nielsen Music started tracking them in 1991.

When Record Store Day arrives, many prominent artists — such as Bruce Springsteen this year — release colorful records or other merchandise that could eventually become collectors’ items. This tactic works well by giving vinyl enthusiasts products they can hold in their hands that help support both record stores and artists.

3. Podcasts Are No Longer a Niche Format

Years ago, a podcast was often the broadcasting medium chosen by people who wanted space to air their outside-the-box views and attract listeners who enjoyed those alternative slants.

It became abundantly clear in 2018 that’s no longer the case. Research from eMarketer found that in 2018, more than one-fifth of Americans, or 73 million people, will listen to podcasts.

It’s not surprising, then, that podcast advertising is a hot sector. Other research shows people who listen to podcasts are devoted to their favorite shows and rarely skip commercials. The potential for advertising dollars generated — and overall interest — to rise is also boosted since many celebrities want to become podcast hosts.

4. The Print Industry Is Benefitting From the Audio Evolution

Audiobooks are the fastest-growing format, but people have not put physical books aside. A 2018 Pew Research Center poll found 29 percent of respondents read both physical books and digital ones.

In the study, “digital” meant e-books or audiobooks. Since leading audiobook providers typically offer an assortment of in-demand and interesting titles, people know they can frequently find the content they want in an audio format rather than only through physical possibilities.

Plus, the podcast industry stimulates demand for physical books. “The Sawbones Book” — which has physical, e-book and audiobook versions — is inspired by the podcast titled “Sawbones: A Marital Tour of Misguided Medicine.” It stars a husband and wife, the latter of which is a doctor. The pair offers hilarious coverage of the many mistakes made and bizarre interventions relied upon through the generations when attempting to cure ailments.

Some book publishers have embraced podcasts by launching networks, too. Macmillan is one example, with its Quick and Dirty Tips network, featuring 10 podcasts within it. When the hosts publish books, those titles bear the podcast network’s logo, showcasing a cross-promotional gesture.

5. Streaming Is More Dominant Than Before

With impressive frequency, people chose streaming platforms as a preferred way to listen to music in 2018. When Spotify released its Q3 numbers in November 2018, it reported 191 million monthly active users — or a rise of 28 percent. In addition, 87 million of those had premium accounts.

Apple Music is still playing catch-up to Spotify, but now has 56 million users, or a 6 million-person increase since May 2018. That brand is also aggressively exploring ways to become more prominent in the health streaming sector.

The Audio Format Is Still Full of Potential

Audio is an older form of entertainment than others like video games or movies.

However, the material above shows the sector can still adapt and keep up with changing tastes.

Last Updated on February 3, 2021.


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