The Age of Active Audio – Long-form

longform audio

Long-form audio as a looping conversation…

We in the podcast — or long-form audio — community sometimes think of podcasts as a passive audio experience. We create an hour or more of audio and then people listen to it. Outside of writing in response, this seems to be the current extent of the creator-listener relationship.

However, there is more to the world of audio than this. More and more interaction with devices is through voice. In fact, 22% of searches on Google are being done by voice. App creators are starting to understand their apps in relationships to others. Content creators are also understanding the context in which their audio is being listened to. We approaching an age of Active Audio, if we don’t live in it already.

What does it look like when audio becomes ambient and ubiquitous, search becomes a conversation, and we start to change how we interact with the world? What is this new audio age, this new audio world?

To understand it, you first must understand the changing systems of content channels. Currently, in America, apps are considered to be mostly solitary channels, rarely interacting.

At a recent Audio Thought Leader Summit, Will Hall, Executive Creative Director at ‎RAIN creative agency, discussed his experience creating apps in China. In China, apps are built off of each other with WeChat being something of super app. For example, the total process of eating at a restaurant (recommendation, traveling, reserving and paying) may be four distinct apps in the U.S. as opposed to China, where it feels like one seamless transition.

Content creation can be thought of in the same way. If you have a systematic approach, you can begin to have conversations that are native and organic– that can sit and live in many different places. And you can start to get away from a need to modify your business model. This means a production process structured with multi-channel content in mind or podcast players created with the understanding that the world of the podcast extends beyond audio.

It is not just audio output that is changing, but audio input. Consumers are also asking for information and content in changing ways. We are still typing in keywords into search engines, but we are also asking and directing or devices to act using our voices.

There is a major difference into the two forms of communication beyond which body part we’re using to input information. With text you can type in a range of words and create a web or cloud of idea. You can also get additional content via algorithm. Voice commands and questions tend to specific which in return gets specific answers back.

This is a major change to the current ways of thinking about discoverability. How can related content and information be provided? Will the questions consumers ask need to change? Do devices’ understanding need to become more complex? Or will both happen? These are all questions to consider.

Finally, the producers must understand the physical world that their audio content exists in.

Scott Hopeck, President of iHeartMedia’s New York region, discussed the studies the company has done in understanding difference in how listeners process audio content and audio-visual content at the summit.

With audio-only content, listeners were more focused as they were receiving only one type of sensory information. The voice paints pictures, giving you room for you imagination, and expands what you are thinking about. With audio-visual content, consumers’ minds wandered as there was less information that they needed to fill in about what was happening. Audio transports us to a different world in a way other content does not.

While audio is captivating, it still has to fit into the context of real world. Who is listening? When and where are they doing it and how? As an example of leaning into specific contexts, Hearst Media is releasing two 5 minute beauty podcasts. The one released in the morning focuses on preparing for the day ahead, while the one released later focuses on recovering from it. Listeners will continue to find time for content, but creators should start creating media that works alongside or with their audiences’ life and schedule.

Listeners are getting their content new ways, they are asking for and discovering it new ways and they are looking to experience it new ways. The new world of audio is active and already on the horizon, but its a future that is ready to be shaped.

You have this whole different world we can start to build, where we capture the imagination of people, keep them enthralled and entranced as they go about this world and live in this ambient space, this ubiquitous space, and we really can influence how people see everything around them and literally see everything around them because it’s their mind responding to our voice developing their world.

Long-form audio is no longer mostly a one-way street, but instead a looping conversation.

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