Multiple startups, including beams, Search, and Nowzad’s app Pludo bet their efforts, and investors’ money, that there is business to be done in this user-generated audio. Even the world’s largest social platform sees this as a possibility; Earlier this year, Facebook announced Soundbites, an upcoming product that is also built around shareable, short audio clips. They all see what’s happening on TikTok – masses of people making viral video clips – and want to repeat that success with just sound. It could be the next viral frontier, and a medium that makes new stars and makes everyone a lot of money, should one of these apps really take off.
For several founders and investors, this is the future of audio: short recordings that are social, shareable, and thought-provoking, or, at the very least, make you want to listen and say something.
Audio is regaining its crown after 100 years.
A lot has changed since the TV pushed the radio off of its living room throne. TVs are still there, but are complemented by a multitude of device screens throughout the house, which in turn are reliant on streaming services such as Netflix.
OTT binge-watching has exploded, especially during the pandemic, and so has the consumption of short-form video from YouTube and, more recently, TikTok.
But, with so many hours in the day, people are getting screened out. That’s why audio is coming back with a vengeance. Unlike video, people can consume audio while living their lives — whether they’re exercising, cooking, or driving. With audio, the audience’s ears are “busy” while their hands and eyes can be doing something else. Additionally, the vaccine rollout portends freedom from our four walls and the ability to soon return to a sense of normalcy, including greater freedom of movement.
Here’s the problem: As people resume their busy lives, their available free time will become shorter and more precious. While podcasts have made their mark on our listening habits and have long passed the tipping point, the 30 minutes or hour required to focus on the content isn’t always available. That’s why audiences will be looking for new ways to optimize: shorter intervals as they emerge from pandemic hibernation.
Short-form audio’s opportunity
Bite-sized audio allows people to get the highlights of the information they want to hear without having to invest significant time or effort finding the content that interests them.
With short-form audio, consumers can have a full buffet of audio information at their fingertips. Instead of listening to a one-hour political analysis, all the media reports about the single issue of most interest to a consumer can be presented to them. They can get the highlights about their favorite team without having to sit through the entire sports weekly wrap-up for their home city. The person who just moved from out of state can listen to the local news and sports to have something to talk about tomorrow at the physical or digital water cooler. The options are limitless.
Amir Hirsh is Co-founder and CEO of Audioburst.