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5 Trends to Watch (and Listen) for in 2020

A look at how audio fits into our connected future.

As we head toward a brand new decade — and another CES — we can’t help but feel that this new golden age of audio has only just begun. People are tuning in more than ever, with 67% of the US population now streaming audio (up from 27% at the start of the ’10s1) and total weekly listening time up nearly three hours from 2018 to 2019.2

This doesn’t come as a surprise — Spotify has driven growth by bringing ubiquity, innovation, and personalization to both fans and brands. Beyond that, we’ve continued to evolve. For instance, we’ve found that Spotify users who add podcasts to their audio mix stream 2x more than those who listen to just music.3 Yes, audio is here, there, and everywhere, but in looking to 2020, we see even more opportunities for our advertising partners. Here are the major shifts in technology, strategy, and consumer expectation that will make it all happen.

5G Is Almost Actually Here

It’s been said that 5G is the technology that will make all of the other technology work.4 To be sure, this long-awaited network upgrade has super-futuristic implications for our society, from self-driving cars to holographic phone calls. But the more practical (and nearer) developments are great news for those in digital audio and advertising: internet speeds 10x that of 4G, less mobile battery drain, lower latency between devices, and cognitive leaps in AI and voice. All of which translates to better and longer listening experiences powered by richer audience data and increasingly relevant ads. Not to mention the fact that 5G may also bring high-speed internet to millions of consumers who weren’t previously served by broadband.5 Since Spotify is home to over 500,000 podcasts, 50 million songs, and 3 billion playlists, we are the go-to audio streaming service as immediate access to content becomes the norm.

The IoT Is Growing (and Growing)

Of course, this is all great news for the rapidly expanding Internet of Things. We’ve already built Spotify to be ubiquitous — compatible with an ever-growing network of devices and brands — and we're always looking to give fans and advertisers better access to our own vast IoT. An estimated 76.5 million Americans will be using smart speakers at home by 20206 — the same year when experts predict virtually every new car sold will be connected.7 Opportunities abound in these audio-first environments: 70% of listeners say that because they are attentive to streaming audio while commuting, they remember the ads they hear.8 Whether tuning in via wearables, consoles, smart TVs, or anything else, Spotify users are logged in — so we’re able to provide a seamless experience across their own IoT.

70% of listeners say that because they are attentive to streaming audio while commuting, they remember the ads they hear.

Screen Exhaustion Is All Too Real

And frankly, that time can’t come quickly enough. Spotify’s Culture Next global trends report revealed that 56% of Gen Zs and millennials agree there’s too much visual stimulation today, and audio offers a nice escape.9 But they’re not just tuning out — 63% say audio makes them more productive while multitasking.10 While we hear about people cutting back on screentime — our mobile devices now even offer to monitor this for us — no one’s digitally detoxifying from audio. This could be because, as one neuroscientist told us, we use music to regulate our moods, and podcasts fuel our imaginations. This makes for a highly engaged, emotionally invested audience that only grows as our tech integrates more fully into our lives. Our new Stream of Context guide helps brands connect with fans in IRL moments like Party, Cooking, Workout, and Chill. It also serves as a reminder that audio is still the only digital advertising option for reaching people when their devices are in use but not in view.

Audio Identity Is a Must-Have

All of these developments will only increase consumer expectations around voice interaction, leaving brands with a big question as they enter that sound-first space: How do marketers invest in an audio identity that’s equal to their visual identity? This can mean everything from sonic logos and catchy jingles, to branded smart speaker skills and questions about the tone of your brand’s literal voice — is it American or British, serious or sassy? Audio advertising is a great place to start defining that identity. We’re currently testing voice-enabled ads on Spotify, and “Play music” is still the top request among smart-speaker users.11 Consumers want more from voice and soon enough simple commands will evolve into conversations. Spotify is positioned to not only educate our users on how to interact with this technology right in our app, but also help marketers craft an audio-first approach for this new era.

Podcast Advertising Is Powerful

With our shifting habits, it’s no surprise that Spotify’s seen a 250% year-over-year increase of podcast consumption hours.12 Even without that growth, the format is an advertiser’s dream, as highly sought audiences dive into their passions in an intimate setting. About half our listeners say they trust podcast hosts as much as their own friends,13 and that affinity benefits brands: 81% of listeners take action after hearing audio ads in podcasts, including researching a product online, connecting with the brand on social media, and talking about the brand with others.14 By acquiring Anchor and rolling out Soundtrap for Storytellers, Spotify is working to make it easier than ever for creators to connect with brands and make the kind of content that allows both parties to find their very specific audiences and keep them listening and passionate. We’re committed to pushing the medium forward, and as advertising capabilities improve in earnest, podcasting’s long-awaited ad boom won’t be far behind. 1 Edison Research and Triton Digital, The Infinite Dial Study 2019 2 Edison Research and Triton Digital, The Infinite Dial Study 2019, average time among weekly listeners 3 Spotify First Party Data, free users, June 2019 4 Digiday.com, “5G Is Coming and It Will Change Digital Advertising...”, June 2018 5 DigitalTrends.com, “Can 5G Fix America’s Rural Broadband Woes?”, July 2019 6 IAB, 2019 Digital Audio Buyer’s Guide 2.0, November 2018 7 IAB, 2019 Digital Audio Buyer’s Guide 2.0, November 2018
8 Crowd DNA and Spotify, Seize The Moments survey among global Spotify users 18-44, April 2019 9 Culture Next Report, Spotify trend survey among global Spotify users 15-37, February 2019 10 Culture Next Report, Spotify trend survey among global Spotify users 15-37, February 2019 11 NPR and Edison Research, “The Smart Audio Report”, Spring 2019 12 Crowd DNA and Spotify, Seize The Moments survey among global Spotify users 18-44, April 2019 13 Spotify First Party Data, global users, December 19, 2017 - December 19, 2018 14 Crowd DNA and Spotify, Seize The Moments survey among global Spotify users 18-44, April 2019 15 Crowd DNA & Spotify, “We’re All Ears,” AU, BR, DE, MX, UK, US, 2018</>

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