With the days of portable CD and Walkman cassette players in the past, a new era of technology has evolved and reshaped how we consume media. Streaming platforms rule supreme in a world that craves convenience and options. The way we listen to music, podcasts and radio has changed to meet these needs. Streaming audio is making an impact, with more U.S. internet users spending more time listening to digital audio than they do streaming video, using social media or playing video games.

Traditional radio broadcasters recognize the importance of streaming audio as a means to stay relevant and connected with their audience. Read on to learn more about what streaming audio is and why it’s important for the media industry and advertisers.

What Is Streaming Audio?

Streaming audio describes technology that enables users to access and listen to audio content via the internet in real time, without downloading or storing files locally.

Before the popularity of streaming grew to what it is now, downloading MP3 audio files was the most convenient way to listen on the go. This required disk space and quickly became cumbersome for people.

Some of the early platforms to introduce streaming to the population included Pandora and Spotify. With the emergence of these platforms and those that followed, users now have entire libraries of music, podcasts and radio archives to explore online. New opportunities for advertisers arose with several streamers offering access to these expansive libraries for free with ad subscriptions.

Who Listens to Streaming Audio?

Streaming audio’s accessibility and convenience appeal to a vast and diverse audience. It’s important for broadcasters and advertisers to better understand the demographics and behaviors of streaming audio listeners.

It’s no surprise that younger generations — Gen Z and millennials — account for a large percentage of streaming audio listeners. These age groups are digital natives and quick to adopt digital developments, especially those offering convenience. In the first half of 2022, 91.1% of 16- to 24-year-olds listened to digital audio.

While younger generations love streaming audio, older age groups have also opened up to streaming. The 35 to 54 age group’s online listenership grew from 81% in 2022 to 85% in 2023. The 55 and up age group still has room to grow, with a 53% monthly online listenership.

Why Is Streaming Audio Important to Broadcasters?

Terrestrial radio remains popular and continues to reach large audiences. However, broadcasters can’t ignore streaming services’ impact on the industry. Traditional broadcasters recognize the importance of streaming and the opportunity it presents to stay relevant and provide a more immersive experience for listeners.

  • Reach expansion: Traditional radio has some challenges with reach due to certain geographical limitations that constrain it in some cases. With livestream broadcasts, the reach goes from local to global. This not only allows broadcasters to widen their influence, but it also has the potential to attract new advertisers.
  • Audience engagement: Many streaming platforms offer features that allow for interactions between listeners and broadcasters. In traditional radio, hosts often prompt listeners to call in with questions, stories, music requests, etc. Depending on the platform, all of this would be possible through a quick and convenient live chat. This real-time feedback is valuable for listeners and broadcasters alike.
  • On-demand content: Loyal listeners may not always be able to tune in live. An archive of past broadcasts allows listeners to indulge in their favorite stations with the added convenience of rewinding, fast-forwarding or pausing content.
  • Algorithms: Streaming platforms use sophisticated algorithms to recommend content to their users. Listener preferences are used and analyzed to craft a customized list of recommendations. Broadcasters can reach an audience that fits their existing listener demographics and behavior patterns.
  • Monetization opportunities: Outside of traditional advertising, streaming offers new money-generating opportunities. Subscription models, sponsorships and premium content are all possible avenues for broadcasters to grow revenue with streaming.

Streaming Audio as an Ad Tactic

Broadcasters can add this tactic to their digital advertising portfolio. It’s an excellent complement to linear and O&O inventory. It’s the most underinvested channel, as the time spent by consumers is much greater than its share of ad spend. Data also shows that streaming audio ads have a 24% higher recall rate than display ads.

Several platforms offer different subscription tiers, including ad-supported and premium ad-free. In 2021, 62% of listeners opted for free ad-supported subscriptions over paid subscriptions on platforms like Spotify and YouTube. Ad-supported streaming revenue continues to grow. An even more encouraging statistic finds that only 12% of listeners report always skipping ads that play during their podcasts.

Streaming Audio Ad Ideas

Here are some industry-specific streaming audio ad ideas.

  • Health and wellness: Advertisers in the health and wellness industry can reach their target audiences through podcasts, broadcasts or audiobooks. One idea is an ad for a gym subscription during a live broadcast or podcast that produces motivational content.
  • Live events: Live streaming of AM/FM radio stations is the perfect place to advertise a touring event to appeal to listeners in different geographical areas. Encourage the use of live chats, or direct listeners to socials to enter to win free tickets.
  • Travel: The travel industry makes perfect sense for advertisers to test out a streaming campaign. The geographical reach plays to an audience all over the world. Cruise lines or travel agencies can use streaming apps to draw in audiences far and wide.

The Evolution of Audio

It’s undeniable that streaming has fundamentally changed the landscape of modern audio consumption. Music, radio, podcasting and audiobooks have experienced this. As technology continues to evolve, we can expect to see more innovation and growth in the streaming audio space. It’s a channel broadcasters can use for their own promotions and gains and sell to their advertisers. Broadcasters that harness the power of streaming audio will thrive in the digital age.

For more audio listening trends, check out our blog post covering the topic.