Digital Audio

Recession-Proofing Your Brand Performance with Digital Audio

Melissa Kiddie, Senior Manager of Audiences, Sales MarketingJan 30, 2023

As Americans set stricter priorities and save more, marketers need to align their 2023 planning with the shift in consumer spending to ensure their media dollars are working harder.

If the tea leaves are true, a recession is likely not far off. And as Americans stare down the prospect of tighter financial times, they’re starting to make adjustments to their budget — 76% of adults are making cuts, to be exact.1

We all know what that means: less consumer spending = tighter business budgets. Advertisers, in particular, need to align their 2023 planning with shifts in consumer behaviors to ensure their media dollars are working harder.

How? With ad-supported digital audio.

Digital audio isn’t just an affordable alternative to video (although this is definitely a selling point). It’s also a hands-free, screen-free option that listeners can take with them anywhere. This type of consistent market saturation is a must-have in a recession-era media mix. In fact, Americans are spending more time listening to audio than ever before at four hours and 16 mins per day (a +7% increase in the last year). What's more, digital audio listeners are spending an additional hour and 40 minutes every day with audio (+50% more time with audio than non-digital listeners).2 When you consider that, you can see why this investment is so enticing.

But let’s dig a little deeper, shall we? Here’s exactly why your brand needs to include audio in your media mix during a recession.

3 Reasons Digital Audio is a Must-Buy During a Recession

1. Digital Audio Offers Audiences Support During Times of Economic Uncertainty

When facing difficult times, audiences naturally turn to digital audio for connection, emotional support, and distraction. Whether it's their favorite music or podcast, audio offers consumers an escape from the craziness of what's happening around them:

  • 59% of listeners between the ages of 18 and 54 say music is important for their mental health and well-being. 3

  • 25% of listeners between the ages of 25 and 44 who listen to podcasts say this form of audio makes them feel better about the bad things happening in the world.4

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So, what does this mean for brands? You likely won’t find your consumers in the typical spaces you’re used to seeing them. Rather than leaning into the reality of the world with TV, social media, or print, your audience is going to be leaning into audio for escapism. Which is why it is crucial to keep digital audio in the plan.

2. Audiences Trust Podcast Hosts to Deliver Important News

When the country experiences a major change like a recession, it only makes sense that consumers start tuning into trusted news sources for information. While this used to mean network news shows and daytime talk TV, the tides are shifting to digital audio sources being the most trusted places for information. Consumers now rank podcast hosts and radio personalities as their most reliable media sources over TV hosts, celebrities, and even politicians.

Don’t believe us? The numbers don’t lie:

  • Nearly two in three Gen Z podcast listeners consider podcast hosts to be the most authentic, genuine, trustworthy, and reliable media figures.

  • When it comes to Millennials, nearly 75% put podcast hosts at the top of their “most trustworthy media figures” list.5

  • And on top of that, 51% of podcast listeners think these hosts deliver news in an approachable and real way.6

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It’s not just about trustworthiness, though. It’s also about the appealing nature of the media format and its ability to deliver must-have updates (like those on the financial state of the economy) in engaging, digestible, and intimate ways. News podcasts have seen a 37% increase in listening year over year, and those listeners aren’t just tuning in sporadically.7 In fact, a third of people who listen to news podcasts are heavy listeners, tuning in 10-plus times per month.

The bottom line: your brand’s message won’t resonate well if it comes on the heels of what consumers find to be a less-than-reliable information exchange. Pivoting your advertising strategy to incorporate mediums that are considered trusted and well-liked by consumers is the most effective way to continue maintaining lucrative relationships with your target audience, even when consumer spending is tight.

3. Ad-Supported Digital Audio Listeners are More Likely to Continue Tuning In

Consumer cutbacks don’t just apply to purchases like clothes, experiences, and shopping. It also impacts where consumers get their media fix. Now more than ever, consumers don’t want to pay for duplicative services like premium streaming subscriptions. In fact, one in three listeners say rising prices are already impacting their entertainment purchase decisions, and 29% of U.S. adults canceled streaming subscription services in the last six months.

Luckily, ad-supported audio gives listeners a more affordable way to hear all the music and content they love. Rather than paying to tune in to content, audio platforms like podcasts and music streaming give consumers their media fix without breaking the bank. That’s why 87% of SXM Media listeners listen with ads.8

And the even better news: most listeners are more than happy to hear your brand’s message in exchange for their favorite shows or music, and take action: 

  • Over half of online audio streamers 18+ agree that hearing ads in online audio is a fair price to pay for the free content they get.8

  • Audio streamers between the ages of 18 and 34 are +45% more likely to purchase a product or from a brand after hearing an online audio ad.

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In the simplest terms, the recession could lead to a smaller addressable market—but only if you don’t hit your consumers in the right places. Audio is the most effective channel with which to reach your target audience and get them to continue spending with you.

Digital Audio is the Key to Brand Success During a Recession

The thought of bracing for a recession as a business can be scary. But with the right media strategy—and partner—you can keep your brand not only afloat, but successful. Interested in learning more about how partnering with SXM Media can help your brand stay connected to consumers through all the ups and downs? Let’s chat.


1. CNBC “Delaying big purchases, reducing debt: 76% of adults are making lifestyle changes to prepare for a potential recession”, BMO Financial Group, Oct 2022

2. Edison Research Share of Ear Study, Q3 2022, 13+ persons; Daily Listening Figures

3. 2022 Pandora User Study, A18-54, March 2022

4. 2022 Pandora Culture Trends Soundboard, A25-44, October 2022

5. SXM Media, Gen Z & Millennials Study, Online Audio Listeners 13-34, March 2022

6. SXM Media Culture Trends Report, 2022

7. Nielsen Consumer Sentiment Study, 2022

8. Pandora Internal Metrics Q3-22

9. Pandora, OMG, and Edison Research, The Differentiating Factor: The Tale of Two Streamers, Q2 2020

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