Streaming Audio Is the Perfect WFH Partner

Mar 22, 2021

With many working from home in the past year, new audio consumption habits have been developed. For a company like Pandora, the question is, how have our listening habits changed over time? Is music still the dominating audio choice or are people gravitating to new formats such as podcasts? Pandora and Mindshare, in partnership with Edison Research, launched a pivotal study in October 2020 to get to the core of America's listening habits, particularly while working, and to learn how the pandemic has reshaped audio consumption.

Priscilla Valls, vice president, agency & advertiser development at Pandora talks about the importance of doing this shared research with Mindshare and Edison. "As the leaders in the addressable audio marketplace - across content types, platforms and devices - marketers have always looked to us to reach known and understood audiences. This study demonstrates some of the breadth and depth of insights we tap into when guiding marketers on where, when and how to speak to their best customers ensuring that marketing messages add value to listening experience and as a result, positive business outcomes. It was great to partner with Mindshare to do this research as a way to get a deeper understanding of today's work-from-home audience and the crucial role audio plays in their daily lives and how it is a welcomed companion that contributes to people's overall workday productivity."

To get a full grasp of the landscape, Edison conducted online interviews with adults 18+ who were employed either full or part time. These results were then compared with at-work studies conducted in 1997 and 2013. The 2020 study highlighted these emerging trends:

The Era of the Home Office Is Here for 24 Hours a Day

While the work-from-home trend pre-dated COVID-19, it only represented 8% full-time and 9% part-time workers in 1997 and 2013. During the pandemic, it ballooned to 49% with higher income adults and parents of children over-indexing compared to all workers. By contrast, Black Americans and lower-income adults are both 12% more likely to be currently working outside their home.

For those working from home, office hours have greatly expanded. It is no longer 9 to 5. Almost one in three Americans are currently working outside their normal work hours and their daily routines have been disrupted and often stressed.

"As the workplace and the workday have evolved during the pandemic, established routines are gone, and that's something many people find themselves missing," says Alexis Fragale, director, customer strategy, Mindshare. "For brands and marketers, it's important to understand the mindset of their audience, the disruptions they're facing, and how it's impacting them. They need to examine the role they want to fulfill at this time as they try to capture their consumers' attention."

Amidst Disruption, WFH Is a Welcome Change … For Some

Work flexibility has become a high priority for workers (58%) giving them more time with family (65%), better work-life balance (58%), made them happier (56%) and more productive (55%), less stressed (50%) and more resourceful (50%). But that might depend on demographics and household composition. While parenting can often be challenging in normal times, the pandemic has brought on unique stress. Many parents say the pandemic has made it harder to be a good parent (47%), with seventy percent of working parents say that they are also juggling their child's at-home virtual learning. six in ten of those with children learning at-home say that it has been difficult to balance work with virtual learning. Obviously, working parents are especially likely to be feeling the pain from juggling work with parenting including Women (118 index), Hispanics (111 index) and those with lower income (109 index).

Streaming Audio is a Welcome Activity

While media habits in general have evolved during the pandemic, streaming audio has been particularly successful. The study found that 7 in 10 workers listen to any audio while working, with even higher numbers for Gen Z (87%), Hispanics (82%) and Parents (79%). And audio itself has undergone a digital transformation. Compared to Edison Research's 2013 at-work listening study, those who say they listen to streaming audio while working has grown by +57%, while those who listen to AM/FM radio while working has declined by -8%.

Notably, other forms of digital audio are also experiencing growth during the pandemic: 41% of listeners are spending more time listening to podcasts, while 45% are spending more time listening to audiobooks.

Consumers Love Audio as a Mood Lifter

Audio is favored by consumers for a variety of reasons. The study found that it helps fill silence (71%), makes their workday go faster (69%), helps them escape (58%), makes them feel connected (52%) and provides a break from screens (50%). Audio also puts workers in a good mood (69%), help them stay focused (59%) and provides inspiration (52%).

Audio Can Lead to Online Shopping Through Ads

Those who listen to audio are paying attention and are therefore more receptive to ads. Half of those who listen to streaming audio while working do so through an ad-supported service, meaning that there is significant opportunity for brands to reach and resonate with listeners during the workday. Many workers feel that they are even more receptive to ads while working; 37% of those who listen to ad-supported audio while working say that they pay more attention to streaming audio ads while they're working than when they aren't. Men, Gen Z and Parents are more likely to agree.

Streaming audio ads have more impact and create a call to action. The study found that 45% of those who listen to ad-supported streaming audio while working have sought more info about a brand after hearing an online audio ad. Additionally, based on previous research from Mindshare's NeuroLab, consumers listening to streaming audio ads showed a strong emotional engagement. It's a compelling way to connect with listeners on a more intimate basis. Read more about the study.

"Audio can be a powerful tool for people to help get them through their workday," says Fragale. "Whether it's music, podcasts, audiobooks ... it can take a number of different forms and serve different need states. By playing into audio's complementary role as a mood enhancer and tapping into the power of this medium as a storytelling format, brands and marketers have an opportunity to tie their messaging into these emotions and need states."

For marketers, the value and impact of streaming audio cannot be understated. Not only is this media form growing as more Americans work from home, but its positive impact on daily life will also continue to expand post pandemic as Americans enter a new normal.

This article was originally published on MediaVillage.

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