Reports Critical Developments

Closing the background gap Focused versus background audio listening

Report by Kriss Thakrar, Tatiana Cirisano and Annie Langston
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20,000 foot view:  The rise of attention inflation means that consumers are maximising their limited time by multitasking between various formats, spurring a rise in background consumption. This creates a “new” space for platforms to compete for consumers’ time. Among entertainment formats, audio is best placed to conquer background listening, but music streaming is more easily relegated to the background than podcasts. For future growth, both audio and podcasts must balance serving the passive, background listeners, who constitute the majority of consumers, with encouraging active, foreground listening amongst fans. 

Key insights 

  • All audio formats are most often consumed in the background of other activities
  • The background gap — the disparity between a format’s proportion of foreground and background listeners — measures the value of attention on the format and its ability to monetise engagement
  • Music streaming is occupying the same space as radio — a source for passive, background listening — with a        background gap compared to radio’s       
  • Radio’s background gap is smaller among younger generations, mostly due to its inability to capture background listeners, leaving a higher proportion of focused listeners
  •  High music streamers are more likely to stream music in the background        than music aficionados, who over-index for foreground music streaming        and interacting with friends about the music while streaming       
  • Niche streaming services, such as SoundCloud and TIDAL, which tend to have tools geared towards social and fandom, have lower background gaps, illustrating the path for music platforms to attract more active music fans
  • YouTube’s audio-visual, social experience gives it a unique ability to capture focused attention, and higher-spending music fans have more focused and interactive music engagement there
  • Podcasts have the potential to become a more focused format, as        of podcast listeners consume this content as a main focus activity
  • Podcast genres vary when it comes to attention: comedy        and true crime        podcast listeners are more likely to consume podcasts passively, whereas religion        and sports        podcasts are more likely to be consumed as main focus activity 

Companies and brands mentioned in this report: Amazon Amp, Apple Music, Apple Podcasts, Audiomack, Beats        Deezer, HBO, Josh Widdicombe, Mercedes, Rob Beckett, NetEase Cloud Music, Soundcloud, Spotify, TIDAL, TikTok, Twitch, Twitter, YouTube, YouTube Music, YouTube Shorts

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