I have some mildly bad news: the amount of time your visitors can concentrate on a specific task without becoming preoccupied is shrinking. Before you say anything – no, I’m not talking about the widespread eight-second attention span myth (also known as the Microsoft goldfish study) where it’s alleged we humans have one second shorter attention span than your average goldfish. Digression: you have to admit that’s an impressive-sounding presentation point.
No, I’m talking about the ongoing shift in user behavior that’s driven by the modern digital lifestyle. It’s becoming more difficult to keep people on a website because there’s other stuff going on all the time. Our ability to focus is designed to work in bursts of attention, rather than in one uninterrupted flow. Scientists have found out that during the periods of distraction happening in between those bursts of attention, the brain shifts the primary focus of attention to something that might be more important.
That means that some of you will lose focus halfway through reading this article, and some won’t even make it to the end. However, there’s something positive here as well. While the digital lifestyle is affecting our ability to concentrate by providing various distractions, it has also opened a new way to engage, grow, and ultimately monetize audiences: audio.
Why audio content is important
The Internet is predominantly a visual place, but that’s slowly changing thanks to advancements and subsequent adoption of voice technology. One of the “side effects” are improved multitasking abilities, which is exactly what science has proven. By being able to home in on things in short bursts, we acquire a better sense of what merits our attention and allows us to remember certain things better.
That is also the reason why audio as a channel is important. It opens the door to leverage this type of user behavior. It’s perfect for a multitasking audience that is gradually moving away from screens through increased usage of smart speakers and headphones. With audio, there are no limitations, making this type of content, both useful and entertaining.
One of the best indicators of how audio content has grown is the following stat: there are twice as many people in the US who listen to online audio (defined as listening to AM/FM radio stations online and/or listening to streamed audio content available only online) since 2012. Furthermore, people spend nearly 17 hours listening to online audio every week – more than ever before. And surely, you have heard about podcasting – the big audio story that’s leading the audio revolution.
I won’t delve further into numbers and stats as they all virtually tell the same story – audio is mainstream. What you need to realize is that these are the times of efficiency as we are always doing something while doing something else. Readers no longer boast the luxury of reading through a full article, which leads to skimming and browsing, resulting in major drops in user engagement on content websites. Audio and the voice technology behind it allow users to be more efficient and provide high levels of convenience by occupying only their ears and leaving free all their other senses.
So how does audio, in terms of audience engagement, translate to a website – the source of predominantly visual content?
Creating a listening experience
First and foremost, you need to offer your content in an audio format. Luckily, it’s very simple. All you have to do in order to offer a listening experience is to integrate a native audio player: a small piece of code you place anywhere you want on your site. It automatically scans your content and adds an audio version of it in a matter of minutes. And that’s all there is to it – you have an audio version of your content ready for your readers/listeners-to-be.
Further customization allows each visitor to set the desired speed of playback, language, the gender of the voice, and more for the best possible listening experience. An added bonus is that the playback continues in the background, which allows your visitors to comb through your other content while they listen. From the UX point, the player can easily blend in with your site to match the look and feel of it. Plus, the size and compatibility of audio files don’t affect the site’s speed and usability.
As I mentioned, voice technology has developed rapidly over the past few years, so much so that people are getting used to the natural sounding but still slightly synthesized voices. The native audio player is your entry point in engaging your audience wherever they are: on the commute, in the office, at the gym, etc. By making your content accessible on the go, you are making sure they stick around longer in spite of shifting attention spans.
Then, there’s is content (content technology) as a way to further increase engagement and time spent on your website. Contech capabilities, for the most part, revolve around content aggregation and recommendation. Basically, you get a unit that does a little bit of everything: from highlighting your and web’s top trending content (these can be different formats such as articles and podcast episodes) to providing content recommendations based on user preferences and/or your choice.
As a result, users get an improved overall experience, spend more time-on-site, and explore more content. The increased engagement has a direct effect on revenue growth, making this a win-win situation.
Welcome to the audio era
What’s currently happening to our attention is a natural chain of events triggered by omnipresent technology. As Contech capabilities evolve, voice and audio content adoption will continue to grow. With so much time spent on listening to the audio, increased user experience through a native audio player may seem like a thin layer of additional value at first. However, it’s the first and the most important step to providing a familiar and personalized experience for an audience that expects a certain level of continuity and convenience.
Think of it this way: audio can be the glue that will keep your visitors fixated to your content. At the end of the day, that’s all you can hope for.