Traditionally large publishers of the world were the media (radio, newspaper, TV). As the Internet developed, social media started to be the point of truth for many people around the world. The trend of user generated content (UGC) has changed the balance of power in favor of individual creators. This is with good reason, as individual creators are more likely to stay authentic to their true opinion rather than being influenced or censored by 3rd party interests. The creator economy signals the power creators will play in how media is created and consumed. Working on building core tools used by millions of creators is a daunting and exciting task.
Audio-first channels, such as podcasts, have been active since 2008. But they missed mainstream audience up until recent times when they enjoyed a big spike in adoptability. Fast forward to March 2021, 41% of the US population now listens to a podcast on a monthly basis (Edison Research). This is the result of several factors: COVID has pushed all digital channels, Apple has put more than 200M wireless headphones into our ears and millions of hungry creators realize they can earn money by developing content for this format. Now audio-only is joining forces with social media for the ultimate channel called social audio. There has never been a more exciting time.
Audio channels are expected to grow significantly in the next few years. While desktop and laptops require a visible screen, mobile, VR and smart homes don’t. This allows consumers to utilize idle time by listening to audio content from multiple new locations. These include communicating with Alexa at home, tuning into a podcast on the commute or joining a discussion on Clubhouse in the evening. Let’s examine a proxy for total addressable market - the number of wireless hearables units sold has surged 670% in the past 3 years: from 46 million in 2018 to 310 million in 2021 (Counterpoint Research). By 2030, a large population of the world is estimated to have access to a mobile phone and wireless headphones needed to consume audio content properly. Only then will the full potential be recognized.
Several years ago I attended a talk by Peter Thiel describing true innovation as bringing something new to the table rather than improving an existing product (zero to one). From a media standpoint, unlocking new audio content inventory is the next big step. These audio content formats can be adapted and repurposed to other formats such as short-form audio, short-form video or short-form text which can be indexed and exposed to the billions of users browsing the Internet.
It’s exciting to be part of new category which is has yet to be properly mapped. So far, the majority of 3rd party tools supporting the social audio space are side-projects put together over the weekend. We are tackling this problem as an experienced team, funded company and hungry founders. We have the opportunity to define a new category and be part of the future.
Since I was young boy growing up in the Silicon Valley, both the worlds of tech & media excited me greatly. In the startup world, media companies often get a bad reputation due to being in close proximity to “ad-tech”. Many of these companies attempt to optimize the existing media inventory to profit on the arbitrage, which provides little value to the world. In stark contract, we are enabling aמ entirely new content format to be monetized by unlocking audio content.
Perhaps not the argument that sounds the best, but transparency is more important than optics. The work we’re doing at AudioLabs on the intersection of social audio and creator economy will be the next big marketing battleground. While this may take several years to fully mature, companies involved in this industry will be in a prime location to ride the growth wave. From a financial point-of-view, there aren’t many better places to be.