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