The Streamies Are Coming…

For a long time now, pundits and other industry professionals have been talking up the need for interactive advertising to “come alive” and finally deliver on its promise to engage the user. Much of what we think of when someone mentions rich media is just that: a creative asset that lets the viewer become a part of it through some sort of experience. Though the most popular form of rich media, HTML, offers some interactivity, it lacks a certain vibrancy that much of what we think of as “advertising” has — namely, sound, motion, and images.

There is one thing that has always been around on the web, and usable as an ad format since the beginning, though, and that has been audio. Since the earliest days of the web, audio has been available in some form, initially as strictly repurposed content made accessible via Progressive Networks‘ RealAudio Player, first made available in 1995. (Progressive Networks is now RealNetworks.) So audio quickly became something a lot of agencies talked about employing for advertising.

The problem was, just like the rest of rich media, it became like teenagers and sex: Everyone talked about it, but no one was really doing it.

It’s been a long time coming, but streaming media is finally hitting its stride. More and more reports say that more and more folks are streaming media and spending a lot of time and money online.

I have been interested in the “streamies,” as Arbitron calls them, for quite some time. But it’s not easy to get clients to do something like audio advertising online. Clients think it isn’t for them for reasons that go from “Gee, I don’t think radio is for me” to “Well, we’re really a netcentric player and should only be doing ‘traditional’ online advertising like links and banners.”

Truth is, though, that the “streamie” audience is getting large and is valuable to target. So, for those of you out there wondering whether or not going with a streaming audio and/or video effort is for you, here are a few things to keep in mind:

  • According to @plan figures from the Fall 2000 Demo Profile, there are 28,791,929 audio and video “streamies” who access streamed content over a 30-day period. Sure, we all know the limitations of survey data, but directionally this is significant. Though this represents only 2.2 percent of the total web universe, it is growing quickly. With continued expansion of broadband in many of the major markets, accessing audio and video content via the web is going to become de rigueur.

  • According to an Arbitron Internet study, 70 percent of “streamies” are more likely to click through an advertiser’s content for more information. This is not a click-through rate, just a tendency to click through. I’m not giving click-through any primacy here, but the raw numbers of visitors alone suggest this means a lot of exposure for the advertiser and an opportunity for a little “engagement branding.”
  • In another study conducted by Arbitron/Edison Media Research, 60 percent of “streamies” have actually made online purchases versus the web universe average of 32 percent. That’s a 188 index, which means that “streamies” are about twice as likely to buy something online than the average web surfer. The desire for advertising to yield tangible results doesn’t go away just because the format is more of a “branding/awareness” vehicle. Advertisers are still going to want to have their advertising demonstrate results. Here is a tool that can deliver on both hard results and awareness.
  • Finally, if you have an advertiser who is unsure as to how an audio format will work in presenting his or her message and is leery of using radio (though a lot of evidence is mounting that it is a very efficient tool for driving traffic to a site) on a spot market basis, online streamed audio content is a great way to test the format before a greater out-of-pocket expenditure for a radio schedule. With the results you get, you may be able to index a potential response-rate lift for your radio when you do decide to buy it.

Related reading