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Edition 1: March 2021
In this edition we look into the issues of screen fatigue, exacerbated through COVID-19 and the explosive growth in audio social platforms like Club House.
Screen fatigue is real
With more data now available that supports working hours increasing from remote working and with screen time having already increased by 30% by in 2020, it’s perhaps unsurprising that reports of screen fatigue are commonplace and preventative measures are being suggested to combat its effects. Tools have also been created to help people reduce the time spent on screens. Space is one example and there’s lots of interesting Google experiments that help people do this too.
Audio social explosion
The meteoric rise of audio social platforms over the past few months seems like a clear indication of people looking for ways to express themselves and connect with others remotely, but without needing to project their visual representation and spend more time looking at screens. With a frequently-cited stat from Spotify stating that audio provides an escape from too much visual stimulation for over half of Gen Zs and Millennials, zoom-fatigue fuelling burnout across a range of age groups and isolation being among many of COVID-19’s unwanted consequences, there’s fertile ground for more explosive growth in audio-led social platforms.
Club House has experienced a hockey-stick growth curve in recent months, undoubtedly helped through recent celebrity involvement and like many other audio social platforms, is based on a core feature of access to invite-only 'rooms' to socialise aurally, often with people that are typically out of reach. These rooms enable participation (or not) in real time and access to thought leaders with a level of intimacy and anonymity that is seemingly very desirable at present. Social audio players have already emerged for specialist interests like Locker Room for sports discussions, Road Trip for a more collaboratively consuming music, Cappuccino for friend-curated podcasts and Quilt that’s building a community based on kindness and support. There’s many more and new strands of this audio social ecosystem are emerging at rapid speed and it’s exciting.
Twitter is also here with Audio Spaces in beta and they're well positioned to capitalise on the momentum in the space and their brand equity. Facebook is also watching closely and true to form, is reportedly creating its own audio product to compete.
Spotify doesn’t currently have a comparable ‘rooms’ feature but it’s been making audio consumption inherently more social for a while now with its collaborative features. With both its usage and user base growingly healthily, buoyed by the continued uptick in Podcasts it's also well positioned to provide a real time audio-socialising service should it wish to.
Amazon and Apple both now have established audio streaming services and neither currently provide real time socialising via audio. We assume that there’s things being worked on by both, either via development and/or acquisitions. It will be interesting to see if users favour newer, audio-led platforms or new features/platforms from more established players in the longer term.
Combining audio, social and location to augment reality
Foursquare’s move into voice-based AR with the Marsbot for AirPods last year also caught our attention and adds some interesting layers to audio social platforms. Its real-time aural advice based on location can enhance someone’s experience of what’s around them but without needing to divert their eyes downwards towards a screen. Experiences like this are a welcome addition to an AR industry that’s primarily visual, where experiences often lack depth and ultimately usefulness. We expect the Marsbot to be just the beginning of audio social platforms that use context to enhance people’s real world experiences in real-time by providing additional relevance. As the world starts to emerge from a period of incarceration, we expect there to be quite the appetite for things like this.
We highly recommend this great round up of all things audio social from Jerimiah Owyang.
Check out: Dialup
In every Mindset, we recommend a use of technology that's improving its users' lives and is related to the edition's theme for our readers to check out for themselves.
Dialup enables people to have discussions with strangers from around the world about a range of topics. The app makes scheduled calls at fixed times and pairs people to talk about things they’re interested in – like a modern day chat line. Dialup also spawned Quarantine Chat (which is now a feature within Dialup) to help combat isolation during COVID-19. It makes calls at random throughout the day for strangers to talk about anything they want. It’s both exciting and terrifying in equal measure, much like the world right now. The lo-fi interface also appeals, too.