5 reasons why audio articles are great for driving user engagement
With increasing demand for audio from our users, the Apps team at the Financial Times (FT) has been working on improving the listening experience for audio articles and recently made the feature available to all subscribers by default.
Early usage insights are promising: About 12% of FT app users have listened to at least one article, with 30% of those who have tried the feature listening more regularly.
Here are five reasons why we believe audio articles are great for driving user engagement:
- Embracing and building habits
We found that the most popular reason why subscribers listen to audio articles is the ability to multitask. By enabling hands free content consumption and multi-tasking, audio articles allow users to consume content in situations where they don’t usually have the option to read. This means users can embed content more easily in their lives whilst they do other things e.g. driving, exercising, cooking, cleaning etc.
James Clear, author of the book Atomic Habits, calls this habit stacking. Habit stacking is the idea of using a current habit and stacking a new behaviour on top. This way one can take advantage of well established routines and behaviours to create new habits. Here’s what the habit stacking formula looks like for audio articles:
When [CURRENT HABIT], I will [NEW HABIT].
When [DRIVING], I will [LISTEN TO AUDIO ARTICLES].
When [EXERCISING], I will [LISTEN TO AUDIO ARTICLES].
When [CLEANING], I will [LISTEN TO AUDIO ARTICLES].
So by embracing users’ existing habits, audio articles can become part of an established routine building new habits along the way.
2. Responding to users’ time pressure
Helping users to build stronger, more consistent listening habits is not just great for business metrics, it also solves a real user problem: too much to read in too little time. 27% of subscribers who cancel their FT subscription say they cancel because they don’t read enough to justify the price.
With people’s lives getting more and more busy, this is not surprising. Reading usually competes with both leisure activities and users’ day to day responsibilities. Looking at a normal day in a user’s life there are moments perfectly suitable for audio though:
Some of these moments are likely to be already met with other content formats (e.g. morning briefings, newsletters, evening round ups etc) while others will never be up for grabs (e.g. work, sleep). The great thing about audio articles is that they don’t necessarily compete with other activities. By removing the need to look at a screen, users can listen to stories while they go on about their days. So without spending more time or compromising on existing routines, audio articles allow users to get more value from their subscriptions.
3. Driving incremental content consumption
Our data shows that allowing users to listen to articles does not cannibalise on reading. On the contrary, we found that it adds to their content consumption overall! We can see that subscribers who listen to articles visit the app more often, listen to 2.5 articles per day on average while continuing to read as much as before introducing audio articles on the app.
4. Attracting young audiences
The 2022 Digital News Report highlights that the past years’ events have accelerated a structural shift towards a more digital and mobile media environment with younger audiences adapting more quickly than their older counterparts. Research findings suggest that audio (articles) can be a useful tool in building relationships and attracting young readers in particular.
While older audiences favour traditional media such as print, radio and TV, younger people prefer to consume a range of content formats and media to get their news i.e. text, video and audio. Unsurprisingly, users between the ages of 18–34 are 1.5x more likely to press play on an article than those aged 35 and over.
5. Improving accessibility
Last but not least, audio articles are a great way to improve accessibility. In the UK, there are over 2 million people who are living with sight loss, 340,000 of these are registered blind or partially sighted. Providing the ability to listen to articles will help visually impaired subscribers and allows us to reach and engage a larger audience overall. In fact, we have received feedback from users who see the ability to listen to articles as an essential reason to renew their subscription:
“I am registered blind and have for a couple of years relied on the Apple speak screen function but with much frustration as the screen reader would jump and never read text after an advert or link to another article. So I was absolutely delighted when you introduced the playback feature a few weeks ago. Please keep going with it — it is invaluable and means I will keep my subscription. Thank you for having the foresight to be a leader in introducing it” (FT Subscriber, UK)
Audio articles allow users to consume content in situations where they don’t usually have the option to read. This means they can get more value from their subscriptions without having to invest more time or compromise on existing routines, adding to their content consumption overall. This makes audio articles a great engagement driver and strategic opportunity for publishers to attract and retain users.