Looking into audio? look into mobile

In this blogpost we share some of our insights on mobile apps, news and audio. Please share this post if you find it useful. And if you can contribute please do so in the comments below.

We’ve seen mobile and mobile apps especially becoming a dominant factor in news consumption. We’re thankful that every day millions of customers trust our mobile app — the NOS app — to inform them on what’s happening in the world of news and sports.

Next to this we see people listening to audio on their smartphone. Mobile is also eating the world of audio. Also smart speakers are hot. The numbers are not there yet but it’s an exciting development. We all have these everyday moments when using a smartphone is not practical; cooking or doing chores.

We have experiments running on smart speakers. But this blog is not about that. It’s about audio on smartphones. To investigate what value this offers our users we defined two hypotheses:

Hypothesis 1 — a significant amount of mobile users have extended audio-playback capabilities (headphone, BT speakers) on their smartphone, especially in traffic hours

Hypothesis 2 — a significant amount of users with extended audio-playback capabilities on their smartphone will consider listening to news next to reading it on their smartphone

To test these hypotheses we designed an experiment.

The experiment

We have a beta track for our flagship product (the NOS app) in the Google Play store. To test our hypothesis on audio we built new features in our beta Android app and measured the usage. We built:

  1. A feature to detect if a smartphone has extended audio capabilities
  2. A feature that, when extended audio capabilities are detected, offers the customer a news update in audio. The customer can listen to the audio-news update, hide the audio-news update in their feed for now or hide the audio-news update in their feed forever.

The audio-news update is at the top of our homepage, it can be ignored but it’s really hard to miss.

our beta news-app when extended audio capabilities are detected

The outcome

We’ve seen data coming in from our beta app for 11 days now. This is what we learned:

  • In 17.9% of user sessions extended audio capabilities were detected. We believe this is a significant number. Even considering the disclaimers below.
  • The majority of the sessions with extended audio capabilities took place during mid-day and in the late evening. This is not as we hypothesized.
percentage of app-sessions with extended audio capabilities during the day

74 users who have extended audio capabilities on their smartphone have interacted with the new audio functionality. Of these 74 users 16 indicated never to display this on the homepage again. And in 11 days the news in audio was played 94 times. We do not have any reference material, but we do think this is an encouraging number. It motivates us to look further.

Please consider the following when interpreting our insights;

  • It’s likely that participants of our beta app track are technically more savvy than the average user. Also the data is based on Android devices only and on the dutch audience.
  • The audio news update is a 2 minute bulletin with the latest news. There is opportunity to experiment with other formats.
  • There’s no personal data involved in this research. We have a strict data policy. Our agenda is learning and sharing general insights.

What does this mean?

When we get stuck in a conversation, it’s easy to seek guidance in data and analytics. But in my experience this often raises more questions. This is definitely the case here. We’re left wondering, how will this data look in iOS? Are the users of our beta track more tech savvy? And if so; how do the numbers of our normal audience look? We’re also curious about offering other audio productions next to the general news-update. We do think the insights give us reason to further explore this space.

My takeaway for now would be; when looking into audio, look into smart speakers, but definitely look into mobile too. There’s untapped potential in a vast amount of users with their headphones on.

Oh, and if you’re interested in our product, apply for the beta track of our app in the Google Play store -> https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=nl.nos.app&hl=nl