Online audio boom at SMEs: why audio advertising is right on trend

When it comes to audio commercials, advertisers held back for a long time. However, that has now changed dramatically. Maximilian Balbach, Managing Director of crossvertise, tells us why online audio is highly attractive to SMEs right now.

Small and medium-sized enterprises in particular are currently shifting their focus to advertising via online audio.
Why is online audio currently so popular and what makes an online audio campaign successful? – Maximilian Balbach, founder & CTO of crossvertise, provides interesting answers (image: © crossvertise).

Online audio: from insider tip to mainstream hit

Before now, audio advertising was often viewed somewhat skeptically by small and medium-sized enterprises, which saw it as being expensive and inefficient due to a high level of wasted coverage. However, that image has been transformed as a result of the sharp increase in the appeal of streaming platforms like Soundcloud, Spotify, and Deezer: “The medium has suddenly become an extremely relevant media channel for small and medium-sized enterprises,” says Maximilian Balbach, founder and Chief Technology Officer of crossvertise GmbH, a company specialized in media solutions. “From my point of view, the biggest winner of 2020 in this respect is clearly online audio – in other words, commercials that are no longer played on traditional FM radio, but instead via streaming services, in the digitally transmitted live streams of established radio stations, or on one of the many web radio stations with niche offerings that cater to the most diverse target groups.”

What are the reasons for the online audio boom?

And why is online audio so interesting to small and medium-sized enterprises in particular? While the media scene is talking about shoppable posts on Instagram, voice ads or advertising on TikTok, SMEs are following relatively “safer” advertising trends, according to Balbach. “The booking volume for online audio on our platform grew by an impressive 94 percent from 2018 to 2019. Hardly any other form of advertising has seen such rapid growth. And what’s more, ‘Spotify’ is one of the most searched terms on our website,,” says Balbach. But what is behind the success of online audio? crossvertise’s Managing Director identifies five main reasons:

#1 The increased number of audio platforms

Audio and streaming portals have been springing up like mushrooms for years now. Thanks to the incredibly diverse range of offerings, there is something to win over every target group: “The platform alone lists 120,000 stations and podcasts worldwide – including music spanning from heavy metal and gothic to jazz, chillout, pop, oriental and more, as well as podcasts focused on comedy, business, society, education, and lifestyle. Even special streams for parties, to listen to at work, and endless ocean sounds can be found there. So, there is something offered online for every topic and every musical taste. And let’s not forget streaming services like Spotify and Deezer. All this ensures that target groups are addressed accordingly,” says Balbach.

#2 The greater demand for online audio and streaming services

According to Balbach, one main reason for the current online audio boom is the enormous demand for podcasts, music streaming, and other related services: “Online audio has become mainstream. Around one in two Germans use online audio services on a weekly basis; the figure even exceeds 90% among those younger than 30. Streaming services are at the forefront here. Online audio has therefore already reached the masses.”

#3 The availability of new end devices for audio offerings

Innovative technologies are optimizing the listening experience and making streaming services available at any time and place: “AirPods and Bluetooth headphones make it easier than ever before for users to tune into audio streams at the gym, on their way to work, while cooking, or when riding their bike,” explains Balbach. In addition, smart speakers, such as Alexa and Sonos, entered the mass market a long time ago: “A specific music program that is tailored to the personal interests of individual users and can be consumed in almost every setting is thus gaining ground everywhere.”

#4 The possibilities offered by online audio in terms of targeted advertising

The sharp increase in the popularity of online audio advertising among SMEs can also be attributed to the possibilities it offers for running targeted campaigns: “As with all forms of online advertising, implementing precise targeting minimizes wasted coverage and maximizes the success of a campaign,” explains Balbach. But how can it be ensured that the commercial is heard by precisely those users it is targeting?

“The audience can be planned precisely based on a wide range of targeting criteria, such as place of residence or occupation, and according to various sociodemographic target-group data. Wasted coverage, as is inevitable with traditional FM radio, can be largely ruled out as a result.”

Maximilian Balbach

#5 The lower production costs associated with online audio

Professional audio commercials can be produced with even a modest budget: “Online audio campaigns are bought on a CPM basis,” says Balbach. “Campaigns can be realized with budgets as low as four figures. The cost of creating a commercial in a recording studio starts at around 500 euros. The initial hurdle is therefore minimal with this medium, especially for newcomers,” explains crossvertise’s Managing Director. “However, you shouldn’t expect huge impact from a small budget – budget and reach go hand in hand. Online audio is not the path to cheaper advertising, but rather above all offers a more targeted approach that reduces wasted coverage.”

What characterizes a good online audio campaign?

For online audio to reach the right target group effectively, precise targeting is essential. According to Balbach, there are a number of other aspects that need to be considered too. For example, the campaign should convey a clear message: “The message should be easy to understand and create an image in the listener’s mind,” says Balbach. “A clear call to action is also important in the advertising message. It must be made obvious to the customer what he or she can do after listening to the commercial, for example ‘book now’ or ‘come by and visit us’. A company that wants to achieve a wide reach also needs to factor in an adequate budget and incorporate various streaming providers and web radio stations,” adds Balbach.