Tuning into South African audio consumption

Ushering in an era where easy access to a string of audio avenues is fast becoming the norm for listeners and consumers.

South Africans are changing the way they consume and interact with audio. Traditionally, listening habits and options have been one-dimensional.

The radio, a cassette, an audio book or a digital service provider. International brands have often dominated modern tech spaces, side-lining local content. Long-existing technical and legislative barriers have also made it made it difficult to have a bouquet of audio options in one place, but these are quickly falling away.  

South Africans are vibrant media consumers and enjoy engaging with brands and content. We’re ushering in an era where easy access to a string of audio avenues is fast becoming the norm for listeners and consumers.

The shift is a move towards collective consumption. People are now able to explore different channels for different reasons, in a bid to not only have audio fit into their lives, but to enhance them too.  

Goodbye data barriers

Access to affordable data has been a problem in South Africa dating as far back as November 2004, when 3G first hit the market. Expensive bundles have been the most significant hurdle preventing people from streaming all forms of content via mobile networks.  

Thankfully, this is fast becoming less of an issue. With the right data bundle, an hour of audio listening can cost as little as R1.25. Audio streaming uses inherently less bandwidth than its video counterpart, making it the more attractive prospect for the average consumer needing to stretch their budget. The ability to choose different audio quality streams also makes the data decision easier to make. 

Uncapped Wi-Fi is also more readily available now than it has ever been before. Google’s enormous Equiano internet cable landed in Cape Town last August, as part of the tech giant’s push towards reduced internet prices, quicker speeds and a better user experience.

The company is on a mission to give the entire continent access to reliable internet. This is good news for listeners, content creators and advertisers across the board.  

Speaking to listener needs

Cheap data and widespread connectivity set the stage for a variety of new listeners across different mediums and platforms. Freedom of choice gives the listener an opportunity to find content that speaks directly to their individual needs, rather than settling for the closest possible fit. 

New niches are popping up in the podcast and streaming space, creating additional opportunities to advertise to previously untapped communities. Ad agencies and brands should be keeping an ear to the ground, investigating how collective consumption will affect their capacity to target new and existing listener segments. 

Catering to local appetites

With so much going on in the world at the moment, audio is one of the healthiest forms of escape. Tapping into basic listener needs is one part of the equation. Giving audiences t they’re actually hungry for is an opportunity to take things to another level.  

The collective consumption opportunity means people don’t have to settle for a run-of-the-mill podcast, single-format radio show or even a news bulletin that doesn’t fit into their schedule. This dials up the pressure for creators to build trust with their audiences along with entertaining them in a way that touches their desires in a more direct way.  

A highly personalised audio experience might mean going the extra mile, but it’s the key to creating community and encouraging people to engage with audio in a way they might not have felt confident or comfortable enough doing in the past.  

Creating an optimised listening experience

Collective consumption does present a new barrier to the South African market, namely the challenge of providing an optimised user experience. With several options to consider, listeners are already engaging with numerous media sources, often moving between different providers and platforms.

Curation and localisation remain a challenge to make it a seamless journey for consumers. Multiple apps with multiple passwords and nuances make the local environment well positioned and ready for a single source platform with a variety of content options.  

This isn’t only a practical worry. Hopping from one app to the next might be a mental health risk. The Center for Humane Technology — a leader in the global ethical tech movement — references a 2018 study in their Ledger of Harms. It uncovered a string of cognitive harms related to switching between platforms all the time, including a significant link to lower long-term memory levels.  

Solutions abroad

Internationally, there are already a few popular audio and content aggregators trying to solve the user experience problem.  

These curate a variety of different mediums into a single space (usually an app), to offer the best possible experience to their audiences. Users are provided with a consistent content experience that involves hopping between mediums without having to leave the app.  

South Africans that are hungry for the same will find that the best options are currently geo-blocked, meaning they aren’t accessible from within the country no matter how good your internet is. 

We don’t need to reinvent the wheel

The good news is that an accessible local aggregator wouldn’t need to reinvent the wheel. It simply must reimagine what international counterparts have done, to ensure that South Africans don’t have to do the legwork to make audio an integral part of their daily lives. 

 In my mind the aggregator would need to focus on the way it is localised to meet the needs, appetites and tastes of various local audience segments in the country.   

If users can flip between music, listen to their favourite radio show and dive into a personal development podcast seamlessly — all the while having one eye on the news and sharing their opinion on a relevant poll — the collective consumption experience is in full force.  

Audio for every season, in one place

Audio continues to be one of the most important means of communication in the world. In a world filled with uncertainty, it is a powerful connector too. The changing nature of how it’s being consumed in South Africa offers an exciting prospect for consumers and advertisers alike. 

A local aggregator could get down to the nitty-gritty in terms of a great user experience, offering audio for every season (and more) in one place. 


Article by: Dave Tiltman

Dave Tiltmann is group chief executive officer of African Media Entertainment.


Original article posted here: https://themediaonline.co.za/2023/06/tuning-into-south-african-audio-consumption/

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