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Marketers turn up volume on mobile?s potential for voice-driven engagement

From podcasts to native ads, interest is growing in leveraging mobile?s audio capabilities as publishers, brands and radio services tune into more intimate, relevant and interactive experiences. 

As mobile-savvy consumers listen to podcasts, use voice search and stream more music than ever before, companies such as Meredith, Slacker Radio and others are finding new ways to engage users with audio content. For example, Meredith recently launched a new podcast series for expectant millennials and new parents, delivering informative content that it hopes will introduce these consumers to its publications while introducing advertisers to the company?s new native audio ads.   

?Podcasts give us a new way to reach out target audience ? millennials who are expecting or parents,? said Tracy Odell, general manager of Meredith Parents Digital Network. ?We are especially excited to reach pregnant millennials with our first podcast so that we can introduce them to the Parents and Fit Pregnancy and Baby brands early in their parenthood journey. 

?Secondly, for the moms-to-be who are already familiar with our brands, this podcast gives us a new way to serve their needs,? she said. ?We?ve already got a robust offering of pregnancy content online for these women, but when you?re in the middle of a major life change ? like pregnancy certainly is! ? sometimes what you need is a friend. 

?The podcast medium allows our editors to engage with readers in a more intimate way then ever before. We?re in their ear buds or in their car with them, offering camaraderie and reassurance during all nine months. Ultimately we hope this proves to build increased brand loyalty and engagement.? 

Native audio ads
The new surge in interest around mobile?s audio capabilities points to the growing role that phones are playing throughout consumers? days, even at moments when they might not be able to look at a screen. 

Meredith?s Pregnancy Confidential podcast series includes 32 episodes positioned as a week-by-week guide for expectant parents. The full series is available on iTunes, via podcast applications and on 

As an extension of the publisher?s Parents brand, the podcast series adds another dimension to its mobile strategy while providing advertisers with opportunities to reach listeners. These opportunities include Meredith Digital?s first set of native audio ads. Because each podcast is tailored to a specific week of pregnancy, brands can deliver relevant messaging throughout a listener?s pregnancy.  

The podcast will be actively promoted to Parents digital audience via a daily pregnancy newsletter. 

?The podcast renaissance of the last few years has created a need for more engaging ad opportunities,? said Matt Minoff, senior vice president of digital platforms and strategy at Meredith Digital. ?Two areas that are quickly becoming standards are native audio ads and dynamic audio ad insertion. 

?Native audio ads enable podcasters to create a custom experience specifically tailored to their listeners while dynamic ad insertion provides podcasters with the ability to refresh and target creative over time,? he said. 

Voice-driven engagement
?Internet radio service Slacker Radio recently introduced interactive audio services that are initially available for content discovery and app navigation but will be expanded to advertising in the future. 

Slacker Radio is leveraging Xappmedia?s Content Discovery service, enabling users ? without any touch screen interaction ? to reply to promotions for related programming. For example, a listener could hear a teaser for related programming in between songs. Users can say ?listen now? to immediately play a recommended station. Users can also say ?set a reminder? to be alerted when a new station is available. 

?Slacker is 100 percent focused on enhancing the listener experience and Xapp Content Discoveries help deliver on that promise,? said Pat Higbie, co-founder and CEO of Xappmedia. ?Users can access new Slacker music channels by merely speaking. 

?They don?t need to pull a smart phone out of a pocket or purse or glance away from the road to access the content,? he said. ?Slacker started with content discovery and the voice interaction conversion capability will be extended to brands in the near future.?

The preliminary Content Discovery campaigns on Slacker Radio started in November 2015, delivering an average response rate of more than 11 times higher than mobile audio promotions that relied only on touch for listener interaction. Additionally, 14.8 percent of the total targeted Slacker audience actively engaged with at least one promotion within the first five impressions.

In a recent survey of test listeners, 54 percent reported Xapp prompts are a fun and easy way to interact with Slacker Radio. 
?Brands and audio publishers have always thought about radio as a one-way communication channel,? Mr. Higbie said. ?That is changing. 

?Tools like interactive audio enable two-way communication that delivers instant consumer engagement and feedback,? he said. ?There is an immediacy of conversion and measurability that has piqued the interest of advertisers and publishers alike.?