Audio will never capture the hearts of social media users. WDYT?

Tasha Community Manager, Dailynista admin

This article was dropped in Daily Slack last week, and I instantly thought, let's take it to peerConnection and see what everyone thinks!

The author examines a handful of audio platforms and projects then declares NEVER! NEVER will audio capture hearts on the internet! Okay, the title is definitely crafted to make you click, but I still want to know - do you think online audio can flourish in ways that video might not?


  • vr000m
    vr000m Dailynista

    Audio doesn’t demand the same sensory attention like text or video. You can consume it while doing something else. Video and text requires you to pay attention or at least have cursory glances at the device.

    The pandemic was definitely a big driver for the re-emergence of audio, we were exhausted by the amount of video we weee consuming, sitting back and just listening to other people talk.

    I’m no social scientist and I don’t know if the rituals that we incorporated during the pandemic will stick, but it feels controversial to simply write-off audio.

    Audio has a longer history — opera, telephone, radio, gramophone, vinyls, magnetic tape, MTV, optical discs, steaming music, podcasts, audiobooks. Compared to theatre, television, vhs, optical discs, IPTV, streaming video, video calls.

  • karl
    karl Member, Daily Alumni

    I’m also not a social scientist, @vr000m, but I’m largely in agreement with what you’re saying. And I’m not above philosophizing a bit, either:

    I do think that audio-only apps are something waiting to be explored and improved. One of the strange contradictions about audio vs. video is that the average built-in webcam produces a higher-quality video signal than a built-in mic does for audio signals. Put another way: I know of way more people who use their built-in web cams than who rely on their internal mics.

    I also get the sense that there’s been way more time spent in the WebRTC space on championing and optimizing video, but less so for audio.

    And that presents the kind of chicken-and-egg issue that might be holding audio back: there’s no sense championing and improving audio if there aren’t a lot of use cases for it...but there won’t be a lot of use cases for audio until it improves.

    I also think there’s a kind of inevitable, “because it’s there” aspect to video: why sit and just talk to a video-less representation of someone, when you know they could just as easily flip their camera on?

    The other contradiction is that when people talk audio-only, both can entertain the fantasy that they have the full and undivided attention of the other person at all times. But with video, you HAVE to at least look like you’re paying attention at all times. Which is why it’s exhausting. (David Foster Wallace wrote an entire mini-essay about this in the middle of his mammoth novel _Infinite Jest_, from 1996)

  • I like consuming audio content while I'm doing something else. E.g. doing the dishes, laundry, going for a walk, taking a nap on the plane etc. I think it's great for long form content like podcasts in particular.

    The current trend for social media is the opposite right now. Over 70% of short form content is watched with no audio enabled, which is why you'll see fancy subtitles on Tiktok, Youtube Shorts, and Instagram Reels. Subtitles increase watch time drastically for those forms of content. All the major platforms are pushing short content in their recommendation engines at the moment, so organic reach is crazy for that format right now.

    For audio only content, discoverability is still pretty awful. The best strategies for audio content seem to be:

    1. Go on other people's Podcasts.
    2. Cut up your podcast into short clips that link back to the main piece of content to leverage organic reach of short content.

    For #2 you still need some sort of video element though. Without that discoverability element built in, I don't see how an audio only social network could grow.

  • jayne
    jayne Member, Daily Alumni admin

    I've been in a few Twitter Spaces in the past, which are completely audio-only. It's a group discussion that you can enter at will and can ask for the mic. It has been a very pleasant experience because the bar to participate feels a lot lower.

    Furthermore, unpredictable video content based on algorithms can cause shame for people who watch it in public. With audio-only you'd be able to listen to your guilty pleasures, or your kinks, in public without the fear of someone looking over your shoulder.

    If someone would make an audio-only TikTok, I'd be interested :)

  • petehawkes
    petehawkes Community Manager, Moderator, Dailynista admin

    My daughter—a freshman at college this year—regularly plays me long-form conversations between remote friends composed entirely of audio clips. These have no videos, few images, periodic emojis. She's part of a generation fully steeped in video (daily hours of TikTok, Snapchat, and FaceTime). I asked her why her group defaults to audio-only. She says it's the simplest way to chat and that the threads usually start when someone is multitasking: driving, home-working, work-working. You just talk. It demands little and the results are genuine and often funny.