Mar 2 2022
Ben Larrison

Digital Audio Advertising Channels: Insights, Strategies and Trends


The following is adapted from the Basis Audio Advertising Guide. To get even more audio advertising insights, strategies and statistics, download the guide today.

Have you heard the latest on audio?

This year, US adults will spend an average of 99 minutes per day listening to digital audio. That’s a 20% increase compared to just three years ago and almost a half hour more than they’ll spend on social media.

Whether you’re a podcast-binging fiend, a workout playlist obsessive, or a regular on Twitter Spaces, audio advertising is increasingly finding its way into our everyday lives. Accordingly, it is also accounting for an increasingly significant slice of many digital advertising budgets, with marketers eager to reach audio consumers on their platforms of choice.

Want to find out more about the different audio channels you can use to reach your target audience? Let's dive right in!

Audio Advertising Channels

Traditional Radio (AM/FM/Satellite Radio)

Think traditional radio is a dinosaur? Then we might as well be living in Jurassic Park, because ancient or not, traditional radio is still a beast in the audio world.

Traditional radio includes both terrestrial (AM/FM) and satellite (SiriusXM) radio. While perhaps not as new or sexy as digital audio, traditional radio still makes up the majority of audio ad spending. 

About three-quarters (76%) of total time spent with ad-supported audio happens on AM/FM radio. However, the number of Americans who are regularly listening to traditional radio is ever-so-slowly creeping downward, dropping from 88.3% of the population in 2019 to just 84%— and it’s projected to slip even further in the years ahead.

Of course, this is still a sizeable portion of the population, making it a sensible part of any marketing mix. If impressions are your KPI, then terrestrial radio is still a premier audio channel, with Nielsen finding that AM/FM radio generates 3x the impressions of Pandora and Spotify combined. However, due to the nature of terrestrial radio, the impact of those ads is harder to track than, say, ads placed on a streaming service.

The COVID-19 pandemic accelerated the downward trend in traditional radio listeners and, with it, radio ads’ share of the overall audio ad—from 66.7% in 2021 to an estimated 59.7% in 2025—as advertisers begin to shift their budgets elsewhere.

Digital Radio/Audio Streaming Services (Spotify, Pandora)

Streaming platforms like Spotify and Pandora are to radio what CTV is to cable: a disruptive digital force that offers advertisers new opportunities to target and reach specific audiences. Whether it’s rocking out to a favorite band in the car, working out to a high-tempo playlist at the gym, or discovering a new artist while you cook, streaming music is a welcome companion to millions.

After an initial dip at the start of the pandemic, streaming music has taken off in recent months. People are streaming more and more music from a variety of devices, including phones, work computers, smart speakers, and smart TVs. The result: in 2021, digital audio finally surpassed traditional radio in total audio time. Indeed, as Bob Dylan might croon from your Spotify playlist: the times, they are a-changin’.

While many streaming platforms offer ad-free listening (or, in the case of Apple Music, are entirely ad-free), a 2020 survey found that 55% of Spotify users and 79% of Pandora users opted for ad-supported tiers. Overall, the number of US digital audio listeners is growing—from 218.6 million in 2021 to an estimated 230.8 million by 2025. Spotify is expected to grow by nearly 20% in the next four years to 100 million US listeners. And US ad revenue for both Spotify and Pandora is on the rise: in 2022, Spotify ads are expected to take in $685 million, and Pandora’s an astonishing $1.25 billion.


Active listening has rising steadily risen since the start of COVID, as people spent more of their time at home instead of commuting. Behold: podcasts, an episodic series of digital audio files that users can download to a personal device for easy listening. They can tell a story, educate and inform, incite emotion—or do all three at the same time. They’re a perfect place for audio ad placement/spend, and right now, podcasts are booming.

An estimated 116 million Americans, or 41% of the U.S. population over 12 years old, are now monthly podcast listeners—an 11% increase over 2020, according to Edison Research and Triton Digital.

Podcast ad spending in the U.S. will cross the $1B mark this year, and its ascent will continue in the years to come: projections state that ad spend will exceed $2B by 2023.

While the podcast realm is undoubtedly a huge opportunity for marketers, only about a quarter of large advertisers are investing at scale in this space today. However, programmatic podcast ad spending is expected to more than double between now and 2025, so advertisers would be wise to work podcasts into their digital audio advertising strategies soon rather than later.

Future Opportunities: Interactive and Social Media Audio

Audio on social media is still gaining traction, but it’s already providing new ways for users to stay connected. It seems that almost every social platform is considering their own take on the function and how it could be integrated into their respective app. While social audio inventory is not yet available programmatically, this is a fast-growing space and definitely one to watch in the years ahead.

Meet some of the latest and greatest players: 

Clubhouse is an audio-based social network where people can spontaneously jump into audio chat rooms together. Users can view unlabeled “rooms” of all the people they follow and join to talk, listen along, or just look around to see what piques their interests. High-energy rooms attract larger crowds, while slower ones notice more participants slipping out to join other chat circles. Worldwide downloads of Clubhouse soared to 10.1 million in February 2021, but appear to have mostly slowed in the months since.

Reddit is currently testing its own take on audio social with ‘audio rooms’ in subreddits. The self-proclaimed ‘discussion website’ has been working on more options to boost real-time engagement and interactions over the past few years, with the additions of live-streaming, in-app messaging, and random group discussion to better connect users with similar interests. Audio social rooms provide a way for Redditors to enhance community connection and engagement by dropping into real-time chats about their favorite topics among other Redditors whom they already know and follow in the app.

Facebook also wants you to start talking and listening on its platform. The platform’s audio plans include an array of new products, including:

• An audio-only version of Rooms, a video-conferencing product it launched a year ago (amidst the mid-pandemic race to Zoom)

• A Clubhouse-like product that lets users listen to and interact with speakers on a virtual stage

• A voice message product that allows users to post audio in newsfeeds

• A podcast discovery product that will be connected to Spotify.

Twitter launched its own version of social audio, dubbed Spaces, in April 2021.

LinkedInDiscord, and Instagram are also starting to embrace social audio, as well as a variety of startup apps, like Fireside and Stereo.

Your Guide to Audio Advertising

Audio is everywhere, and the advertising opportunities are endless. Check out our Audio Advertising Guide to learn more about the world of audio and see why digital audio advertising should be a larger part of your media conversation.