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Why online music streaming is finally catching on for advertisers – with a lesson from Queen Victoria

Guy Phillipson is chief executive of the Internet Advertising Bureau UK (IAB). His monthly blog examines the latest developments in the online ad space.

It’s an oft quoted fact that smartphone users spend only around 15 per cent of their time on the device talking – which is what phones were invented for, right?

Queen Victoria: An unlikely pioneer for online streaming

Well, not exactly.

In 1878, inventor Alexander Graham Bell was invited to demonstrate his new telephonic apparatus to Queen Victoria at Osborne House on the Isle of Wight. A line was set up to Osborne Cottage in the grounds, and after an explanation of how the device worked, Queen Victoria was connected to Sir Thomas Biddulph at the cottage – and they agreed it was a magnificent invention. For some entertainment, the mouthpiece was passed to popular chanteuse, Kate Field, who – accompanied on the Pianoforte – sang ‘Coming through the Rye’ down the line.

Her majesty was thrilled. So much so she asked for more singing. And so it was that Miss Field went on to perform the Cuckoo Song from Love’s Labour’s Lost. This was the first live audio stream, and proves that music was the first app! (And co-incidentally, Queen Victoria only spent 20 per cent of the demo actually in conversation – so she was way ahead of her time.)

136 years on, listening to music is the third most popular activity on a smartphone, and online audio is finally catching on. At the RAIN audio summit on 4 November, I announced the IAB’s collaboration with Rajar, and the first release of industry audience data for online audio. Nearly a third of the UK 15+ population, 15.8 million people, listen online every week for an average 10.1 hours. They span all ages, but skew to 16-34 ABC1 – which is a really important segment for brand advertisers.

We also revealed that on-demand services (Spotify, Deezer, Blinkbox and the like) enjoyed year on year audience growth of 86 per cent to reach 6.7m weekly reach. And with the recent addition of the Global Radio led consortium of 35 audio brands on The Digital Audio Exchange (DAX), media planners can find quality and scale in one place. So I have high hopes for online audio advertising. Lower minutage means the ads stand out, and the rich data helps marketers deliver relevant messages to the right audience in the right locations – right between their ears!

At the RAIN Summit we heard some excellent audio creative from Audi R8, the McDonald's Fifa campaign, and even the inimitable Alan Partridge (he would been a hoot at the Queen Victoria demo).

Now here’s a thing. Queen Victoria was so impressed with Alexander Graham Bell’s telephone, she instructed her equerry to write to Bell with a request to purchase two telephones at £25 each. And of course, Bell insisted she must have them with his compliments, and he duly received a valuable royal warrant. But just think about that. 50 quid for two phones in 1878 was the equivalent of over £6,000 today. That is a pricey music machine (which could also be used for talking). By contrast, the latest Music Studio App for iOS and Android features a 127 track sequencer and 135 digitised musical instruments – all for £10.49

Just imagine what Miss Kate Field could do with that? And would she be accessible on Spotify?

Happy listening, subjects. We are most amused!

Guy Phillipson is the UK chief executive of IAB. You can follow him on Twitter @GuyPhillipson

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