My name is Audra Gold, and I am the CEO and co-founder of the ground-breaking online audio streaming platform, Vurbl.
I started to build websites in college, where I became obsessed with the Internet. After college, I began my career as a product manager at a Silicon-Valley-based digital media company and have been hooked on startups ever since. I took my first Head of Product job for a startup about 12 years ago and have gone on to build products for seed stage companies through Series A, B, and beyond several times over. My primary motivation for taking on one of the hardest jobs in tech is the satisfaction I get from building great products and then watching millions of users enjoy them.
I also enjoy figuring out how to build something for the first time, pushing the limits of technology to create newer and better ways to do things. My company, Vurbl, was founded in February of 2020 right before the COVID-19 pandemic hit. In other words, Vurbl was built from the ground up while all of our team members were in voluntary quarantine to keep themselves and others safe. Although the quarantine made fundraising much more difficult, we were certainly able to be more productive as we built the platform.
At Vurbl, our goal is to bring the audio ecosystem into the more modern era of real-time streaming and real-time ad buying and ease the creation, discovery, consumption and social sharing of ALL audio types.
Being a relatively tiny team was not as limiting as it might have been because we were all stuck inside and pretty much voluntarily chained to our computers. We also believe that our timing could not be better for the product itself—because even though our company was founded a month before the pandemic, the need for audio streaming services has only increased during the lifespan of quarantine and social distancing.
2020 has forced us to change our normal everyday lives due to the coronavirus lockdown. While life continues to evolve each day, one thing remains certain throughout the chaos: we've all been spending more time at home with our connected devices, streaming video and audio of all sorts. The increased consumption of all audio types during the pandemic is driving rapid innovation across the digital audio landscape.
According to The Verge, live-streaming has increased by 45% since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic. The movie theater has transformed into the living room, and live concerts are streamed over the internet. There is no doubt about it—humans are quickly learning to consume and process more and more information via their earbuds.
Due to the increase in the availability of connected device bandwidth, bluetooth and carplay, audiobooks, podcasts, ambient sound, scripted shows, and music playlists are becoming an increasingly critical part of humanity's on-the-go routines. As a nation, we have recently just surpassed the 50% threshold in digital audio streaming vs. traditional listening.
Just as more users are looking for audio to stream, more brands are looking to connect with them through their ears. This has led to a big jump in podcast ad revenue from less than $500 million a couple years ago to over a projected $1 billion spend in 2020. While $1 billion sounds like a lot, it is just the tip of the iceberg when you look at the total audio advertising spend of over $20 billion a year in 2019, which means there is still lots of room to grow.
Where human ears go, talent and brands tend to follow. Big names like Michelle Obama and Oprah Winfrey are joining the podcast world, while landmark bidding wars are erupting to lock up the top talent in audio. Bigger media and bigger dollars are flocking to take advantage of the rapidly growing digital audio ecosystem. Even with the existing constraints in buying online audio ads, demand is growing. This trend will also serve to bring more users to streaming audio platforms, further increasing the potential for more ad dollars to follow.
While life continues to evolve each day, one thing remains certain throughout the chaos: we've all been spending more time at home with our connected devices, streaming video and audio of all sorts.
While the user and content shift is on, the increasing focus on digital audio content and consumption is forcing creators and publishers alike to reconcile the existing constraints in the relatively archaic audio distribution system. For example, the RSS distribution system that so many content creators rely on for podcast distribution is outdated and no longer makes sense in the modern internet ecosystem. RSS distribution of audio was promoted by Apple with the iPod in 2006 and has become severely limiting to innovation in audio consumption, distribution, and monetization. Likewise, audiobooks are largely distributed as downloaded files behind app paywalls, providing authors with very few options for monetization of their audio content.
The stagnation in the podcast and audiobook technical ecosystem and the audio streaming ecosystem overall has put it well behind in innovation relative to other content types online, such as video, text and images. This has hurt scaling opportunities in both audio monetization and audio discovery most, which is precisely why companies like Vurbl are emerging.
The movie theater has transformed into the living room, and live concerts are streamed over the internet. There is no doubt about it—humans are quickly learning to consume and process more and more information via their earbuds.
At Vurbl, our goal is to bring the audio ecosystem into the more modern era of real-time streaming and real-time ad buying and ease the creation, discovery, consumption and social sharing of ALL audio types. We are doing this by centralizing audio discovery onto one platform, indexing and organizing it based on how and where users search for it, and streaming it in real time, rather than require downloading of files with limited monetization opportunity.
This critical shift in audio distribution and consumption will open up the floodgates in real time audio programmatic ad inventory levels, which in turn provides the audio creators an opportunity to monetize any kind of audio they create, at any length. And I believe that that is the future of the audio streaming industry.
WRITTEN BYAudra Everett Gold