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What's Next with Ivan Pehar
Episode 66th April 2022 • The What's Next Podcast • Active International
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About Ivan Pehar

Ivan Pehar is the Head of Canada Ad Sales at Spotify. He is an accomplished strategic digital marketing professional with over 20 years’ experience in brand building, media innovation and technology for some of the world’s most respected brands.

Ivan is responsible for developing the Spotify Canada go-to-market strategy that assists brands to harness the power of audio. Audio is in the midst of a generational shift and its important that brands establish and showcase their voice in this storytelling medium with authenticity and purpose.

Prior to joining Spotify, Ivan spent seven years at Twitter with the launch of their new Canadian office in 2013. As Twitter’s Head of Revenue and Agency Partnerships, his focus was on educating the marketing and advertising world on the importance of being part of the conversation.

No stranger to global platforms in local markets, Ivan has held positions at Yahoo!, Microsoft and AOL, where he provided strategic solutions that helped brands blend their marketing initiatives from broadcast to web to social. Ivan started his career working at traditional media agencies crafting his skills. He had the opportunity to work on award-winning campaigns across North America that helped brands connect with their customers in unique ways at a time when the digital landscape was eager for change.

Ivan is a professor at Humber and Centennial College, where he helps prepare future advertising professionals.

Transcripts

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Ivan Pehar, Head of Spotify, Canada.

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Ivan, thanks so much.

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Hey, Karim. Thanks for having me.

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So let's get right into it.

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eMarketer in Canada recently reported

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and believe in December that listening to digital audio

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for the first time has surpassed terrestrial radio here in Canada.

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So I'm wondering what trends

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you're seeing at Spotify on a global level

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in regards to growth of digital audio?

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Yeah, Karim, that's a great question.

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When we look at at that stat, right, more time

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spent listening to streaming audio than terrestrial radio.

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I think it's important to understand two key factors here.

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And one is how users are listening.

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And when we look at globally overall consumption is that, you know,

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we're walking around with the world's library of audio content, music,

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podcasts, audiobooks, all on our phone.

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So how we're listening has changed why we're walking around

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with these devices that allow us to listen on demand.

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So you take that change in how user listens

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If you take that mobile phone and bring it into the house

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and think about other connected devices that we have.

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So whether users are listening on connected devices like speakers

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and we've seen a massive uptick globally on users

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listening on connected devices like Xbox and PlayStation

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while they're gaming as well, as connected TVs.

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So the ecosystem that allows

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a user through the technology to to listen has really elevated

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how a user has access to the world's library of content.

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So you take that, you know how a user can listen.

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And the other side of that is what they can listen to.

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And over the last few years, and especially during COVID,

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we've seen how users have shifted behavior of what they're listening to.

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So if we take the podcast side of it, specifically,

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over the last two years, we've seen

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almost 2 million net new podcasts created So that gives a user choice

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of what they want to listen to, no matter how niche the topic is.

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There's content for you.

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And the other part of that, I'd say, as it relates to music and audio

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streaming, is that users now, because it's on demand listening,

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they're discovering tunes they haven't listened to for years.

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One of my favorite things to listen to is 90's one hit wonders.

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And it's fascinating to go back and think about that.

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So it really is a combination of both.

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Right.

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It's giving users the opportunity to listen on

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practically any device they want to listen to.

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Bundle all that with the world's library of audio content

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and that discoverability that happens.

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So I think Karim, those two things meshed together

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comes to life in that data point you mentioned around

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increased consumption on streaming audio

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We're seeing a comeback

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from the lows of Q1 and Q2 in 2020.

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And I'm talking about the lows in terms of terrestrial radio listening.

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Terrestrial radio seems to be coming back.

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Obviously it's not at the levels that we were seeing in pre-pandemic peak times.

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Are there any other listening habits you talked about?

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You know, we've got a library of audio in our cell phones and so obviously

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people are maybe traveling less in their vehicles to and from work there.

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A number of them are still working from home.

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Are there any other listening habits that maybe you can speak to,

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whether it's globally or Canada or any other countries?

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Yeah, I think, you know, there's there's the adage that it takes 90 days to

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create a habit.

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And as users, many of us

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who've been in the last two years

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have spent more time at home than ever.

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It's that habitual experience of creating that habit.

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And as you can imagine, someone who's been streaming audio

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at home or streaming Spotify at home, for them, it's

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going to be moving into the car and taking that device with them.

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And we've seen many individuals who now it's starting to stream

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audio in their car when they go out that previously haven't.

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And that goes back to, you know, that previous comment

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I made around the world library of content.

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But in a car consumption has increased even higher than pre-pandemic levels.

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So as you mentioned, you know, how terrestrial radio

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listening is almost back to a level of pre-pandemic.

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What we've seen across the world is that in-car

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listening has even surpassed pre-pandemic levels.

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And again, it goes back to all those factors, right,

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of being able to listen to whatever you want.

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Now, I think it's important to note when you think about that consumption

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that happens and that cross-device listening at Spotify,

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because you have that persistent login no matter what device you're on.

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You are seamlessly transitioning from your connected speaker at home to your X-Box.

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You get into your car and you're connected to Spotify during that entire time.

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So you no longer fumbling to try and find what to listen to or how to listen

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to what you're seamlessly going through your day

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and having Spotify with you across all those devices

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and just really making it easy for users to continue to consume what they love.

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And why don't you put on a different hat right now?

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Even besides working at Spotify, you're also a marketing and advertising

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professor at a couple of colleges here in Toronto.

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What's the case for digital audio

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in media plans and tied into that?

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I'm curious about your thoughts on.

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Does the word digital

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hurt digital audio?

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What I'm speaking about is

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when many people think of digital, they think of something I can measure.

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I can measure attribution as well.

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All of these things, I can connect all of the dots possible.

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I want to get your thoughts on that as well.

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But yeah, let's let me yeah, let me start, Karim, first the first part there.

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Okay.

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Being an educator at a few colleges here, I really enjoy doing that.

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That's that's the future of our media industry, right?

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These are the future brand marketers.

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These are the future account directors at that agency.

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So I do that as something that I'm extremely passionate about.

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I want to leave the media space that has been extremely good to me

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in a better place than than it was when I started.

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And this is why I've been doing the teaching for the last six years.

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So where does audio fit into this?

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And it's important to know that as we think about audio,

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this is something that I was even speaking to students about before

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I started at Spotify and I think audio has a really unique place in our hearts.

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If you think about fundamentally,

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audio really was that first story telling platform.

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If you go back to pre TV days, right?

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We all see the the images where a family would huddle around

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that big radio and listen to a narrator tell a story.

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So if we think back to the origins of audio,

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it really was a storytelling platform If I continue on that path,

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right in the early days of audio, there were no distractions.

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Everyone was leaned into that experience

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Well, fast forward now, right,

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with social platforms and we're distracted and we have,

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you know, the attention span of a goldfish Okay.

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Where does audio fit into this?

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I think there is one there.

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There are numerous super powers with audio.

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The first one is the ability to have a screenless moment.

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If you think about and there's been numerous studies

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over the last two years of just screen fatigue

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and how it is a brand, you know, interact

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with someone when they are not engaged and looking at a screen

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and the only way is through audio,

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it also does create that one to one experience.

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So if you think about creating your own example, you know, you're out

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taking a walk in the morning earphones in your back pocket.

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You're listening to a podcast that is really the only experience

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outside of nature that you're experiencing in that moment.

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And that's the opportunity for a brand to be able to be part of that conversation.

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Right, that one to one experience that you're having,

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but that you and a brand and your content

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are having together in these screenless moments

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So I say that really is where audio is part of the entire ecosystem.

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It's unique

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because it really is just audio overall.

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You know, I'd ask you and your listeners to think about

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what are other moments where they're screenless moments,

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and there really aren't very many When we think about overall media consumption,

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as we think about

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the overall ecosystem of how audio fits

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into a media plan or just ecosystem overall.

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Now, if I pivot to the second question, which was does the word digital,

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okay, how does the word digital impact

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how brands think about audio?

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Right.

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We we can talk about last click attribution and cookies

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and all of that where I think is actually a positive.

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And I say it's a positive

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because there's a few fundamental beliefs that we have

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with streaming data

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and streaming content.

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We are pivoting away from the early days

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that we both remember of burning a CD

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or buying a CD and walking out the door, putting it on and just listening.

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Well, as users are streaming

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their audio There's a value exchange going Mark.

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What else is this user interested in?

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And taking information and insights

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that are far more granular and impactful

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than is this user an 18 to 24 year old male?

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I think that's where the power of digital

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streaming and digital audio

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goes into.

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What's the next thing you should listen to?

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Right.

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How do we surprise and delight you by putting on a song that we know

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you're probably listened to but haven't heard in the last 15 years?

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So you take that experience, that insight that happens,

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and then pivot over to a brand and say

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with that audio experience.

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Right.

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Audio is a mid to upper funnel experience.

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And something that is fundamentally different

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is that with audio to no surprise,

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you have users that will hear your ad.

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If I ask you to just scroll through your social channels with audio

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is probably off.

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Know, we've

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talked for years about two or three second videos

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to now, hey, someone heard my audio ad

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to completion and they heard a 30 second spot.

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So I think those are some of the ways that we think about it.

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You know, here at Spotify we continue to drive innovation

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and are trying to close some of those gaps.

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You know, looking at different API touch points of

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how do you look at impact on conversion

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You know, we know that many platforms will take credit for a last

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click attribution, but I think it's important as we think about

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where Spotify is as part of that customer journey

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that's very important.

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Thanks for sharing that.

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I want to ask you a future question.

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So maybe get your

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get your magic ball out

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to answer this one.

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Ivan, what's next

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for digital audio Not this year.

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Or maybe look a few years down the road.

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What do you think is next for digital audio?

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Well, I think you know where digital audio is right now.

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Is that we know consumption is happening.

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Right.

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The first question you asked was like, hey, you know,

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eMarketer says more time we spent on streaming.

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So so we know that consumption is happening.

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So, you know, check that box, right?

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We know users are there.

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We know they're spending,

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you know, two, three, four or 5 hours a day listening to streaming audio.

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Now, right where the the future and where the business is going in

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the industry overall is how do we bring in some additional elements into that

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that are germane to how digital audio or digital

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advertising is just done overall?

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So something that we continue

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to to innovate as Spotify is bridging that gap.

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And you know, specifically on the podcast space,

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you would have probably seen where we've been doing some testing

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and we recently launched a call to action cards that takes

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what is primarily, you know, from a podcast experience.

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It's not only a one to one but it's a narrator telling a story and a user

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sitting back and listening and creating that one to one experience,

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but adding traditional types of digital metrics and experiences.

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So when that user completes that episode and goes back

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into the show catalog, now let's bring an opportunity for a brand

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that would have had a 30 second mid roll as part of that podcast.

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But let's now make that a clickable experience Let's allow that brand

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to continue to have that dialog with that user

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and not have his spot just at that

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30 second main roll that might run.

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So I think that's one example of trying to bridge that gap.

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The other part I'd say is when I mentioned earlier,

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having a persistent login is

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why can't you listen to streaming audio

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on multiple devices as new devices continue to come out?

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You know, we've seen individuals listening on Apple watches and what are you doing

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when you're listening to an Apple Watch or see a ton of people out doing exercise.

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So I think it's continuing to drive innovation

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on future looking devices that come out.

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Once you've

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created that habit of listening to content,

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then how do you integrate that into,

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I don't know, the next version of 3D glasses that come out

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and how is it into integrated into the metaverse?

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Right.

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So I think a lot of things, but

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having that ubiquitous experience, no matter where you are,

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you're not going to stop listening to audio if you're going to continue

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to listen to more as the library of content

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and podcasts and audiobooks continues to expand.

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There's just endless amount of content

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Ivan, thank you so much.

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It's always a pleasure speaking with you.

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Whether it's on a recording or otherwise.

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Appreciate your time.

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Thanks for having me.

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It's great to talk about audio and have it on a podcast.

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I think the two worlds just blend together.

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So continue doing all the great work you're doing.

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