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Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

A new study done for Spotify shows the surprisingly engaging effect of digital audio and ads on the human brain, Axios can report first.

Why it matters: Neuromarketing technology allows brands to "understand more of what is happening inside of the human mind" as users consume different kinds of media, says Jon Gibs, global director and principal data scientist at Spotify.

  • The results of the study suggest that digital audio and ads seem to generate more engagement and emotional activation than other forms of media — which is a useful insight for anyone selling ads against streaming audio.

How it works: Spotify partnered with the neuroanalytics company Neuro-Insight to study how brain activity changed as more than 600 subjects listened to digital audio on the music streaming platform.

  • The users consumed different kinds of streaming audio — like rock, rap and Latin music, as well as ads — while researchers took real-time readings of their brains using steady state topography (SST), a brain tracking method developed by Neuro-Insight founder Richard Silberstein that measures brain electrical activity and speed of response to stimuli.
  • SST is able to "tap the speed of different parts of the brain very sensitively, and by virtue of the fact that different parts of the brain are specialized for different functions, we're able to infer psychological processes," says Silberstein.

What they found: The study found that digital audio was more likely to engage long-term memory for both details and past memories and increase emotional intensity than radio, TV, social media or digital video.

  • Different kinds of music had a measurably different effect on the brain — speech-driven genres like rap music tended to produce more engagement, while instrumental or acoustic genres like rock tended to produce greater emotional intensity.
  • Notable for a partially ad-driven platform like Spotify, 93% of the brain’s measured engagement with the musical or podcast content transferred directly into engagements with the ads that followed.

What they're saying: "What we wanted to see was if Spotify was a platform that was great for content, but bad for advertisement, or is it all one experience?" says Samrat Saran, head of client solutions at Neuro-Insight.

  • "We found that it was very successful in bringing that engagement over to the ad experience."

The catch: The study wasn't peer-reviewed, which makes its conclusions harder to generalize.

The bottom line: "Our goal is to use signals like this to make sure we're serving music and podcasts to the user that they want before they know they want it," says Spotify's Gibs.

Go deeper

Oct 7, 2021 - Technology

Google, YouTube to prohibit ads and monetization on climate denial content

Photo by Olly Curtis/Future via Getty Images

Google and YouTube on Thursday announced a new policy that prohibits climate deniers from being able to monetize their content on its platforms via ads or creator payments.

Why it matters: It's one of the most aggressive measures any major tech platform has taken to combat climate change misinformation.

5 mins ago - Technology

Race and technology in America

Illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios

The technology industry is famously determined to change the world — but its efforts to diversify its workforce and remove bias from its products haven't changed nearly enough.

Biden: "Being a cop today is one hell of a lot harder than it's ever been"

President Biden speaks during the 40th Annual National Peace Officers Memorial Service at the U.S Capitolon Oct. 16. Photo: Brendan Smialowski/AFP via Getty Images

President Biden speaking at the U.S. Capitol on Saturday honored members of law enforcement who died in the line of duty in 2019 and 2021 and saluted those who are currently serving.

Driving the news: "We expect everything of you, and it's beyond the capacity of anyone to meet the total expectations. Being a cop today is one hell of a lot harder than it's ever been," Biden said.