Is audio networking here to stay? How Zoom Fatigue started the latest digital trend


In 2020, the use of Zoom would have increased to 300 million per day meeting participants. After all, with much of the workforce remotely operated during the pandemic, it’s no surprise that users have flocked to video conferencing platforms to meet “face to face”.

But all this “on-camera” time has led to what teleworkers have skillfully called “zoom fatigue”. Even the CEO of Zoom himself, Eric Yuan, recently admitted to experience this phenomenon. Some of that fatigue comes from back-to-back meetings, but there’s also an inherent exhaustion associated with being in front of the camera.

Just ask Dr Bailenson, the Stanford University professor who recently published the first peer-reviewed article which studies the psychological element of Zoom fatigue. Dr. Bailenson’s research, which involved 10,591 participants, attributes non-verbal overload and four other causes of zoom fatigue, including: gazing at a close distance, cognitive overload, mirroring all day, and reduced mobility. .

Dr Bailenson says, “Part of the reason we get tired of all these Zoom meetings isn’t just the presence of video, it’s also the audio quality and the way voices are delivered to our ears. world, all the sounds we hear and process in our brains come from different places in a 3D environment. When you are at a cocktail party you can have several people talking at the same time and still understand what everyone is saying.

According to Dr. Bailenson, that same conversational strategy doesn’t work on Zoom. Here’s why, “Today’s videoconferencing platforms cause cognitive overload. We have to work very hard to distinguish who is speaking because all voices are coming from the same direction. Plus, Zoom and most other conventional ones [voice over internet protocol] The solutions make a natural conversation difficult, as they “dodge” all the speakers to increase the clarity of the loudspeaker. “

Dr. Bailenson argues that the solution is audio. He says, “Fortunately, it turns out that there is an audio solution for ‘Zoom Fatigue’ – spatial audio or 3D audio. Companies like High Fidelity are replacing [voice over internet protocol] with high-quality spatial sound that makes voices clearer and easier for people to understand, as if you were together in a physical space.

As Dr Bailenson points out, trends in digital media and elsewhere often trigger reactionary trends, just as the rise of Zoom has triggered the rise of audio-only chat apps. First, Clubhouse, the invitation-only audio chat application, which allows users to communicate in voice chat rooms that can accommodate groups of up to 5,000 people. The audio-only app hosts live chats with opportunities to participate by speaking and listening.

Influencers such as Elon Musk, Mark Zuckerberg and Kanye West flocked to the Clubhouse early to host rooms, which helped ignite the popularity of the app. Brands ranging from the NFL to big beauty brands such as Nars Cosmetics, have also made their way to Clubhouse. Clubhouse’s popularity even sparked a wave of competition: Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Discord also announced new real-time audio chat features.

And it’s not just audio chat apps that are taking off during the pandemic. The audio trend is also spreading to podcasts. There is something intimate about listening to someone’s voice. According to Edison Research41% of Americans over the age of twelve, or about 116 million users, are monthly podcast listeners, up from 37% from the previous year. 80 million Americans listen to podcasts every week, up 24% year-over-year. Podcast “familiarity” has also increased during the pandemic, up 75% year over year.

These audio usage metrics are staggering and certainly demonstrate that the trend is real – but the question remains: as the vaccine is rolled out and businesses begin to address the return to the office, the use of conferencing apps will be- maintained or will a return to “IRL” meetings move users away from virtual meetings? Recent data already shows a decline from the Clubhouse’s initial frenzy. Audio chat app downloads are would have dropped from their peak of 9.6 million in February to around 900,000 downloads in April.

Still, it’s too early to write the demise of Clubhouse or the audio trend. After all, Clubhouse is expanding in new ways. Clubhouse recently launched a beta on Android and presented its first monetization feature for creators called “Payments” which allows users to send payments to creators.

Even if Clubhouse usage continues to decline, users will likely take advantage of the audio trend through other leading digital platforms. Just consider ephemeral content. Snapchat was once synonymous with ephemeral content – but now users use this same format of “story” on other platforms – Instagram in particular, but also Facebook and LinkedIn. When other platforms embrace the shiny new feature, users typically exploit it on the platforms where they already have built-in tracking and daily time spent.

When it comes to the wider audio trend, it’s true that COVID-19 has forever changed networks and the workplace. Marketers predict that even in a post-pandemic world, the future of in-person events will remain hybrid. There is an inherent competitive advantage in merging the virtual with the physical – it balances exclusivity with scale and gives time-pressed professionals the flexibility to join in a variety of mediums.

Beyond events, employers are also enjoying the recruiting advantage of hybrid work arrangements and even permanent remote working. So, yes, professionals will network in person again, but virtual conferencing – in video, audio, and even augmented reality – is here to stay.


About Chris McCarter

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