The Blog

🚀Product Ideas: Democratizing Relaxing Content With ASMR

Here’s an idea.

Create what is essentially a Spotify for ASMR. For the following reasons:

  • Fundamentally connected to something everyone does daily: sleeping
  • Massively popular content, with many ASMR videos having many millions of views
  • Currently consumed mainly through Youtube, which offers a subpar experience for users using ASMR for relaxation
  • Large existing creator pool
  • Very few players on the market
  • Mobile-first is almost a requirement
  • Possibility for Freemium model
  • Network effect when democratizing content distribution

What and why is ASMR

“The autonomous sensory meridian response” or ASMR among friends is this weird tingling sensation that might arise for some people from either watching or listening to a certain type of stimuli. The tingling is described as a calming and euphoric, but non-sexual sensation. Not everyone can experience ASMR, with estimates ranging from 20-70% of the population being capable of experiencing it. The reasons why some can and some can’t experience ASMR are unknown, as there aren’t many published studies about the phenomena yet.

The neurological basis of ASMR seems to be similar to that of musical frisson, the aesthetic chills produced by a psychophysiological response to auditory stimuli. According to fMRI studies, they seem to activate related neural pathways, with one exception. During frisson mPFC, the brain area with neural pathways related to memory and decision-making has decreased activation but shows activation during ASMR. One should, however, note that there are not yet any brain imaging studies with a reference group, so the results should be taken with a grain of salt.

Just by looking at the publish date of different ASMR Youtube videos, ASMR seems to have come out of nowhere. However, one can find references about similar phenomena from literature written in the early 20th century. It would be safe to say that ASMR won’t be going away anytime soon and could even see a spike after Corona lockdowns started to get lifted, and people return to work at offices and other stressing environments.

Many people use ASMR as an aid for relaxation and sleep. In a questionnaire study of 475 participants of ASMR consumers, 98% reported using ASMR to relax, 82% to help fall asleep, and 70% to deal with stress. These numbers possess unique requirements for the technology which we are going to look at next.

Product & Technology

Looking at ASMR from a problem-solution aspect, ASMR can be considered to be a solution to the problem of relaxation and difficulties in falling asleep. The context in which ASMR most used is most before going to bed. Therefore the product needs to be something the user can easily take with them to the bed, e.g., a mobile phone (I want to mention that keeping your phone away from your bedroom is better for your sleep hygiene). Sleep timer and background playing are the key features currently missing from the largest player on the field, Youtube.

When it comes to the technical aspects of hosting the content, this is mostly already a solved problem. That is not to say that it would be cheap, but I would argue that the right pricing model would most likely take care of this.

I estimate that an MVP could be built in 3 months’ time with one backend developer with experience on audio and video streaming, one mobile-oriented UX designer, and one mobile developer.

Business Model

I believe a Freemium model similar to that of Spotify would work the best in this business case. Offering a subscription pricing, in which the ASMR content producer is paid based on how many people have viewed or listened to their content, with the business being running the platform and handling payments and distribution. This would also offer a small network effect, in which having popular creators would bring in more users, and more users would bring more creators. Nothing would also stop the creators from publishing their content on different platforms e.g., Youtube. Instead, I think the possibility of multiple revenue streams would work as an incentive for many of the creators.

If one is willing to conduct aggressive (and maybe even borderline unethical) marketing, there are a couple of ways to differentiate from other players. Bringing in controversial creators, for example, those using nudity and sex to differentiate their content, could bring an influx of users who feel current services to be hostile towards them (Youtube is known for its strict guidelines on nudity). Being aggressive could also be done in a way that allows creators to import their existing content from Youtube easily. To say it in another way, do everything in your power to get the content creators away from Youtube.

Additional revenue streams could be found from building an advertising platform that is more suitable for ASMR (imagine going to bed and putting and relaxing ASMR video from Youtube only to be greeted by a loud ad about something meaningless).

Competition

I wrote 80% of this article before looking at all if there exist any competing products. And through short market analysis, I found only one product that could be said to offer both this business model and value proposition: Tingles. How similar Tingles is to many of the things I’ve outlined before shows how ideas are rarely that original. That being said, I see that a new player could easily start eating the market already held by Tingles and Youtube.

Differentiation in terms of product and business model is still very much possible and has already been quite well outlined in the business model section.

Conclusion

I think ASMR focused content platform poses an exciting business potential. Throughout the article, I’ve done my best to elaborate on the positive signals listed in the beginning but also weighed in on the possible cons and risks. Therefore seeing as I started this article by listing positive signals, I think concluding remarks should include the risks in clear bullet points:

  • Tiny technological moat to other players, as anybody can host waste amounts of content and build a mobile app.
  • Features that currently make Youtube suck in terms of ASMR could easily be implemented by them, which is why one should look at offering a business model Youtube will be unable to match
  • It is hard to match the size of the audience creator can achieve on Youtube

If you’re already building something like this, or possibly considering making something like this, I would like to hear it, and maybe I can even help.

Sources

  1. An fMRI investigation of the neural correlates underlying the autonomous sensory meridian response (ASMR)
  2. Autonomous Sensory Meridian Response (ASMR): a flow-like mental state