Big Data meets research data from mobile diaries

A mobile diary project with On Device Research helped SoundCloud enrich Big Data, build better personas and drive marketing campaigns for user acquisition.

SoundCloud is the world’s leading social sound platform with over 250 million monthly listeners who generate over 3 terabytes of data a day.



Terabytes and terabytes of data only help SoundCloud to understand its current users who are early adopters and differ significantly from the mainstream audience they now target.

"All the Big Data didn’t tell us about the wider market situation – how people interact with audio, who are the competitors and how do we grow beyond the early adopters."

Nadines Guhlich, Senior Insight Manager, SoundCloud

Research goals

  1. Find out the differences of existing users with mainstream audiences
  2. Understand the wider audio market, attitudes, channels and competition


A mobile diary study in the US was the perfect solution to find answers to SoundCloud questions. We built two panels – one with 350 SoundCloud users, and a control group of 350 non-users from On Device Research’s panel.

A crucial step was to ask respondents for their SoundCloud ID and permission to enrich the Big Data with the data from the diary study.

After taking a profiling survey participants were asked to “check in” over two weeks every time they listened to audio, be that a live concert, talk show on the radio, or a podcast they enjoyed during their commute.

mobile diary output

Questions like “Who are you with?” and “Why are you listening to it?” were added to help us better understand the context of the experience.


Consolidating data from the mobile diary and Big Data allowed SoundCloud to establish deep, powerful understanding of its user’s motivations – how people make their decisions what and when to listen to something.

Here’s how mobile diary data helps SoundCloud:

  1. Future product roadmap decisions are based on user and market data, not gut feeling
  2. Vital input into SoundCloud’s user segmentation project
  3. Understanding usage patters helped pinpoint new user acquisition campaigns on social media
  4. Insight gleaned from the mobile diary was passed on to top creators on the platform to help them better understand and engage their own audiences

"SoundCloud is a fast moving startup, decisions are made quickly. We needed a research partner that moves at the same speed. Picking On Device Research was not only a methodology or budget decision, it was also a choice of company culture that matches ours."

Nadines Guhlich, Senior Insight Manager, SoundCloud