Smart speakers evangelized for radio in Borrell webinar
Originally published at Inside Radio
In its Wednesday webinar “Smart Speakers: The Next Big Revolution,” Borrell Associates shared insight into the impact of the astonishingly fast-growing product. In the two years since the introduction of Amazon’s Echo, the U.S. now sees 11% of the nation (20 million people) owning some brand of smart speaker unit. And the field is only getting bigger.
“Smart speakers are really the new wave, the new revolution,” said Borrell Associates CEO Gordon Borrell in opening the webinar. “There is a whole lot of additional opportunity here in the promotion of your existing content and your existing brands, and a lot of learning.”
The learning is only getting more advanced. Ownership of Echo (introduced June 23, 2015) and, to a lesser extent, Google Home, have grown faster even than smartphone adoption. Now, Apple is working on HomePod, Microsoft wants in, and as of Wednesday, Facebook has said it intends to enter the fray.
In the webinar, Jacobs Media president Fred Jacobs and Amplifi Media president Steve Goldstein talked of their agreement to form a new collective division, SonicAi, which focuses on helping traditional media brands find their place among the rapidly growing “skills” marketplace.
Jacobs explained just how essential a platform the smart speaker space has become—as an outgrowth of on-demand and voice-command communication. “This is an exciting time in audio, maybe rivaling the hi-fi boom of the 1950s,” he said. “It has the potential to be beneficial for television, for radio, for newspapers, for all media. And it is coming at the perfect time for radio, since there are fewer and fewer radios on the home front. These smart speakers are the replacement for radio in the home.”
And thus for broadcasters, it is essential—now—to be ready to pounce on those opportunities provided by Alexa and its competitors. “This is a new question for a lot of [advertisers]: What is your audio strategy,” Goldstein said. “It was once viewed as a yesterday strategy, perhaps—but audio is hot.”
Because there are any number of digital audio platforms now, including Pandora, Spotify and SiriusXM Radio, all of which are accessible on smart speakers, “consumers have a lot of diverse choices. Landing on a particular radio station or newspaper is going to be difficult,” Goldstein added. “You need a way to enhance the brand.”
Goldstein points out that if a user says “Lite Rock” to Alexa, they end up with a radio station in Beirut. If they say “Z100,” they land on the stream for a station in Indiana, not New York City. So, beyond being very particular in how to identify your brand it’s important to “create content that is relevant in the home. If you’re thinking it’s the weather, Amazon is probably ahead of you already.”
The answer comes down to a word that radio stations understand well: local. The key is to promote a station’s unique branding on-air, on social media and online, and then back it with compelling smart speaker content. “The skill needs to have an obvious benefit. Categories that make sense—food, sports, local events, news, sales, holidays, whatever you have where you can stand out to be successful. I don’t think you can be generically successful,” Goldstein said.
The monetary benefits remain in the future. Jacobs and Goldstein stress that Amazon is being savvy in allowing no liner ads. Goldstein says that Amazon “realizes there has to be some monetary, but they are not allowing us to clutter it up, which makes for a better listener experience.” Instead radio stations have an opportunity to sell sponsorships—something the medium knows well. While listening to a station’s content, a user might hear something along the lines of, “This news report sponsored by Mike’s Ford Dealership.”
More to the point: Goldstein and Jacobs stressed for all media sniffing out the potential of the smart speaker marketplace. Said Goldstein: “We’re in the first inning. Timing is everything: Don’t wait too long, your competition is already moving. You either get on there and create the habit in your market or you give it up to someone else.”