Why Radio Needs to Get Voice Assist Speakers Right

Why Radio Needs to Get Voice Assist Speakers Right

By Steve Goldstein

Originally published at Amplifi Media


Today, television is primarily an on-demand medium, having crossed the 50% threshold from “live” a few years ago. People watch shows at a time of their choosing.

Commercial radio has not yet mastered time-shifted audio. According to Nielsen, listening to time-shifted commercial radio in PPM markets is less than 1%.

All of that is poised for change as smartphones become entertainment hubs and millions of smart speakers make their way into bedrooms, bathrooms and kitchens across America.

Radio can now more easily be consumed at a time of convenience on a device of the listener’s choosing.

In a fragmented listening world, new devices and platforms are a remarkable opportunity for audience retention for radio in ways that could never have been done before, and it opens the door to the possibility of increased occasions of listening.

At-home radio listening has declined significantly and radios are sitting in closets and attics. But with 11% of Americans already having access to smart speakers, and 27 million due to be sold this year, as we like to say, smart speakers put radios back into the home.

These devices are hot.  This past week Amazon held it’s Prime Day and blew the doors off of last year’s sales of Amazon Echo and Dots.  Three times as many sold.

Along with the excellent folks at Jacobs Media, we recently started SonicAi, a joint venture focused on developing “skills” for smart speakers.

Here are some things to think about:

1.     Being there is not an automatic win – Spotify, Amazon Music, Pandora and thousands of radio stations from around the world are a simple voice command away. That means it is crowded and stations need to think about how they will distinguish themselves.

2.     What’s your name? – Smart speaker systems default to Tune-In, and iHeart, but for your station to be selected, the devices must be able to differentiate station names. There are 55 stations named “Kiss” on iHeart, and 44 named “Mix” on Tune-in. If your station uses a name such as Mix, Lite, Amp, Star, or Z104, “claiming” and registering the station’s unique name and creating the proper “invocation skill” is critically important. On Amazon’s Echo, if you said “Z100,” up until recently, you were connected to a country station in Indiana.

3.     Think beyond the stream – We are content guys and we don’t think the station stream is necessarily the big win on these devices. There is a significant opportunity to create interactive engagement with listeners. 80% of a top performing morning show’s content is missed every day. We are working with clients on the vast opportunity to re-think and repurpose “bite-size” benchmark content and create exclusive content for smart speakers to drive traffic.

4.     It’s accretive – If your station is in a PPM market and time-shifted content is listened to within 24 hours, it can mean extra quarter hours for your station. Delayed viewing in TV is accretive and now radio has a time delay strategy.

5.     Think “bite-size” content – With podcasting, we see stations posting 3 and 4 hours of content and hoping listeners will sift through it. That’s a pretty horrible experience. We think curated “bite-size” content works much better in this environment.

It is truly early innings with these remarkable devices and more (including Apple Homepod) on the way. The arc and expectation of listeners – especially millennials – is that great content be available at a time of convenience on all platforms. We are hyper-focused on getting radio stations past sending all their best content out over the air and on its way to the dwarf planet Pluto. Sometimes technology disrupts, in this case it is poised to aid broadcasting.


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