(By Renee Cassis) More audio is available on more platforms and on more devices than ever before. And while radio has been in the audio business for nearly 100 years, these new platforms and devices are giving audio a “sheen,” according to Steve Goldstein, CEO of Amplifi Media, and Fred Jacobs, owner of Jacobs Media. The pair, who formed Sonic AI as a joint venture that focuses on smart-speaker development and strategy, presented “Key Strategies for Future Platforms: Smart Speakers” during Borrell’s Local Online Advertising Conference in New York City yesterday.
According to Jacobs and Goldstein, everyone needs an audio strategy, including everyone in radio. During their presentation, they pointed out that more and more people are using the voice command on their smartphones. They also noted that 50% of all searches will be voice searches by 2020, according to ComScore, and that Ford plans to have 100% of its cars “connected” by next year.
So, what does that mean for radio? Well, if you want to follow the money, Jacobs and Goldstein advise that you follow the easy button. Smart speaker adoption is growing faster than any technology device, even faster than smart phones. And audio is the primary use of these devices.
But building a skill or app for smart speakers is just the beginning. Build it and they will come won’t work. According to Jacobs and Goldstein, 65% of smart-speaker owners haven’t enabled a skill. So even if you’re savvy enough to register and build a skill, you’ve still got to let your listeners know about it, and you have to teach them how to use it.
Goldstein and Jacobs recommend promoting the skill on the air and across digital assets, and including a how-to audio or video demo. “Stations that promote, see the metrics,” they claim. In their research, Sonic AI found that skills often lack visual support and have low reinforcement of the invocation. “Teach your listeners exactly what words to use,” they suggest. Their findings also revealed that brands can make the mistake of using a non-memorable invocation. “Be brand specific,” they counseled. In addition, they caution against giving listeners a negative audio experience by using voice bots or repurposing old content.
The team also shared, what in their view, are good examples of smart-speaker usage. They include Oprah, who does a sixty-second spot each day; Jeopardy, the Tonight Show, “Daily” from the NY Times, and This Day in History from the History Channel.
Investing time and money in the future doesn’t always have immediate ROI, but there are ways to make some money. Goldstein and Jacobs see sponsorships as a potential revenue generator, but strongly advise against traditional ads.
While there are no hard statistics that correlate in-home listening with smart-speaker usage, the potential for boosting at-home listening levels is great, particularly with radio devices being virtually non-existent in most homes. Voice activation is already overtaking automotive infotainment systems. The parting message from Goldstein and Jacobs… “radio has the bullhorn — drive people to download your skill.”
Renee Cassis is owner of RC Communications Marketing, a PR and marketing consultancy for broadcast and entertainment companies.