Is Your Station Smart Speaker Ready?


    If you have not created a way for your audience to listen to your radio station on a Smart Speaker you are living in the Dark Ages. According to the latest Jacobs Media Techsurvey, Smart Speaker ownership jumped from 11% to 21% in just one year. And if you’re not telling your audience your radio station is available on Smart Speakers, you may be missing an opportunity to increase your listening base, or at the least maintain the listeners you have.

    On Thursday, Jacobs Media hosted a webinar focused on Smart Speakers such as Amazon’s Alexa and Google’s Home. Jacobs Media President Paul Jacobs and jacAPPS COO Bob Kernan detailed what radio stations need to do to take advantage of the newest gadget that has consumers buzzing. According to the Jacobs Tech Survey, 9% of the respondents said they listen to radio a lot more now that they own a Smart Speaker. Another 10% said they listen a little more.

    After asking the devices general questions (36%) and what their local weather is (32%), consumers in the Jacobs Media Techsurvey are listening to AM/FM Radio for music (26%). Not too far behind is talk radio (16%).

    The format listeners tune into the most…Sports.

    So what should you do to take advantage of radio’s new home in the home?

    Obviously the first thing you must do is make sure there is a skill that allows your listeners to tell the device how to listen to your station. However, Kernan says a stream of your station is not a strategy. He says you should think about providing time-sensitive content, content your listeners can tune into any time, long-form content, and content your audience can listen to as background. Most of all, differentiate yourself from other stations.

    Something to be aware of: it may not be easy to set up a skill where your listeners simply tell the devices to play your call letters. Kernan says TuneIn and iHeartRadio have cornered the market on call letters so in all likelihood the device may grab your station through one of those two apps. So you’ll need to come up with something more creative. Kernan also says to differentiate your station, use local talent as the voice, rather than, for example, having Alexa replying to your listeners. Kernan also suggests loading up podcasts and providing listeners with flash briefings, news, or weather, for example.

    Most importantly, promote the fact that your station is available on these devices. If nobody knows about your station it defeats the purpose of being there. That’s obviously where your station comes in.
    Kernan says be creative with your on-air promos and have your talent live-read the fact that you are available on the devices. other stations have even created videos showing listeners how they can access the station’s content. And others have professional banners made and hang them in their lobby.


    1. The great boat called terrestrial radio sinking, yet listening is doing better than ever. The lifeboats are all large, however. And now it’s clear what they are: 1) Computers (using browsers) and mobile devices (using apps); 2) Car entertainment systems, now being fed cellular and satellite signals that work over far larger geographies than AM/FM ever could; and 3) Smart speakers, which can carry everything car entertainment systems can, but with a much easier user interface, once they’re set up.

      The choices of programs, music, personalities and other interest-grabbing “content” (as the marketers like to call it) on these devices so far exceeds what’s on AM and FM that the game could hardly be more over, even though the band plays on.

      The bottom line here is that all but the most branded stations—the ones listeners feel most connected to in their lives—will go down. There are too many stations on the air in the U.S. and too many other ways to listen than AM/FM radios can possibly provide. And the radio business has already botched two forms of what could have been life support: RDS (which lets a car radio carry a station from one signal to another over large geographies, and which the U.S. rejected in the ’90s in favor of a crippled replica called RDBS) and DAB (digital audio broadcasting, which would have been a much better solution than HD Radio, which is too proprietary, too hard for listeners to understand, too poorly implemented in the radios that have it, hated by too many engineers, and a failure-in-progress in the marketplace).

      Not that DAB is perfect, by the way. It’s a lifeboat with problems of its own, mostly thanks to its geographical and technical boundaries, placed by different implementations in different countries. What it has done, however, is obsolesce AM and FM radios wherever those countries make it the only choice left for radio listening. And there are more of those all the time. The US won’t be one of them.


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