Smart speakers were popular gifts this holiday season. Amazon said it sold “tens of millions” of devices powered by its voice assistant. Of course, Amazon is just one company selling such devices. Suffice it to say that lots of people are trying to figure out things they can ask Alexa, Cortana, Google and Siri to do for them. Our most recent NuVoodoo Ratings Prospects Study from 2017 showed that lots of Echo owners have listened to streams from broadcast radio on their devices. We’re working now on our next study and we’ll be diving in deeper on these devices and the content they’re accessing.
Whether it’s listening to the station’s stream or accessing long-form podcasts or short-form “snackable podcasts,” broadcasters have a tremendous advantage in that they can use the mother ship transmitter to (a) tell listeners about their offerings and (b) teach listeners how to access content using Alexa and her peers. If you’re not convinced, talk to an independent podcaster – one who isn’t already famous or isn’t affiliated with an NPR station or isn’t attached to an already-successful podcast. Getting the word out, getting your podcast noticed is nearly impossible for most.
While many of us remember the maniacal focus of trying to keep listeners from consuming any other form of media (to the point of some operators refusing to take spots for TV shows way back when), the reality is that we’ve never been able to stop listeners from living their lives. The exciting prospect of technology today is that people can consume our content in new ways, in different locations, at different times – presuming we’ve taken the time to produce the content and telling listeners what it is, why they need it and where/how to get it.
Market clusters need to think of themselves as local content engines. Anything created for one of the transmitters could have a separate life in the digital distribution world. As we’ve noted before, well-produced public affairs programs might have a passionate audience of people intensely interested in the needs of your community (it’s just that they don’t happen to be people who get up and listen to the radio on Sunday mornings at 5:00). An hourly newscast can have a separate life online as well, as can many other bits of programming.
What “snackable content” do you already create? It’s a matter of packaging and distributing it in the podcast spaces. What other short-form content can you create in conjunction with community events? What content might draw an audience? What content might get advertiser support? Increasingly, managers will need to prioritize their staffs to be creating content – lots of content – beyond the bare minimum needed to keep the transmitters fed. A Local Content Engine should be a pretty exciting place to work.
If you’re not convinced that creating and distributing easy-to-access digital audio content is important, remember that Siri already exists in cars that use CarPlay and Alexa is coming to both Ford and BMW. As in-car infotainment systems get more complex, it seems assured that voice commands will gain favor very quickly.