Smart Speakers: Coming to the Car

We’ve shown data from our NuVoodoo Ratings Prospects Study 14 from June placing Smart Speaker adoption at 2 in 3 among likely ratings participants. We’ve shown that over half of the Smart-Speaker-owning respondents have a unit in the bedroom. This is a mammoth opportunity for radio.

Radio lost its beachhead in the bedroom years ago as clock radios faded out, bedroom TV’s became ubiquitous and TV figured out the audio-centric recipe for its morning shows. Given that clock radios are now about as common as rotary phones, getting a listening device back in the bedroom is big news – too big to ignore.

Getting radio back on in the bedroom using these new devices will take regular reminders from stations and their morning shows. It’s an uphill battle to change consumer habits, but stations with strong morning talent are equal to the task. Listeners will need to be reminded regularly of what they need to say to “Alexa” or “Hey Google.” It will take focus by the station/company technologists to ensure that the station’s stream plays as solidly as the decades-old terrestrial signal

Amplifying the urgency of aligning your station with Smart Speaker technology is news that Alexa is making her way into the car. As of this writing, you still need to go to Amazon and request an invitation to buy an Echo Auto. The price of entry is about $25. PJ Kling and I both jumped in right away – and there’s a lot for consumers to like. They’re not perfect (and there’s a little bit of a learning curve), but having Alexa in the car offers up a wide range of listening options … without having to sift through touchscreens while driving.

Last week Toyota announced that Alexa will be integrated into all 2020 Prius models, widening their installations beyond just the plug-in Prius Prime installations previously announced. Automakers are keenly competitive about technology offerings these days, so it’s likely that more makers and models will be incorporating Alexa – and so it’s more important than ever that radio is ready.

Whether it’s the bedroom or the car, using Alexa (or Hey Google) to connect with the station means consumers are hearing the online stream, not the terrestrial signal. That means the stream needs to play solidly, without buffering problems. It means that, if you’ve chosen to run separate inventory online, that inventory needs to overlay perfectly and sound at least as good as the inventory that runs on the terrestrial signal.

The NAB/RAB Radio Show heads to Dallas this week and NuVoodoo will be there. I’ll be roaming the Anatole, along with our fearless leader, Carolyn Gilbert, and our marketing gurus, Mike O’Connor and PJ Kling. An email to will get to all of us. We’re always glad to make time to talk shop, discuss research and marketing or revisit our webinars.