Making the most out of audio and voice
Since lockdown began this year, our use of voice technologies has skyrocketed. Learn how to make the most of this opportunity by experimenting with voice.
The popularity of using smart speakers is growing at a similar pace to the use of mobile phones. The International News Media Association (INMA) report, Audio Opportunities for News Media, found that at the end of 2018 Google had sold more than 52 million Google Home systems and in January 2019, Amazon sold more than 100 million Alexa devices.
Voice-activated tools have become part of our daily lives and are bringing dramatic changes to consumer behaviour.”
— Meg Goldthwaite, Chief Marketing Officer, NPR
There’s a vast space for news publishers to grapple and experiment with in terms of adapting and creating new content for voice-activated systems. Despite news publishers’ concerns around content discovery and the technology still being in a premature stage for revenue propositions, the possibility to monetize and reach wider audiences is definitely a prospect if news publishers can get audio and voice right.
So, what has worked and how can you advance commercial outcomes?
The consumer use case extends to a lot of media companies. Because of that, it’s also linear, which is really good for advertising.”
— Sebastian Tomich, Global head of advertising and marketing solutions, The New York Times
Unlike digital video content, audio doesn’t require the same amount of attention to absorb; it’s much more integrated to fit into any area of life, whether it’s at home through smart speaker devices, at work, or during a commute. This means that advertising through audio and voice can resonate with the listener in much more intimate ways, and craft itself around what the listener is already asking for. When it comes to ads:
- Make sure your ads sound native to the rest of your content
- Advertise your own content by pushing listeners to offers
- Consider voice responsivity
The Washington Post and The Economist are leading listeners to offers and other content by using audio and smart speakers as a ‘recruiting ground’, then providing URL links to follow. Similarly, the Financial Times has been experimenting with promotional offers which have brought in new, younger subscribers – all attributed to ads through their podcasts.
Make interactions easy for the audience
As many users of smart speakers are currently only giving simple commands to their devices, (as the technology is in early stages of development) explaining how to navigate content is important for visibility and loyalty. The New York Times provides audiences, through it’s printed publications, with step-by step instructions guiding listeners to prompts to access Alexa skills.
NWZonline also launched an Alexa skill in April 2017. They began by using the full names of a few articles but they were too long and users had difficulty accessing them due to wrong pronunciation and hidden grammar. Since then, they have worked to make commands more accessible by shortening the length and using memorable words. They promoted the skill on a video through Facebook and articles in print and online, around 300 to 350 users were using it roughly 1,000 times a week.
Try different content strategies
Innovation shows readers what’s possible in the future. We test our new stuff and make money alongside it. Only upsides.”
— Sebastian Tomich, Global Head of Advertising and Marketing Solutions, The New York Times
The Guardian Voice Lab team aim to develop a strategy for using voice in the future, they do this by prototyping and experimenting with meaningful voice content. Through this they have developed Guardian Briefings, which mixes human and synthetic voices.
Although this approach is challenging as it’s all still very new, they collect a lot of data which will help them understand what works.
News publishers are experimenting with:
- Human voice synthesizers and celebrity voice readouts
- Quiz games for more interactivity (NPR’s ‘Wait, Wait… Don’t Tell Me!’)
- Short single topic stories (The Evening Standard is experimenting with max 1 minute topic stories)
Cross-promoting through voice
Audio could be a way of building bridges to the main website and magazine brands.”
— Nic Newman, Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism
The German news publisher, Die Zeit, has been using the Alexa platform to run a short daily news briefing, What Now?, for over a year which has generated heavy traffic both through the voice system and as a podcast. Their user testing has shown that podcasts users don’t necessarily use their online platform, Zeit Online, so they have been adopting voice to cross-promote to their other services which helps unify their brand.
As well as redirecting listeners to content online, news publishers could also guide listeners to more of their audio which could help with visibility issues when experimenting with different voice skills.