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Listen out: voice technology brings new audio opportunities

Media companies are finding new ways to invest in audio but what are they hoping to achieve?

By Clare Cavanagh, Reuters Community | Mar 26, 2020

Audio content is turning up the volume this year and media companies are tuning in.

Due to a huge increase in new voice devices and growth in popularity of audio, both have become important factors in building commercial strategies within the media industry. How will these changes affect traditional audio broadcasting?

Radio continues to have a huge impact on audiences across the world, providing information, education, and endorsing freedom of speech. It’s been over a century since the first public radio broadcast took place in New York, 1910 and its success has continued through the 20th century. The traditional radio format continues to have a wide appeal but in the last few years, a wave of new audio opportunities has risen, along with smarter ways of broadcasting, narrowcasting and streaming.

Podcasts got “newsier” and it was recognised that combining them with public radio would captivate a younger generation of audiences.

The Daily podcast run by the New York Times, which has gained over 5 million listeners per month, has been a huge influence on other media companies this year. The Guardian (Today in Focus) and the Washington Post (Post Reports) have jumped on board by investing in audio hoping to generate the same gain.

So by embracing a cutting-edge approach to audio, what other changes will we see this year?

Voice strategy:

The importance of human behaviour has never been so relevant as audiences have become so reliant on products that take less time and energy to use in their daily lives.

Apps have made things so easy: Netflix replaced the frantic rush for a new film from the local video shop; Uber replaced the stress of joining a long taxi line. Voice-enabled smart devices have simplified many parts of life.  JumpCrew is aware of this shift and promotes the most effective voice marketing tactics. They provide a supportive service, connecting their clients with potential audiences by enhancing and evolving the media company’s voice strategy.

Voice branding:

Investing in audio technology has taken a huge leap since it’s been recognized that “consumers are generally more willing to pay for audio than for digital content”.

Many tech companies have discovered ways to engage audiences in audio and the financial outcome has been astonishing. As they compete to find their own way of providing the most reliable and easy-to-use apps (for example, the recent smart-lock competition between Google and Amazon), the voice shopping industry has grown and become a $40billion market.

Google’s Redux acquisition (technology that can can turn any surface/screen into a speakers) has proven that the efficiency in using audio to transfer valuable data is “re-engineering industries”. The value for consumers lies in subscribing to audible channels, rather than paying for online newspapers. Then they deal with fewer adblocks and enjoy that time listening to the content they have specifically chosen. Since consumers have become familiar with digital voices, rich and immersive audio speaks volumes and has made an impressive impact on branding.

News Over Audio:

Founded by Gareth Hickey and Shane Ennis, News Over Audio (NOA) emerged last year providing the best of the world’s news in audio snippets, encouraging audiences not to read the news but allow themselves to be read to.

Following the arrival of Amazon Alexa in many homes, this audio news-streaming platformcreates a fresh way of listening to news. As millennials themselves, co-founder Hickey said they wanted to create a product “that makes news easier to consume and empower people to become consumers of quality journalism.”

This platform appeals specifically to a younger generation who are already familiar with current technical advances in sound accessories and strong internet bandwith. Time has become a limited factor with visual content but NOA provides a service that allows consumers audio access to the news at any time in the day. The Financial Times, Bloomberg and The Independent are already on board with NOA and have been recently joined by the New York Times and the Economist. This platform is not competitive but instead another resource to focus on engagement and to collaborate with to produce trustworthy and high-level content and build audiences on both sides.

[a product] that makes news easier to consume and empowers people to become consumers of quality journalism.”

Gareth Hickey, co-founder, News Over Audio

Audio has proved to be one of the hottest topics and a significant factor within content and commercial strategies for news organizations.

Major media companies will continue to develop exciting digital opportunities in this field and their results will assist other platforms by providing new ways to engage audiences with relevant and unobtrusive content. While podcasts became the surprise success of last year, it will be fascinating to see which and how further voices will travel within media this year. Audiences are listening…