We recently hosted the launch of a report as part of our Partnership with the Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism entitled The Impact of Voice Activated Devices on News.
Voice activated devices, powered by intelligent assistants such as Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant, are growing even faster than the smartphone at a similar stage.
But how are these devices being used for news consumption? What is their potential? What are strategies of the publishers and platforms? And what impact does that have on our communications strategies and those of our clients? Most importantly for media publishers and brands alike, how will discovery work in a voice environment where typically only one answer/brand can be given to a command or question?
Nic Newman, the author of the report, sat down after the launch to share his thoughts:
Use of voice-activated speakers has roughly doubled in the past year in the US, UK and Germany. At least a tenth of both the US and UK population (14% and 10%) regularly use voice-activated speakers like Amazon Echo, Google Home and Apple HomePod. And an Increasing number of users begin and end their day with smart speakers instead of smartphones and radios
Usage of voice activated devices today is largely confined to a small set of basic ‘command and control’ tasks such as accessing music, asking for the latest weather, or setting timers.
News is not yet as important to users: Just 1% of smart speaker users say news is the most important function on the device, compared with 61% who chose them for playing music. However of those that do use the devices for news, users complain that briefings are usually too long, and low production quality means that users’ tolerance runs out after 60 seconds
Brand Attribution is a major worry for media publishers: Of those that do use voice activated devices for news, a quarter of them in the UK said they could not remember the brand that that produced their daily news update. This will be a worry for publishers who fear platforms will become a choke point making it even harder for brands to build direct connections with users.
Brand diversity is limited, with ‘default’ outlets currently dominating the share of voice: Few people are customising their news settings, meaning default platforms have a significant advantage. In the UK, two-thirds of usage is for BBC News (64%) followed by Sky News at 19%. All other outlets were heard by 10% or less of users. Where the BBC dominates in the UK, there is no clear frontrunner in the US: CNN and NPR come out in the lead, with 28% of users hearing their headlines through their smart speakers. Following closely behind them are ABC (26%), Fox (23%), and BBC (22%)
Barriers to adoption: The report identifies a number of barriers to adoption including concerns about privacy and embarrassment about talking to computers. But it argues that the speed of consumer take-up combined with the investment of tech companies in these technologies will require publishers to engage fully over the next few years.