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Will Smart-Speakers be the kick-start that Podcasting needs?

“Podcasting is about to take off.”

I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve been told this over the years. Yet somehow, the wonderful, creative, bubbling cauldron of brilliant, and mostly undiscovered, audio content has always remained slightly under the radar. A sub-culture for audio-evangelists and radio buffs. Never quite making the break into the mainstream.

But could the introduction of the Smart-Speaker be just what Podcasting needs to take it to the next level?

The impact that the rise of Smart Speakers has made to audio consumption is remarkable and surely, this can only have a positive impact on Podcasting in the future. The “Smart Audio Report” released by NPR and Edison Research earlier this year looked at how Smart-Speaker owners in the US were using voice-controlled devices and if ownership was impacting their listening habits. The result were clear: if you own a device such as the Amazon Echo or Google Home you consume more audio. Simple. 70% of people surveyed said that since buying the device they are listening to more audio at home. That’s great news for anyone who makes Audio Content.

The impact on audio listening doesn’t stop there either as you can see from the below infographic:

“The Smart Audio Report” by NPR & Edison Research shows some encouraging stats for Audio producers.

These are incredible numbers for a consumer technology that is still, relatively, in its infancy. It shows that owners are actively changing their listening habits as soon as they bring the device into their homes. Smart Speakers are disrupting the way we consume media content and it’s having a hugely positive effect on audio.

From a podcasting perspective, it’s interesting that podcast listening for Smart-Speaker owners is 50% higher than for non-owners. Of course, those who have purchased such a device are by their nature early adopters, educated and wealthy, mirror a traditional podcasting audience and thus skew the stats slightly, but it also shows that people are actively looking for and consuming for new audio content via their device. For many, this new channel is THE way that they now consume audio.

There will, of course, be massive changes to the way audio is designed for Smart-Speakers: The technology involved will develop allowing for greater interactivity and more intuitive productions and audio that reacts to a user’s demands and wishes will slowly become the norm. The demand for a more traditional form of audio will always remain however and these devices are providing another channel to consume radio, music and importantly, podcasts.

In my view, there are two main factors that will come into play in terms of Smart-Speaker’s impact on Podcasting (and indeed audio consumption in general). They are EASE and DISCOVERY.

Ease, because a podcast can now be found and played with a single voice command. Personally, a massive barrier to me listening to more podcasts is my daily fight with iTunes, downloading new episodes and moving audio onto the device I wish to listen on. With my Amazon Alexa it’s easy: “Alexa play me the latest S-Town Podcast” and away we go. Simple. Easy. Frictionless.

As for discovery, Chris Huskins “One of the podcast guys” (that’s his official title) from Abrupt Audio thinks that anything that makes Podcast’s easier to discover has got to have a positive impact:

“Without a central hub for all podcasts on all devices it’s often hard to make sure a podcast is available to everyone. Smart speakers can and will change that: the ease of simply asking for a show and having it return the latest episodes, as easily as it can find the latest Foo Fighter track, will put podcasts alongside music listening”

It really is starting to look like a game changer. Exactly how much of a game-changer will become more apparent as the technology improves The recent launch of the “Sonos One” with Alexa functionality has improved audio quality for audiophiles whilst in-car integration (Currently being spear-headed by SEAT) will make finding and listening to podcasts on-the-go easier than it has ever been.

There are a number of ways that you, as a podcaster can take advantage of this new channel from building your own Branded Podcast Skill to ensuring your show is available via “Alexa ready” sources (such as Spotify) to creating short, regular episodes that can be released as daily Flash Briefings. We will have to wait and see which methodology proves the most effective.

Bridge Ratings & Media Analysis has projected that the total revenue for the podcasting industry is set to reach almost £400million by 2020 and I have no doubt that Smart-Speakers will play a key role in that growth.

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