Monday, July 3, 2017

Report: Radio Eager To Tap Smart Speaker Tech

Voice-driven technology in today’s connected home is creating new opportunities for terrestrial radio broadcasters to tap a market, even as the sales of tabletop radios have evaporated in the United States, experts say, according to Randy J. Stine at RadioWorld.

Smart speaker systems like Amazon Echo and Google Home can readily stream radio stations, via web streams like TuneIn and iHeartRadio, and can be programmed to find individual station streams.

Smart speakers use voice-recognition technology and artificial intelligence to act as a multi-purpose — and relatively inexpensive — in-home entertainment device.

In Jacobs Media’s 2017 Techsurvey 13, approximately 11 percent of core radio listeners had an Amazon Echo or a Google Home. Estimates are that up to 10 million Amazon Echo internet-connected “smart speakers” have been sold in the United States, so the numbers are substantial, and soaring sales are expected, underscoring the opportunity for the radio industry. RBC Capital Markets predicts Amazon’s voice assistant Alexa could generate $10 billion in worldwide revenues for that company by 2020.

Mike Cooney, chair of the NAB’s Radio Technology Committee and VP of engineering of Beasley Broadcast Group, said his company’s digital development team has already developed a set of rules to describe each station so they can be found easier, typically involving a combination of call letters, frequency, location and slogan, as if programmed for a search engine.

“When I first began using [Echo]in late 2016 it didn’t always find our radio stations. That was before we knew much about it. We have learned it’s very important how you put your radio station information in TuneIn or iHeartRadio,” Cooney said.

Radio futurologist James Cridland agreed with Cooney’s observation. “Many of my friends claim that their Amazon Echo has not just replaced their radio, but that they listen to more radio as a result.”

TuneIn and other aggregators are so far serving radio broadcasters well, but Cridland wonders if radio needs to reconsider its long-term strategy for smart speaker success.

“If the U.S. radio industry is happy about leaving the default ‘skill architecture’ to TuneIn — a company which isn’t in the radio business, doesn’t care about radio’s future, is a gatekeeper that you don’t control and one that actively sells ads in front of your streams — then I might suggest the radio business needs to take a long hard look at itself,” he said. He’d like to see radio broadcasters “work together to ensure a strong radio experience in the United States and each country.”

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