Betty vs. Veronica.
Ginger vs. Mary Ann.
Jennifer vs. Angelina.
Taylor vs. Katy.
There have been epic rivalries between female icons throughout the ages, both in fiction and in real life. But the battle between Alexa and Siri is shaping up to be an important one for media brands – especially radio.
A recent article in the Wall Street Journal by Trip Mickle outlines the lengths that parents Amazon and Apple are now going to achieve dominance in the smart speaker space.
Amazon has a reported 70-share at the moment, while Apple has yet to introduce its HomePod, coming at the end of 2017. And don't count Google out either, because of its data and its reach.
All three behemoths are rushing to staff up, while partnering with a variety of other brands to make their virtual assistants as ubiquitous as possible.
Amazon has already put together deals with Ford and Sears (think Kenmore refrigerators: “Alexa, how many beers do I have left?”).
Google is opening up its assistant (it answers to “OK, Google”) to Sony, as well as LG Electronics. And to compete against Amazon's retail empire, Goolge recently teamed up with Wal-Mart so Google Home owners can order via voice from the retail giant's massive catalogue.
Apple's plans are fuzzier, but Siri is already embedded in its operating systems including iPhones and Macs, so there's loyalty and reach.
The smart speaker gold rush is reminiscent of what went down when Apple introduced its App Store nine years ago, spurring an applications development race that is still going strong. We know from our Techsurveys that voice commands in all devices – from smart speakers to connected to cars to mobile phones – are becoming more comfortable for consumers of all stripes. More and more, voice is the way we'll access media, entertainment, shopping, and home functions in this rapidly approaching future.
It's not hard to envision scenarios where consumers at home, work, and in their cars will call up content without the aid of a tuner or an app. And that means radio needs to be sure its brands are easily and clearly accessible on the array of smart speakers already in stores or soon coming to market.
It's table stakes, not just a cool thing to do. And the smartest broadcasters are moving quickly to make sure they're prepared. It's why we created our SonicAi brand to provide not just voice command technology, but programming strategy, to a new vertical rapidly finding its way onto nightstands, kitchen counters, work benches, and desks.
We'll continue to research the space in our Techsurveys – another reason why it's so important to participate each year – with detailed questions about smart speaker usage and radio's role in these platforms.
But in the meantime, going to school in the space isn't just a good idea – it's now a radio required course. It starts with going out and purchasing an Amazon Echo (for starters), and becoming familiar with the technology, its strengths and its potential. Radio people are smart and innovative, and these devices open up some fascinating promotional and marketing doors for the best, brightest, and most ambitious.
We're already seeing that at work in a number of situations where Alexa is becoming the “6th man” – OK, “6th woman” – for radio stations integrating this technology into their programing and marketing fabrics.
Just last week Beasley's BEN-FM added Alexa to its DJ lineup for an afternoon, giving away Echoes and Dots every hour throughout the day. Brilliantly conceived by programmer Chuck Damico, Alexa pulled a shift, frontsold songs, took listener requests, and took winner calls. (And reportedly arrived in the studio prepped one hour before her show and didn't ask for Saturday off).
And down the hall, WMMR is using its powerhouse morning show, Preston & Steve, to acquaint fans with these devices as well as the station's cool new skill. This is a great example of how they'll be marketed to consumers and fans. Here's the short video:
In many ways, the virtual assistant competition is a double-edged sword for radio. It's yet another distribution platform requiring knowledge, investment, creativity, and yes, innovation.
But the upside is that if this technology indeed becomes the common way to access content, radio can be right there, ready to go, when consumers are unwrapping their smart speakers this coming holiday season. In a scenario where AM/FM radios are disappearing from homes – especially among younger consumers – having Alexa and Siri on hand can continue to provide broadcasters with in-home and in-office access, thus preserving radio's ubiquity.
Alexa, am I right?
Steve Goldstein of AmplifiMedia/SonicAi will be talking smart speakers and podcasting at the Radio Show, tomorrow at 4-5:15pm in the Lone Star Ballroom. Info here.