Not since the release of the iPod, iPhone, and iPad – all from Apple – have we seen a gadget so captivate consumers. And this one – the Amazon Echo – is an Amazon effort, and an impressive one.
Our mobile apps company – jacapps – partnered with Steve Goldstein’s AmplifiMedia earlier this year to form SonicAi. We’re developing skills for radio stations – and specifically, providing broadcasters with tactics and strategies to effectively market those Alexa skills.
Our newest hire, Research Director Jason Hollins went to work designing a flash poll among American consumers, and the results are…well, pretty spectacular. Here’s Jason’s first guest post – and it’s a good one. – F.J.
Yesterday Jacobs Media Strategies, jācapps and Sonic Ai together revealed the results of a new survey we conducted this month on the proliferation of voice-controlled smart speakers. These new devices, the Alexa voice Echo and Echo Dot from Amazon, along with Google’s Home and Home Mini, have generated a lot of buzz. Both are aggressively marketing their voice-controlled gadgets at low prices on national television, leading us to wonder whether this will be an “Alexa Christmas” (and Hanukah).
There’s been significant buzz around these devices, both from consumers and those in the media world, and specifically radio, and for good reason. Asking Alexa to set a timer so you don’t burn your cake, to add a doctor’s appointment (with reminder) to your calendar or to get an up-to-the-second score of the game are a few examples of what makes these smallish wonders a serious draw for the home.
But for broadcast radio stations, the really exciting value proposition to consumers is the ability to bring up a station’s stream with just your voice. And given the erosion of AM/FM radios in homes and offices, these devices provide a new way to “listen to radio.”
So, the genesis for our study was to both measure the current landscape to see just how many smart speakers are in homes across the country and to get a glimpse into the near future to see how many of them might find their way into stockings this holiday season.
Our national web survey was conducted less than week ago – before Black Friday and Cyber Monday – from November 17-21, 2017, among 1,005 respondents age 13 and older.
We learned that current penetration of smart speakers across the U.S. is impressive. Overall, 18% of all online households already own at least one of these gadgets (that’s more than in one of every six homes). While not an apples to apples comparison, it’s surely a leap in ownership since early this year when we found in our Techsurvey13 study (a sample comprised of nearly 52,000 respondents, most coming from radio station databases) that 11% owned a smart speaker.
And here’s a fascinating finding: Among those who already have a smart speaker, 40% own two or more of these devices.
And as for all those Santa wish lists, a whopping one in five (20%) of those surveyed say they plan to purchase a smart speaker during the 2017 holiday season for themselves or as a gift! In addition, those who already have a smart speaker are unabashedly huge fans. Six in ten (61% ) current owners say they plan to purchase at least another one (for themselves or as a gift) this holiday season.
Now what does this impressive base of smart speaker owners, along with the flood of new device owners mean for your radio station(s)?
First, more and more of these devices are being used like radios – in homes, workplaces, garages, and dormitories. That spells an opportunity for radio, especially in an environment where fewer and fewer working radios are in use outside the car.
Second, Amazon Echo has a huge lead over the field at this moment. And you may have read, Apple’s anticipated HomePod is delayed until some time in 2018. So, developing skills on Alexa-enabled devices is an imperative for radio.
Third, these devices will be opened, plugged in, connected, and used in just a few weeks. It would be wonderful if one of their first Alexa experiences was listening to your station. So, how will you put a plan into place at a time of year when vacations, distractions, and voicetracking are often the norm? That “quiet week” between Christmas and New Year's could be a big week for broadcast radio.
Finally, most people who own an Echo have downloaded at least one “skill.” That's a good sign listeners aren't just using these devices as timers and ways to access the weather. So, how will you get the word out and market your station’s presence on these devices?
You can learn more about how your station can participate in the strategic development of Alexa “skills” by contacting SonicAi – our company’s partnership dedicated to radio and the smart speaker space here.
In mid-January 2018, we will be fielding our Techsurvey 2018 study. It’s the 14th year for our annual study where hundreds of radio stations across America will invite tens of thousands of its listeners to take our survey. We break this enormous data set down for 14 formats, and participating stakeholder stations get to see how their actual listeners compare to the national and format samples.
It will come as no surprise to you that in the newest Techsurvey, we will take a deep dive into smart speakers and further learn about how these devices are changing consumers’ audio listening. And we will continue to explore and track other key areas impacting radio including:
- What is your audience doing when they’re not listening to your station?
- With all the available options, why do consumers still love listening to broadcast radio?
- How has the smartphone revolution changed media consumption and app usage?
- What role does the “connected car” play for radio – and how are audio listening choices changing in cars?
- What are the go-to sources for music discovery and is radio still in the game?
- How are your listeners being affected by new media choices such as podcasting, streaming, and apps?
Any commercial radio station with a well-maintained email database can participate in Techsurvey 2018. And for a nominal fee, you can also watch the executive summary webinar and get exclusive data for your station(s).
(If you’re a Public Radio station, we will be conducting our 10th annual Public Radio Techsurvey in May 2018. Be on the lookout for details on signing up next spring. And we'll also be announcing our fifth Christian Music Radio Techsurvey shortly as well.)
As Jacobs Media's new research maven, I'm excited to see how our new data will look, and I'm looking forward to meeting many of you as we embark on this research journey together.
Jason is a graduate of the Newhouse School of Public Communications at Syracuse University.