Radio is a medium of voices. And as technology continues to blossom all around us, voice is becoming the heart and soul of ecosystems and platforms. Since the beginnings of radio, it’s all been about voice – Edward R. Murrow, Wolfman Jack, and Howard Stern. But in the not-so-distant future, the most familiar and transformative voices may belong to “personalities” named Alexa, Siri, and Cortana.
In just 30 days, Paul and I will be traipsing around the Las Vegas Convention Center with 180,000 of our best friends. It’s our annual trek to CES, and we’re both excited and trepidatious about it at the same time.
It’s a busy, rough and tumble few days navigating an exhibit floor that is spread over a half dozen other hotel and convention centers. Taking it all in is an impossibility. But the key is spending your time on the most productive innovation and technology – and reading the trends around you.
It’s never easy, but more often than not, there are themes that arise from this mega-event that you take home with you. And you think about them for weeks and months; specifically, how will they impact your business – and your career.
A couple years ago it was wearables. Then last year, it was autonomous cars. In the past, we’ve witnessed the rise of smartphones and on-demand television set the pace at CES.
So what will be the story this year? As we jet home from Las Vegas in the wake of CES soothing our aching soles, what will we be thinking about?
Last year, we saw the beginnings of the smart speaker revolution, specifically Amazon’s Alexa – at CES. And we took home that theme, took it seriously, did our homework in Techsurvey, and ended up launching Sonic Ai – a skills development company for these devices, especially the Amazon line. And our investment at CES was rewarded. Smart speakers are rapidly moving from a fad to a serious trend. And as our flash poll of 1,005 American reaffirmed last week, more than one in six online Americans already own one; one in five intend to buy one as a gift or for themselves this holiday season.
And we saw the seedlings of this trend at CES 2017. So many devices had Alexa voice technology built-in – from robots to home security systems to cars. “Alexa” was a much uttered word at the world’s biggest trade show.
This year, that trend will continue – but with rocket fuel. And we’re going to see it show up in more innovative ways. Ultimately, we may be witnessing a shift away from typing or using touch to getting the content we want using voice commands. As consumers become more accustomed to speaking a command and receiving the correct result, voice will become an even more important part of the equation. It’s hard to imagine keyboards becoming obsolete, but it’s not a radical thought.
That’s essentially the message we’ve been seeing – in heavy frequency – all over network television these past few weeks. Both Amazon and Google are showcasing their respective devices with celebrity spokespeople. And it’s all about the power of voice – the question and the response – that is both powerful and enchanting.
Whether it’s in the car, the home, or on our phones, there’s a palpable excitement about Artificial Intelligence at its best.
But what are the implications? In the future, will there even be a “radio dial?”
Or will drivers simply use voice to call up the source or station of their choice? As we’re learning from our work with Sonic Ai, your method of referral – the way in which your audience knows your station’s brand – is of paramount importance. It wasn’t that long ago when Arbitron was inferring that frequency and slogan take a back seat to actual listening. But the ways in which listeners will find radio of all kinds is changing again because of voice command technology. It’s a whole new game.
And that’s why we’re customizing our CES/CEO Tours next month with plenty of this technology – because we feel strongly it will change the way we interact with machines and gadgetry – and how we will soon be accessing entertainment and information.
An article in the Chicago Tribune last week featured this blaring headline: Future Of Cars Can Be Found In Voice Command Systems. As we know too well from our work in the automotive industry, car manufacturers have struggled with voice technology. And that’s why you see them increasingly defaulting to Apple CarPlay (Siri), Android Auto (“OK, Google”), and of course, good old Alexa, now making her way into Fords, Nissans, and other vehicles.
For our 2018 spin around the Las Vegas Convention Center with broadcast executives, we’re going to start out by visiting Google. And along the way, we’ll be spend time with some amazing companies and brands including car makers, AI technologists, and other groups innovating technology that will change the radio industry and the ways that consumers listen to our stations.
It’s easy to get entrenched in the day to day radio routine, and begin to believe the big issues of the day revolve around translators, meter placement, the Main Studio Rule, and bankruptcy proceedings.
But, in fact, the macro trends and tech that will tell radio’s tale and shape the industry’s destiny will be on display in Las Vegas next month.
When my feet begin to hurt, I remind myself of the words of my friend, Jerry Lee, who will attend his 50th CES in just a few weeks:
“I don’t want to miss the future.”
You shouldn’t either.
Our Wednesday CEO/CES Tour is sold out. But we have a few slots still open on Thursday, January 11th. Email me for information here: firstname.lastname@example.org
Jacobs Media has consistently walked the walk in the digital space, providing insights and guidance through its well-read national Techsurveys.
In 2008, jacapps was launched - a mobile apps company that has designed and built more than 1,000 apps for both the Apple and Android platforms. In 2013, the DASH Conference was created - a mashup of radio and automotive, designed to foster better understanding of the "connected car" and its impact.
Along with providing the creative and intellectual direction for the company, Fred consults many of Jacobs Media's commercial and public radio clients, in addition to media brands looking to thrive in the rapidly changing tech environment.