Radio has made its living over the decades by being the medium that started millions of mornings. In fact, that was the running joke in “Groundhog Day” as Phil Connors' (Bill Murray) clock radio repetitively wakes him up to “I Got You, Babe” every day at 6a.m. – truly a living nightmare.
That much-repeated scene was the theme of the film, but also was a reinforcement for radio's role as everyone's waker-upper. When the film was released in 1993, radio owned mornings. Everyone had a clock radio anchored near their bedsides.
But then came mobile phones.
With each passing year, more people are waking up to ring tones on their iPhones and Galaxy S8s rather than that once-ubiquitous clock radio reliably blaring John Boy & Billy, “Morning Edition,” or Tom Barnard.
This year's Techsurvey continues to track the inconvenient truth that mobile phones have become the device of choice for hauling oneself out of bed – especially among Millennials and their younger siblings.
A plurality now wakes up to a mobile phone rather than a clock radio. And the inset on the right shows the three-year trend line. With each passing year, mobile phones become the gadget of choice when it comes to morning wake-ups.
But now even that may be changing in the battle over “nightstand real estate.”
Say hello to Amazon's newest device – the Echo Spot, described as the “stylish, compact Echo with a screen.”According to Amazon's SVP of devices and services, David Limp, “They’re literally scattering them around the house, putting them in hallways, workshops and garages.”
(Wait – isn't that the way people used to use their radios?)
But as you can see in the website ad above, Spot looks pretty good bedside. And that's one of the locations Amazon hopes it will wind up.
Echo Spot plays music, reads the news, provides weather forecasts and commute times – yes, all the services consumers have traditionally received from their clock radios. And because Amazon owns Audible, Echo Spot can also read you to sleep every night.
And like other devices in the Echo family, Spot connects you with Alexa – and “tens of thousands of skills.” As the splash page on Amazon's website touts, Echo Spot is “a smart alarm clock.”
In case you're wondering, Echo Spot was released on Wednesday, and is on the market for $129.99 (free delivery for Prime members), but you can expect juicy deals as we approach the holidays.
For radio stations, Echo Spot is both good and bad news. The clock radio was disappearing anyway, replaced by our obsession for connectivity with our smartphones. While the industry hopes (and prays) that Apple will somehow be compelled to turn on its FM chip, smart Echo devices are making their way into millions of homes – and bedrooms.
Now, being Alexa-accessible isn't just a cool idea – it's table stakes. But to truly get the most out of this technology and to earn a place in more dens, kitchens, and bedrooms, stations will have to address the less-discussed topic of how you compel Echo owners to actually use your skills. This is where the heavy lift comes, as we've learned over the last 8 years from developing – and marketing – smartphone apps.
Radio has been a big beneficiary of habit – becoming part of the fabric of people's wake-up routines for decades. Now, we've got to go to school on this technology – both as radio companies and as an industry – because it's moving very fast.
So, three things…
- We're taking a group of radio execs on our Jacobs CES CEO Tour in January to see all this technology close-up. Alexa will be a big part of that journey. It's essential to learn and understand how voice commands are making their way into consumer electronics, devices, and appliances – and how radio can benefit from this trend. It starts at CES2018. Join us.
- We're about to launch Techsurvey14, fielding early next year. Your commercial radio station can participate, providing you with granular info on your station's actual audience. This isn't data from 35,000 feet – it's the behavior of your listenership, whether you're in Philly or Pensacola.
- Our newest company – SonicAi – develops skills for Alexa. But more than that, we approach this technology from both a programming and marketing standpoint. That's key in not only developing skills that connect consumers to your brand, but also ensuring they actually use the skills you develop.
Drop me an email – I'll be happy to talk with you about all this exciting stuff.
But whatever you do, now is not the time to hit “snooze.”
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 1,200 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.
Fred was inducted into the National Radio Hall of Fame in 2018.