One thing that's true for most of us living in locales especially impacted by the COVID-19 crisis – we are displaced. We are spending less time in our usual places (cars, offices, schools, places of worship, stores, bars, arenas), and more time in our homes. For many people, it's disorienting.
While it's nice to have our pets nearby, and perhaps even the kids (whose turn is it?), Americans are being asked to perform their everyday routines in places where we mostly ate, slept, and hung out.
And that brings us to the issue of in-home media. Which devices are available and popular now that so many are spending so much more time in their abodes? Smart speakers is one of them.
A new question in Techsurvey 2020 reveals how the locations in which consumers are placing their Alexa's and Google Home's look very familiar.
It turns out they are mostly the same places where there used to be radios.
We continue to see smart speakers continue their rapid growth. In this new survey, now a solid one-third (33%) say they have a smart speaker. Of them, a solid majority (56%) say they have more than one of these devices.
So, where are they placing them?
The smart speaker map in the picture at the top of today's post provides the answer. In fact, the living room is the most common location (55%), followed closely by the bedroom (46%), and of course, the kitchen (42%). Other rooms around the house are being used as well, but in smaller numbers.
Note that only 5% say they have access to this technology in their cars, an interesting contrast to broadcast radio's near ubiquitous in-car presence. But as more consumers are stuck in their homes, while those cars sit in garages, car ports, in driveways, and on the street, the location of Alexa and Google Home devices in abodes becomes more important for radio.
Smart speakers are becoming lifestyle devices – as “voice” proliferates as a discovery tool and a near-frictionless way to get just about any result (the lights, the blinds, a to-do list, music, radio), consumers are becoming more and more comfortable with this technology.
Focusing messaging on driving more at-home smart speaker usage to tune in radio stations. is essential in this fluid environment. TS20 also tells us that while AM/FM radio listening on these devices isn't the #1 use case (that's listening to music from a streaming service like Spotify or Pandora), it is in a pack of other smart speaker uses in a virtual dead heat for second place. That's a good thing.
Of course, it is essential any broadcast radio station has an “access plan” for both the Google and Amazon voice platforms. What are the specific commands consumers must use in order to successfully access your station? And how is that messaging being communicated to the audience?
For stations that are known by their call letters – WMMR, for example – access on smart speakers is usually seamless. But if you're Jack-FM or Eagle 106, even the smartest algorithm won't always hook you up with your favorite station.
We've been talking about the smart speaker opportunity for several years now. This is precisely why. They are proliferating, and even though they are far from common fixtures in homes, the trajectory is clear. As AM/FM radios disappear, wear out, or are stored away during a redecorating project, smart speaker devices and voice technology continues to have a larger presence.
And Techsurvey tells us smart speakers are additive to the broadcast radio listening platform. Our data clearly shows a solid net positive for radio among smart speaker owners – and that's encouraging.
Just like with mobile applications – 11 years old and still going strong – smart speakers provide a tangible opportunity for savvy broadcasters attuned to their audience's location shift. We have no idea how long we're going to be sitting in our kitchens, dens, and bedrooms until this crisis abates. But we do know that as long as people are at home, radio has a solid chance to keep them engaged.
One important postscript – your stream and your app.
None of this new distribution matters much if the product and the experience is inferior. I'm not talking about your music scheduling or your ticket giveaways, but what smart speaker owners hear when they say, “Alexa, play WCMF.”
Do they get a clean version of your broadcast signal, or are they being subjected to clunky transitions between your programming and commercials, and tedious breaks with bad content that make you wish you were hearing commercials?
Broadcasters have looked down at their streams for years now – they're expensive, hard to monetize, yadda, yadda. In the midst of the coronavirus crisis, that dog will no longer hunt.
In a rapidly changing world where audio streaming has been on the rise, while radios are disappearing from homes, the stream is broadcast radio's connection to smart speakers, smartphones, tablets, and computers – cherished devices that are helping people survive this existential, once-in-a-lifetime (we can only hope) crisis.
It is imperative to add that as much as smart speakers have grown, smartphones and mobile apps are, in fact, ubiquitous. Now. And they're another item on the punch list of things that need to be promoted. (Hey, at least you don't have bar night and auto dealer remotes to suck up your promotions inventory.)
Techsurvey 2020 also tells us awareness of radio station apps could be a lot better. Like everything else in our world, out of sight, out of mind. It's radio job to ensure audiences are well aware of all the ways they can access a station's content, especially because COVID-19 has disoriented all of us.
The great programmers and air talent over the years mastered location programming. They knew where their audience was throughout any given day, and they geared their content to listeners in those situations.
While PPM does not provide information on the whereabouts of meter holders, you don't need a statistician, a researcher, or a guru to tell you where your audience is these days.
Home isn't just where the heart is. It's where school, work, play, family, entertainment, and media are.
Location matters. This would be a good time to reassess each station's audience location strategy.
And speak to them where they live.
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