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Smart Speakers Are Exploding

| March 19, 2018

By Holland Cooke
Media Consultant


BLOCK ISLAND, RI — That headline is NOT an April Fool’s joke…and they’re not literally exploding.  That’s simply the enthused headline atop the recent NuVoodoo research summary.

Even with so many smart speakers under the Christmas tree, we’re still early-on in the adoption curve, so this will only become more opportune for broadcasters.

 “This is largely brand new TSL, brought about by a combination of the novelty of these new devices and being able to listen in rooms that may not have had a radio for a long time.”

“Is Alexa laughing at ME?” you ask.  Hey, denial isn’t a river in Egypt.

TV replaced radio in the kitchen, and smartphones are the new alarm clock.  So this NuVoodoo study — polling 3000+ 14-54s, across all PPM markets – is instructive:

  • One third of the sample own a smart speaker.
  • Top 3 rooms where smart speakers are used: Living room, bedroom, kitchen.
  • 48% of likely PPM participants own one. And “respondents most likely to say ‘yes’ to a meter offer from Nielsen…are more interested and more engaged with radio and other media.”
  • “Review what your stream sounds like. With these new devices, if you’re not making the listener happy, she can ask Alexa to switch to Spotify, Pandora or Amazon (which was giving away trials of its Unlimited music service to folks who got new a new Echo during the holidays).”

 “If stations don’t have a strategy for smart speakers, they risk being left out, as people become habituated to what they ask their smart speakers to do for them.”

— NuVoodoo’s Carolyn Gilbert

Even if you don’t pay a vendor to “enable your skill,” your station is probably available on smart speakers.  Try asking Alexa: “Play [your call letters] on TuneIn.”  When I asked her for a station that wasn’t on TuneIn, she quickly found it on iHeart.

  • By enabling your skill, you can insert a sponsor’s pre-roll message, something many advertisers will find very cool.
  • Tip: Make the on-air promo that asks your listeners to set-your-station-up as un-geeky as possible. “Enabling a skill” is techy gibberish.  You can click-to-hear a real good promo one of my client stations did at

New Rules rule.

Wide-angle shot: Smart speakers aren’t an issue, they’re a symptom.  This is the most-transformative time in media history.  Heck, in commerce generally.

  • While most newspapers struggle, the Jeff Bezos-owned Washington Post signed up a MILLION digital-only subscribers – a 300% increase – in one year. And note changes he’s making at Whole Foods.
  • Facebook – yeah, FACEBOOK – will be telecasting live 25 Major League Baseball games this season.
  • President and Mrs. Obama will be publishing on Netflix. And have you seen David Letterman’s show there?
  • Look how deftly CBS flanks its TV network online. See that toss to CBSN at the end of The CBS Evening News?
  • In stores CVS Pharmacy has updated, food sales are up 7% and overall purchases are up 2.5%. Company president Helen Foulkes tells Fast Company: “We think about the customer first.”

Broadcasters take note: With consumers now in control, who-distributes-what-and-how is up for grabs.  Mushrooming podcast consumption is merely radio’s most obvious interloper.

Radio is the #1 reach medium.  So?  So your transmitter is a distribution system with a massive user base, the-most-monied-of-whom (Baby Boomers) have a lifelong listening habit…unless another platform serves them better.  And if one does, make it one you offer.

Holland Cooke is a media consultant working at the intersection of Talk Radio and the Internet; and he hosts “The Big Picture” on RT America.  Follow him on Twitter @HollandCooke.

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Category: Analysis