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  • Writer's pictureRon Jaworski

How to improve the user experience of your publication

Updated: Nov 29, 2021

It’s safe to say modern life is dominated by screens of various size and shape, whether it’s in our homes, offices, outside or in our pockets. Yet, with the digital world moving at a fast pace, the ubiquity of the smartphone, along with the growing presence of smart speakers, is once again changing how people interact and consume content. The battle to improve user experience and retain the reader’s attention is one that publishers fight on all fronts.

I’ve previously touched upon the ever-present subject of user experience. The answer is simple:

voice and the underlying technology that powers it.

We are already witnesses to the unprecedented levels of audio consumption, and it’s easy to see why. User behavior has shifted toward multitasking as there’s always something else on our hands while we’re doing whatever it is (or was) our primary focus. The readers exhibit the same pattern and find less time to go from top to bottom of your publication.

Virtually everything is on the go, which is why audio content such as audio articles, podcasts, audiobooks, and short-form briefings are becoming prevalent, driven by voice first technologies that help people both interact via voice and get things done. Such as…

Using text to speech narrator

You may (or may not) have noticed an embedded audio player just below this post’s title. The unassuming nature of this small piece of code is about providing a native audio experience of the content. And people want it. For an increasing group of people, voice is slowly becoming the first, and in some cases, the final contact point with technology. This suggests that voice and audio content are on route to becoming key gateways to media.

Text to speech

Obviously, things are better now.

Let’s take news as an example. The Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism issued a report on news consumption and found out (among many other things) that smart speaker users almost universally expressed the desire to spend less time with screens. Here are the exact words:

“Respondents felt overwhelmed, assaulted by technology and often by news as well. Many spend all day at work on screens or looking at their smartphone. Some resent the way in which the internet can distract and waste time by taking people down ‘rabbit holes’. Part of the appeal of voice devices is they act differently. They provide focused information when summoned and, for the moment at least, the lack of a screen means less distraction.“

And if anyone knows a thing or two about news, it’s Reuters. Publishers and businesses looking to improve user experience for customers need to understand that the underlying need is to make their existing content easier to use. That’s how readers see voice – as a necessary means to simplify interaction and content consumption in a more natural and intuitive way. That’s why text to speech is important, especially when readers can personalize their experience and choose their own languages, voices and playback speeds to enjoy the perfect listening experience.

The development of contech

The improved website user experience with native audio players is only one facet to providing additional value. Contech or content technology is developing fast, building on what voice technology is doing. Voice recognition is getting better with each day.

The quality of the synthesized voices and responses from voice-user interfaces, and the human ear became more tolerant to “mechanical” voices. Consumers see voice as a chance to de-clutter. In the next few years, many experts predict voice to replace remote controls and further simplify access to a wide range of smart devices. I certainly do.

Obviously, a different kind of voice.

What audio-enabled platforms can perform is enormous and goes perfectly in line with the daily habits and behaviors of the modern, tech-savvy audience. So, it isn’t really surprising that most users report high levels of satisfaction with their smart speakers as the devices at the forefront of this audio revolution. Audio for a multitasking audience is a colossal tool because it provides convenience. Think about it: voice-user interfaces make time spent in a vehicle equally about entertainment and work as it is about actual driving, or help people stay healthy by assisting with daily routines. Who would’ve thought one day you’d order a pizza through a speaker (of all things), remotely start your car, set temperature in your house and your car, or get breaking news and the latest headlines with just a simple voice command?

The scope of applications is endless, powered by voice commands and the ever-present AI assistants. Voice technology is likely to move far beyond the home and become more and more embedded in every layer of our lives. In terms of content, contech platforms will assume bigger roles (such as content aggregation and recommendation) as time goes by, all in the name of increased engagement.

Back to that Reuters report for a minute. Some of the world’s leading publishers, such as the New York Times, the BBC and Der Speigel, were also interviewed. The consensus is that while publishers are interested in contech (some use it big time), they want better tools for easier and quicker integration of content with the rising number of voice platforms. They are also concerned about how to effectively monetize content, but that’s a story for another time.

It all points to one thing: major brands and companies are all in on voice and the ongoing audio revolution as they try to leverage its benefits and make it an integral part of their future strategies, particularly with younger demographics that are really into audio. Voice and audio service adoption is poised to grow as contech capabilities expand more and businesses fully realize and embrace the rising trend.

Early mover advantage

Even though we are still at a very early stage of voice and voice tech, it’s getting better and better every day, and securing early mover advantage could be extremely beneficial in the long run. When the challenge is finding ways on how to improve end user experience, opportunities like voice are exceptionally rare. As voice develops, there will be more chances to distribute and monetize all sorts of audio content, based on the fact that readers consume more audio and more frequently than ever before.

The audio train is poised to keep on rolling, and it will enable faster and more seamless access to all kinds of content that is already out there. With all the widely available contech, no publisher worth their salt should be left behind.

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