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  • Writer's pictureRon Jaworski

The rise of smart speakers and what it means for audio content

Updated: Nov 29, 2021

One of the frequent buzzwords on the world wide web are smart speakers and the accompanying aspects such as virtual assistants that power them, third-party integrations, and so on. The fact that the majority of people immediately link smart speakers with the seemingly ubiquitous voice technology only helps the cause.

More than ever before, there are more touchpoints and channels to engage with buyers, and smart speakers are doing an incredible job of incorporating them into the daily modus operandi of their users. They’ve changed how people listen to music, search for information, shop, and a whole lot more.

I guess that happens too.

If I had to sum smart speaker in one sentence, I would have to say it’s the right device at the right place at the perfect time. And as with every hot new thing (new being relative here), there are broader implications in place. Namely, the power of underlying voice technology and audio content.


Let’s talk numbers for a bit. Latest analysis from Consumer Intelligence Research Partners, based on its research of three major smart speakers: Amazon Echo, Google Home, and Apple HomePod, indicates that the number of installed smart speaker devices in the United States is 66 million units, up from 53 million units in the September 2018 quarter and 36 million units in the December 2017 quarter. Amazon Echo holds 70% of the installed base, with Google Home at 24% and Apple HomePod at 6%.

Adobe’s ‘State of Voice 2019’ study found smart speaker ownership is firmly on the rise in the US, with 36% of consumers owning a smart speaker, up from 28% in January 2018. Moreso, 75% of owners use them at least once a day, which is an increase of 6% since August 2018.

Adobe’s ‘State of Voice 2019’ study

On a global level, trends are pretty much in line with the US. Analyst firm Canalys says that global smart speaker shipments reached 78.0 million units in 2018, up 125% from 34.7 million in 2017. According to eMarketer, China will claim the top with 85.5 million smart speaker users in 2019, surpassing the US. There’s plenty of statistical data that shows roughly the same numbers and the same trend.

I’m going to spare you the numbers regarding forecasts and future developments (the year on year increases should speak for themselves) and focus on what the rise of smart speakers means on a larger scale.

The proliferation of audio content

The increasing demand for smart home devices is one of the major factors that drive the growth of the smart speaker usage and ownership. This is particularly evident among the younger generation who is almost naturally inclined toward technological products that deliver multifunctionality. In fact, Activate’s Tech & Media Outlook 2019 shows average American adult has a 31-hour day, 12 of which are spent consuming tech and media and more than two hours spent on audio content.

Activate’s Tech & Media Outlook 2019

As I’ve said a few times before (and will probably do so again), we live in an age of efficiency where we’re accustomed to doing multiple tasks at once. The ease of voice control offers more value at low cost from the consumer standpoint as users can listen to music while making lunch or jogging, get news updates as they write a report or a myriad of other activities that can either be paired or performed separately with maximum convenience. As a result, the adoption of smart speakers rises.

That brings me to the central point of this writing exercise. It is crucial to audiofy your content, whether it’s via a third-party smart speaker integration, native web player, or else in order to reap the benefits of modern user behavior. With limited time at disposal, audio becomes more important because it provides a means for your target audience to listen while they do something else.

These days, the “traditional” approach of visuals and text isn’t enough to drive engagement. To keep your audience engaged, you need to think about their ears along with their eyes. Let’s face it – that sense is idle for the most part so it’s not like you’ll be intruding.

Audio content has become extremely relevant today, even more so than many realize. This is usually based on the fact that most people are visual learners and observers, placing more importance on the visual experience rather than auditory. And that’s wrong.

One huge advantage of audio content is that it comes without any limitations, which is why even long formats like podcasts are enjoying great success. It can be consumed passively and doesn’t require active involvement. In addition, the flexibility and simple control through voice tech it offers to users are slowly positioning audio content as a preferred channel for many.

Take monetization, for example. 38% of consumers in the aforementioned Adobe’s study agreed that voice ads are less intrusive compared to ads on television, in print, online, and on social media, and almost the same percentage found audio ads to be more engaging than those on other channels.

As such, it’s safe to assume that the personal and custom experience of audio content (via smart speakers and else) allows publishers and advertisers to offer more in terms of personalization and relevant advertising that is more engaging yet less intrusive.

Leveraging voice and audio

Audio content provides publishers and brands an innovative way to connect with their audience on a more personal and intimate level, forging deeper and more meaningful relationships. The ease of use makes voice an amazing technology, one that will drive major future changes. It has the ability to completely transform the way we interact not just with speakers, but also our home, car, and finally – people.

With the wireless 5G infrastructure in place and further advancements in natural language processing, there will be massive opportunities for market growth. Even now, more and more social networks and platforms are realizing and leveraging the power of voice and audio to create content people consume the way they want to.

When you look at the big picture, it’s a win-win situation for both sides involved. Voice and audio allow publishers to reach their readers in new and interesting ways and turn them into listeners, while the audience gets a preferred type of content and means to multitask seamlessly and effortlessly. The time is now to take advantage of what voice and audio have to offer, while the space is not yet clogged and the path to listeners-to-be is open.

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