The sonic framework: how to leverage audio content and voice technology
Updated: Mar 20, 2022
During my daily attempts to absorb as much information as time permits me about all things audio and voice, I often stumble upon some highly interesting insights from the experts in the industry.
Witlingo’s Sonic Readiness Score is one such happening, a cheat sheet of sorts to help marketers get a sense of audio and voice. It’s an earnest attempt to clear all sorts of growing confusion about what the two are and, most importantly, how businesses and brands can leverage them.
Then I started thinking.
I have the five-step audio strategy I use to explain how to establish an audio presence. Why not combine both and have one fairly comprehensive framework the industry can, hopefully, build upon? Audio on one side, voice on the other. Together, they can be unbeatable.
Together, we refer to them as sonic assets to avoid confusion and differentiation, especially in places where the two are fairly similar (you’ll see).
So, here is another earnest attempt: a sonic framework for leveraging sonic media.
Let’s give it a try!
Step 1: have an audio asset
Why: listening has become one of the favorite pastimes around the globe and you don’t want to be left behind.
The first step is arguably the easiest one but also the most important one because this is your gateway to the sonic world. If you don’t provide the ability to listen to your content, you are seriously missing out on a huge audience.
How huge? Let’s just say that 62% of the U.S. 12+ population are now weekly online audio listeners. That means that around 176 million people tune in for more than 16 hours a week to listen to a variety of content.
There are super simple solutions that the media industry can adopt to jumpstart their audio journey, most notably text-to-speech (TTS) technology.
It can significantly cut production costs compared to alternatives such as human narration as the content already exists and there is no need for post-production add-ons such as sound effects and music. It’s just a matter of transforming it to audio through a straightforward and short integration process that only takes a few seconds to load the converted audio.
With audio AI at the helm, TTS is also highly scalable so you can do more with less. You have a variety of options to fine-tune the experience such as setting different voices for different sections, different reading speeds for different parts, multi-language conversion, and so on.
You can also record live voice talents for special audio segments and exclusives. This is a less scalable version but you can effectively combine it with digital voices for a more on-brand feel.
As a bonus to having an audio asset, it’s possible to pair text and audio to see the text on a corresponding screen while listening and also synchronize highlighting for people with disabilities.
To sum up: a lot can be done to create the perfect listening experience.
Another thing you can do is start a podcast.
This is audio’s blockbuster star, with roughly 80 million people or 28% of the U.S. 12+ population are now weekly podcast listeners This is also an increase of 17% over 2020, which should give you a good idea of how big podcasting really is.
It’s also very easy to do (not to mention fun) because you can treat it as a DIY, in-house project. The essentials you need are:
a quality microphone
software to record and edit the audio (e.g. Audacity)
online real estate to upload it – your website and podcast platforms.
You can even spice everything up with additional sound effects and whatnot if you have the resources.
Who can help you: this is a largely in-house affair but if you’re looking for an end-to-end podcast partner, check out Dante32. Alternatively, tools like Anchor and Buzzsprout can do a lot of legwork for you.
Step 2: recommend more audio content
Why: by increasing the amount of time your audience spends on your content, you increase engagement and your bottom line.
Once you turn your readers into listeners, the next step is enhancing the experience through more relevant content. This particular task falls relates to content discovery and recommendation in the form of a dedicated unit.
The idea is to recommend more audio content to listen to so your audience has an even better, personalized experience.
Audio articles, podcasts, radio shows, and other audio formats can be easily suggested based on user behavior, contextual analysis, popularity, and more. The technology continuously learns your listeners’ behavior so that they can spend more time on your website, exploring more content and thus generating more revenue.
With a content discovery player, you can offer a tailored story-like way to engage with visitors across different desktop and mobile devices wherever they are as the playback continues in the background. At the same time, you’re free to monetize your content via audio ads inserted into the content.
Who can help you: Trinity Audio via Trinity Pulse.
Step 3: expand your presence to mainstream audio platforms
Why: the sheer popularity of these platforms means you can tap into their daily engagement rates and add more revenue.
Streaming audio platforms such as Spotify, Pandora, iHeartRadio, Amazon Music, and others take a big chunk out of the overall digital audio time. Strong user growth and proliferation into podcasting (in Spotify’s case) expand the potential for organic content distribution.
This can be especially helpful when engaging users and increasing organic reach with user-generated and/or branded playlists that act as audible representations of a certain company or its product or service.
With mainstream audio platforms in the mix, you get to be a part of a wide range of listening experiences that includes music, radio, on-demand audio content such as podcasts, news segments, audio articles, and more.
Furthermore, adding your content to audio distribution platforms will not only position it closer to the ears of wider audiences but also help you with audio content discovery.
Who can help you: Trinity Audio by automating content distribution through CMS integration.
Step 4: have a voice app as a unique content channel
Why: smart speakers and other smart devices represent a huge market of potential customers. Voice offers a perfect balance as users can communicate a lot with minimal effort so delivering content within a shouting distance of one of the smart devices is the best way to reach audiences.
Smart speakers are the home-based version of the smartphone. They perfectly align with the motions and patterns of modern tech-savvy users of today, where multitasking is more of a need than anything else.
The latest data shows that one-third of the U.S population aged 12+ or approximately 94 million people now own a smart speaker. This is an increase of 22% from 2020, with 34% of owners having three or more of the devices in their household.
Voice as an interface brings a high convenience factor, especially as a conduit for news and information. This makes voice apps such as Alexa Skills or Google Actions unique methods of enriching your content strategy by reaching customers and facilitating voice-based experiences through a variety of voice assistants: Amazon’s Alexa and Google Assistant (as the two leading voice assistants), or some other option like Siri, Bixby, Soundhound’s Hound, and so on. Some will make more sense than others.
The goal is to be present whenever and wherever your customers want to talk to you.
Who can help you: For a thorough understanding of all-things voice-first (especially if you’re new-ish to this space) and why you need to be a part of it, Voice Spark Live.
For creation, go with Witlingo. Both Amazon and Google provide toolkits and resources on how to develop skills and actions for their respective voice assistants, but going with a third-party specialist agency such as Witlingo is a better and quicker strategy, especially for brands and businesses that lack the technical know-how or resources.
Step 5: offer customized voice-enabled capabilities on your site
Why: voice is already turning into an important building block of content strategy. With voice search growing and improving, this is how you stay ahead of the curve and not let your competitors beat you.
Once again, the idea is to allow your target audience to discover and engage with your audio content on your site by using voice commands. Voice-enabled websites are far and few between but make no mistake: voice technology will be deeply embedded in websites.
Users will be able to interact by asking the site to read the latest news, play trending or specific content, leave voice comments instead of type, listen to other comments, etc. As a way to improve user experience, capture and maintain attention, and ultimately drive visitors to take action, nothing beats voice.
Who can help you: Witlingo.
Bonus step to consider: social audio
Why: this particular segment is the hottest new thing when it comes to social media, largely because audio offers the emotion and nuance that human nature requires.
Audio offers more accessibility and intimacy on its own and listeners, in general, have real attention and focus on what they’re listening to. It’s not like they can’t turn off their ears easily, right?
Other advantages of social audio are that there is no need to be camera-friendly like on Instagram or talented like on TikTok. It’s about the conversation itself, which generally makes people more comfortable to participate and engage.
The principle on which it works is separate “rooms” that are available to the public. You can invite all sorts of people like prospects, customers, partners, peers to join in and have conversations mediated by your sales team, for instance. Instead of having a visually heavy and often boring presentation like a webinar, you can have a light, informal session.
Who can help you: Dreamr Productions for custom music, sonic branding and sound identities.
How to identify specific actions to implement your sonic presence
There is a lot of the following in my line of work:
maybe because they are confused or possibly even annoyed by the breadth of options, some media players opt to stay put and not explore this new frontier in media.
While most of their questions and doubts are perfectly reasonable, the reality is that the sonic landscape is not that complicated.
That being said, it’s always a plus to be able to know whom you can ask for clarification and guidance:
I recommend Dreamr Productions for everything related to sonic marketing consultancy, sound in marketing education, and sonic branding creation.
On the other hand, if you need someone to explain all these technologies and define the speech and natural language understanding requirements for your needs, or perhaps suggest the right vendor(s), you can’t go wrong with Conversational Technologies.
Make sure to check out Digital Assistant Academy to learn about what it takes to launch a great voice experience. The organization also provides excellent courses so if you want to work in voice technology and conversational design, this is the place to go.
That covers everything I wanted to cover. If you want to go deeper, ping me on LinkedIn and I’ll be more than happy to have a conversation about the sonic revolution.