What are current audio assistant efforts being implemented in the worldwide market in relation to digital media/ publishing sites for monetizing/ distributing ad purposes?
Publishers know the potential of delivering content via audio assistants like Amazon Alexa, but they have to operate as per the standards laid by the audio assistant brands. For example, Washington Post places ads read out by its news hosts in its Flash Briefings, as prescribed by Amazon. Others publishers like BBC and The Telegraph are still experimenting and trying to tailor content to their audiences. Pew Research's study suggests that there is a strong need to customize ads on audio assistants as per user preferences.
"Automotive is our fastest-growing listening category" says Geoff Snyder, VP of Business Development at Pandora. The percentage of internet connected cars is estimated to rise from 20% in 2016 to 100% by 2025. In addition, if Google search develops capabilities to deliver audio clips in news search results audio publishers would get a huge lift.
As of 2015, digital audio accounted for only 4.7% of total US dollar digital ad spends, but publishers are seeing the potential that audio assistant platforms offer.
The two main stand-alone audio assistant brands that are popular today are, Amazon (Alexa/Echo) and Google (Home). Publishers monetize these platforms based on guidelines set by these brands. Amazon with 70-75% market share is the more dominant player.
Amazon’s Alexa only allows ads to be delivered in Flash Briefings, streaming music or radio skills. It has banned all interactive advertising since May 2017. This limits the potential for generating revenue on Alexa.
Publishers like the Washington Post, Bloomberg and Huffington Post monetize their content by getting Flash Briefing hosts to read ads aloud. However, the listeners do not have the option to skip an ad and they may simply choose to stop a skill. This has resulted in the Washington Post cutting the average run-time of the ads in its Flash Briefings from 15 seconds to 10 seconds.
Huffington Post also monetizes its content by putting sponsored-content questions in its news quiz on Google Home. For example, in March 2017, they incorporated questions about the ABC drama “American Crime” in their daily quizzes.
In the case of radio broadcasters, the advertisement is delivered unaltered as it is already in the stream when it reaches the device. Therefore, the number of audio assistant listeners is simply added to their total audience numbers.
On the flip side, some publishers like the New York Times choose not to include the Amazon audience in their overall daily reach.
Like other publishers BBC also has its own news briefing skill on Amazon. Mukul Devichand, Editorial Lead for BBC Voice says they are still figuring out, and simultaneously experimenting with native content on audio assistants. Recently, BBC produced an audio drama called "The Inspection Chamber", which was exclusively developed for Amazon Echo.
Alexa device owners can access any of BBC’s podcasts and tune into all 56 of its radio stations. Analyzing what consumers say to their devices, what they listen to, and the duration for which they listen to them, enables BBC to tailor their offerings to suit audience preferences.
British news site, The Canary (has a very lean team), hopes to widen its audience by converting text articles to audio. Nancy Mendoza, Director of Communications and Membership at The Canary, believes that people with visual perception impairments will find the audio format especially useful.
The Telegraph sees this medium as an opportunity to place its brand in front of people, who otherwise would not interact with their content. Their news briefings are not more than 5 minutes long. With the help of the Custom Skills feature on Amazon they are also looking to personalize news for audiences. Given the interactive nature of the medium, they also believe this will help them make a stronger connection with their audience.
According to Pew Research, three in ten people would entertain ads via voice assistants, if they asked them for permission before playing the ads. Another 28% were alright with the ads if they got to choose the brands that are advertised to them. About one in four users were willing to listen to ads if the ads were customized for them. Based on Pew's research findings, personalization of ads to audience make for better advertising in this format.
Recently there have been rumors that Amazon is in talks with several CPG companies about advertising through Alexa and voice search, which the company has denied.
Several publishers like Washington Post, BBC, The Telegraph, Bloomberg etc. have made a debut on audio assistants. Just like other formats, publishers are trying to develop quality and personalized content for their audience. Although, Amazon limits the potential for interactivity, it does offer features like Custom Skills to help publishers individualize content. Also, the potential to reach a wider audience and make a stronger connection with listeners is appealing to many.