Voice-Assisted Technology and Podcasting

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Voice-Assisted Technology Podcast Trends

Trends that show audio listeners are using voice-assisted technology to access podcasts include increased ownership of voice-activated smart speakers, increased investment in podcast audio search by search engines, and podcast content creators increasing use of paywall and licensing of smart speakers.

Increase in Smart Speaker Ownership

  • In 2017, only about 7% of Americans owned a voice-activated smart speaker.
  • In 2019, the percentage of Americans that own a smart speaker increased to about 21%.
  • The rising trend in smart speaker ownership is expected to keep increasing and is likely to affect the use of voice-assisted technology to access podcasts positively because about 27% of smart speaker owners listen to podcasts at least once a month whereas only about 11% of smartphone users have listened to a podcast.

Increased Investment in Audio Search

  • Google announced in August 2019 that it was adding podcast episodes to search results on its platform and would also include voice-enabled search using Google assistant.
  • Google stated that "when someone asks the Google Assistant to play a podcast about a topic, the response will be a list of suggested episodes it can play. Google also said it plans to work with podcast publishers to help guide potential listeners to where the podcast might be found, even if they are behind a paywall."
  • This trend is also exemplified by Audioburst, an audio content search startup, that has been "expanding its real-time radio and podcast transcription and audio indexing services for years."
  • Audioburst raised over $25 million to invest in building "what it refers to as the ‘world’s largest library of audio content’ and it has emphasized the solution’s applicability to voice-first devices, including those with Google Assistant. "
  • The investment by Audioburst and Google into ensuring that voice-assisted technology devices can better search for and access podcast content is another trend that shows that audio listeners are using voice-assisted technology and the trend is likely to be even bigger in the future.

Voice Assistants Facilitating Walled Content

  • Podcast content creators are increasingly looking to move from the advert-supported free content model to a subscription-based model or a licensed content model, and industry analysts believe that they are banking on increased adoption of smart speakers and other voice-assisted technologies for podcast and radio listening to make it feasible.
  • Industry analysts insist that there is a "trend toward fragmentation and away from aggregation where practical." In essence, podcast content creators are looking to take away their content from aggregators such as Google and YouTube to a platform where they have control of user data, experience, and their content.
  • Analysts believe that voice-assisted technology is helping to facilitate this shift. According to analysts, "general-purpose consumer voice assistants like Alexa, Siri, and Google Assistant will actually facilitate this shift because there are few of them, they are not based on open standards like the web, they have de facto walled gardens of content already, and each is looking for differentiation. If Siri can autoplay BBC podcasts but Google Assistant cannot, you could imagine that becoming an incentive for U.K. users to adopt the Apple ecosystem."

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Voice-Assisted Technology Podcast Statistics

A study by Voicebot revealed that almost 40% of people in the US with voice-activated smart speaker have used it to listen to a podcast and about 11% of Americans have used voice-assisted technology to access podcasts on their smartphones.

Statistics on Voice Assistants to Access Podcast

  • According to research by Voicebot in 2019, of the 66.4 million Americans who own a smart speaker, 39.6% have used it to listen to a podcast/or other talk formats.
  • About 26.5% of smart speaker owners use the smart speaker to listen to a podcast at least once a month.
  • About 11.1% of smart speaker owners use the smart speaker to listen to podcasts daily.
  • About 11% of Americans have used voice-assisted technology to access podcasts on their smartphones.
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Voice-Assisted Technology Success Stories

The NPR and KCUR success stories after experimenting and adopting voice-assisted technology to reach new on-demand radio audience are case studies that show that radio entities can benefit from the increasing use of voice-assisted technology devices by consumers.

NPR Case Study

  • During the midterm elections in 2018, National Public Radio (NPR), in addition to carrying out "its usual live coverage and coordinating stories from its reporters and from member stations across the country," also experimented with voice-assisted on-demand election updates for people who were busy and couldn't be glued to their radio at the time.
  • Consumers only needed to ask "Amazon’s voice assistant Alexa for an update on election news from the NPR One app. The response to this request was a short report with the latest news."
  • NPR stated that the goal of offering users the Alexa offering was to find out if listeners would find the option useful and if NPR could give it to listeners.
  • Although NPR didn't release the exact metrics of the experiment, a spokesperson reported on its success as follows: "it was our first time trying this out and it was successful because we developed a workflow and best practices for election night so that we are ready for the volume of listeners we will get in the presidential elections in 2020.
  • NPR reported that in the first quarter of 2018, smart speakers accounted for 16% of all radio streaming on its network.
  • NPR also noted that "smart speaker streaming has helped drive an 8 percent increase in the number of hours that people listen to digital broadcasts, while overall listenership for flagship shows like "Morning Edition" and "All Things Considered" has grown substantially over the past three years."

KCUR Case Study

  • KCUR is a radio station in Kansas City, Missouri that also experimented with voice-assisted on-demand radio.
  • KCUR did an online campaign asking its "broadcast listeners to ask their smart assistants to play the station."
  • The campaign was successful as "smart speakers accounted for 38 percent of online streaming, while "mobile phone and desktop computer streaming were each under 30 percent. "
  • According to a spokesperson from KCUR, the voice-activated smart speaker consumers the station attracted were "mostly new listeners to the stream, not people who switched from streaming on their phone to streaming on their speaker."

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Voice-Assisted Technology SWOT Analysis

The voice voice-assisted technology industry is growing rapidly with over 200 million homes globally having a smart speaker. However, privacy and security concerns are key threats to the industry.

Voice-Assisted Technology SWOT Analysis


  • The voice-assisted technology industry is growing rapidly, with Technavio estimating that the voice recognition market in 2019 will be worth $601 million.
  • Voice-assisted technology is increasingly being integrated into devices globally. From smart light bulbs to patient care to smart solar to smart toilets, different industries and people are increasingly adopting the technology. In fact, Vox claims that voice-assisted technology is being adopted faster than any other technology in history.
  • Canalys predicts that the "global number of installed smart speakers is going to more than double to 225 million units in two years."
  • RBC Capital Markets estimates that voice shopping on just Alexa could generate over $5 billion in revenue annually by 2020.
  • Globally, it is estimated that over 200 million homes now have a smart speaker that provides voice-controlled access to the internet.
  • "Global ad spending on voice assistants — currently nonexistent — will reach $19 billion by 2022, nearly the size of the current magazine ad business, per Juniper Research. "


  • Using the voice-assisted technology to access podcasts is not yet seamless and users still experience difficulties. For instance, although "39.9% have tried to access podcasts on a smart speaker on a monthly basis, only 26% have been successful."
  • Industry analysts also note that many podcast listeners are not yet aware that they can use voice-activated smart speakers to listen to podcasts.
  • A study by Reuters Institute noted that "podcasts do not yet attract significant usage on smart speakers (15% UK, 22% US)."
  • Users stickiness is also an issue as "about a third of smart speaker owners end up using them less after the first month, according to an NPR and Edison Research report earlier this year. Just a little more than half said they wouldn’t want to go back to life without a smart speaker."


  • Although most podcast listeners are not yet aware that they can use voice-activated smart speakers to listen to podcasts, "the good news is that when podcast fans do cozy up to smart speakers, they’re likely to listen to more shows." Research shows that once consumers start using voice-assisted technology smart speakers, "they grow more comfortable and begin using voice assistants more on their smartphone or in the car, as well."
  • This shows that there is an opportunity to increase the podcast audience and listening time by getting more people to be aware of the ease of using voice-assisted technology to listen to podcasts.


  • As voice-assisted technology devices are increasingly being used at home, consumers are beginning to worry about privacy and safety. Researchers have demonstrated how voice-assisted technology can be used to bypass security on windows PC and other devices.
  • There have also been privacy issues such as Amazon's smart speaker picking up a couples' conversation in 2018, recorded it, and sent it to the couple's friend unauthorized.
  • Voice-assisted technology devices are by design always on and as such the devices end up knowing a lot about the user and the data can be exploited by either the company behind the device or by attackers.
  • Researchers have also demonstrated that "they could use sound inaudible to human to command Siri to make a phone call or to take other actions."
  • The privacy and security threat associated with using voice-assisted technology devices are key threats to the industry, with about 38% of consumers expressing privacy concerns.