The way we interact with media content is constantly evolving. Way back in 1968, introduction of the mouse was critical to personal computer adoption, making computers accessible to non-technical users. Fast-forward to 2000, the introduction of mobile phones with a touchscreen (i.e., smartphones) put the wheels in motion for the mobile revolution. Evolution of the way we interact with content—through a user interface (UI)—continues. At present, a number of trends like IoT, AI, wearables, and podcast media are culminating to position audio and voice as critical to the next-generation UI.

 

To help you line up your 2017 marketing plans, Boost Media shares information and insights on the emergence of audio and voice as the next UI for media content in a three-part series. In the first installment, we will discuss the evidence of this emerging trend; in the second installment, we will talk about what brands can do to begin testing audio media today; and in the third installment, we will tie audio media back to the current media landscape, discussing how it fits into your overall media plan and creative strategy.

 

Taking cues from audio and voice

There are multiple signs pointing toward the emergence of audio and voice as the next-generation UI. Boost sees these signs appearing and brewing in several areas:

 

Software: Improving feasibility

Voice recognition has been around for a while. But in the past, it was clunky, imprecise, and couldn’t accommodate factors like accents, pauses, and the inevitable “ums” and “ahs.” Now, thanks to advances in AI and natural language processing, speech recognition software is maturing to the point where voice interfaces are more feasible, practical, and user-friendly.

 

Hardware: Increasing demand

Gartner predicts there will be more than 322 million wearable devices in 2017, some of which could potentially work with a voice and audio interface. And in just over three years (by 2020), Intel estimates there will be 200 billion connected IoT devices, further expanding the need for a natural interface like voice and audio. The prevalence of “smart houses” is also on the rise. Amazon is expected to sell 10 million units of its voice-activated Amazon Echo in 2017.

 

User-behavior: Accelerating adoption

As new devices continue flooding the marketplace, more people will integrate voice-activated technology into their daily lives to “talk to” their homes and cars. Daily use of this type of technology will soon help make voice-activated devices feel second-nature to consumers. We’re already seeing voice-activated user behavior growth through features like digital assistants (think Siri), which were used by 33% of U.S. consumers in the past 30 days. The teenage user demographic adoption is even higher (and rising), with 55% using voice search.

 

Media consumption: Growing audio (podcast) audience

According to Edison Research, 57 million people in the U.S. listen to podcasts on at least a monthly basis and this number is growing. Podcasts are becoming mainstream, indicating that people are ready to consume media via audio. As podcast consumption increases, so does the temptation for advertisers to reach them, creating a potential ad revenue stream to further fuel the growth of podcasting and audio media in general. But podcast advertising is still in a nascent state with just $35 million in annual ad spend in 2016 (compared with $66 billion in TV advertising).

 

Where to go from here

It’s clear as a bell that the popularity of audio and voice as a UI is growing. It’s also clear that at least for now, this nascent UI generally requires some additional interaction with text, images, or video-based output. For example, when using a digital assistant to obtain information, you are given search results that require you to look at a web browser. This means that as digital marketers, we must challenge ourselves to think about the rise of audio and voice interface and how it interplays with online media presence.

 

Tune in your listening ears for next week’s installment where Boost covers how brands can use podcasts and podcast advertising to test and learn the audio medium in preparation for 2017’s digital landscape.