Whether you call them voice assistants, smart speakers, or something else, the rise of voice technology has infiltrated most U.S. homes with at least one voice-activated device. What does voice technology have to do with magazine publishing? Quite a bit, actually. If you’re like most publishers, you may not know exactly where and how to start. So, let’s start at the beginning …
Rise of voice-activated technology
Voice recognition devices, like Amazon Echo or Google Home, interpret and carry out voice commands, enabling hands-free requests, reminders, and other simple tasks. The rise of this technology in everyday life has been noted by technology giants like Microsoft who predicted that 75% of U.S. homes will have at least one smart device by 2020. Further, according to a report from Gartner, more than 30% of searches will be performed using voice by 2020.
Voice assistants are not just smart devices sitting on your counter, playing your choice of music or checking the latest football scores. Voice assistants are on our phones, computers, and in our cars. We use them to control lights and appliances, answer questions, make purchases, set appointments, and keep a calendar. They can even find a news story on a specific topic — and read it to you.
As a publisher, that last item ought to get your attention. Will a smart device be able to find and deliver your content to readers who opt to search for it via voice? What else do you need to know to monetize this growing technology?
How publishers can leverage voice-activated technology
First, there’s a new language you need to learn to target these platforms. This language takes the form of “skills” (Amazon) or “actions” (Google). A skill is basically an app or instruction letting you interact with the platform. Voice assistants come with built-in skills such as weather forecasts or searching Wikipedia, but they also have the capability for customization.
Skills fall into two main categories — branded skills and generic skills.
Branded skills are linked to your brand and cannot be used by other companies. Generic skills are more general, such as “What are the latest publishing headlines?” Owning a generic skill gives you control over an entire category, which is obviously appealing, but also means there’s higher competition for those skills.
Skills allow publishers to monetize voice-assisted technologies in various ways including:
- Sponsored content. This traditional method of presenting content with a message from a sponsor is a viable option on voice-activated platforms.
- Paid subscriptions. Consumers can opt-in to your content via their smart device, selecting a monthly subscription, one-time use, or limited-time access.
- eCommerce. If you’ve added an eCommerce component to your publishing strategy (or want to), smart devices make it easy to find and order your products.
- Personalization/customization. Because smart devices listen and collect data about search habits, buying preferences, and daily behaviors, publishers can customize the reader experience to meet the unique preferences of their audience. Voice assistants also can foster interaction and engagement with readers.
Will you be an innovator or follower?
There is a lot of uncertainty and confusion about how publishers can leverage voice technology, but there are clear benefits for being an early adopter, especially when it comes to creating apps and skills. Start now and develop a plan.
It’s important to note there is a steep learning curve for developing voice assistant skills or apps. Many publishers opt to hire developers to create them. Whether you develop apps inhouse or outsource the development, you’ll likely want to start with brand-specific skills. As you gain experience, you can begin branching out to develop more generic skills that will allow you to expand your reach to people unfamiliar with your content.
Voice technology and smart devices are here for the long term. Understanding how best to leverage them in your operation will take effort and experimentation, but the rewards of building a more personal connection with your audience and interacting with them in their preferred methods will more than pay off in the long run. It’s not a time to be timid or intimidated by the technology. You must embrace it or risk being left behind in the ever-evolving world of magazine publishing.
Contact your Sheridan representative or visit our contact page to ask how we can help you streamline your publishing processes, reduce costs, and keep up with changes in print and publishing strategies.