I’m writing from New York, where I’ve come for the VoiceCon conference hosted by Gary Vaynerchuk and speakers from Google, Amazon and the influencer Jay Shetty.  

It’s been a mindblowing 24 hours all about ‘Voice’, which is published media in the form of audio. There’s been a lot of debate on podcasts, but also how we can create and become visible through on demand content within voice activated devices such as Alexa.

Which is making me think why am I even typing this at all, shouldn’t I be speaking it and uploading it to Amazon so you can hear this through your smart speakers?!

One of my favourite topics of discussion is about the dismantling of the media as we know it. And that process is well underway with last year being the first year that global adspend in digital surpassed that of global adspend in traditional media.

Let’s not be emotional about this – adspend travels towards attention and the facts are we are no longer sitting watching TV on 3 channels (thank god) but have so many more mediums through which to engage with content. And where that adspend is going is fragmenting further within the digital space – last year, $220 million was spent in podcast (audio) advertising in the US.

And as marketers, or business owners, building businesses and brands, we need to watch behaviour shift and platforms advance and understand how to leverage the trends we can see into our marketing funnels so we can access underpriced attention.

The next frontier is going to be voice so what do we need to know and how do we prepare?

Here are 10 things I learned

  • Ondemand audio content and podcasts are exploding in popularity as a result of our phones and smart speakers. Only a few years ago, it felt awkward speaking to an inanimate object on our kitchen counters, but in the past 2 years, the number of people with access to smart speakers in the US has grown to 50 million. This is less time than it took the same number of people to get smartphones.
  • The average American will consume 13.40 hours of online audio content per week in 2018.
  • Anyone wanting to get into voice needs to think about the value they can provide through entertainment and/or instruction.
  • From a strategic point of view, this means how can we bring voice touchpoints into our full marketing funnel executions.
  • From a creative point of view, how can we think about voice first environments which are completely devoid of video and other creativity.
  • The reason people love audio is because it is ‘low friction’. For a growing ageing population, voice activated devices are easier to use than smartphones. Mothers are adopting voice assistants at a faster rate than other groups (probably because they are multi tasking) and there is a new generation (under 5s) who are learning to speak to computers before they can read and write.
  • The first thing we will see will be revolution in search – by 2020, 50% of search is expected to occur through voice. How can we adapt SEO/traditional ranking thinking from a model of think, type and scroll where multiple listings appear that you can read and browse, to a model of speak, ask and listen where you will only listen to first 3 results. How can you ensure as a brand you are served in the first three audio results? What should you say?
  • Sonic branding will be as important as branding. Sound design will be the new packaging design on audio first platforms. What will your sonic logo be and what will your brand ‘sound’ like?
  • Voice first applications will not exist in a silho, but will be part of a larger communications strategy.
  • With every new medium, people try to replicate what worked before. Ie, when TV came in, people started reading out scripts from radio shows. When social media started, people tried to map the analogue world into digital. Everyone is just getting started in voice, there isn’t a clear road map of what works (beyond stand out podcasts) but what is clear is it won’t be a case of replicating what worked in video into voice.