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Radio listening on smart speakers
A mutualistic symbiosis
New data from RAJAR indicates that, 8 years after the launch of the Amazon Echo, smart speakers now account for 10% of the 1 billion hours of UK radio listened to each week.
Interestingly, it took DAB digital radio a similar amount of time to reach 10% (from 1999, when the first commercial DAB receivers went on sale in the UK, to 2007).
DAB now accounts for 41% of UK radio listening, websites and apps 12%, digital TV 4.5% and good old FM/AM stubbornly hanging in there with 32%.
Once set up, smart speakers are arguably even easier to use to listen to radio than a DAB set. No button-pressing / knob-twiddling required - just ask Alexa/Siri/Google Assistant to play your chosen station.
You can also set a recurring alarm to wake up to your favourite station (a common use case for physical radio sets) and find out what track’s playing without waiting for a DJ to announce it or DAB text to scroll.
One much-loved attribute of DAB (and FM/AM) radio sets that most smart speakers don’t currently emulate is their portability, enabling listeners to enjoy Test Match Special in the garden or The Archers in the bath.
Whilst some portable smart speakers are now available, they tend to be from higher-end manufacturers (e.g. Bose, Sonos, Harman Kardon).
If I were Amazon, I’d be prioritising launching an affordable portable Echo device with proper hands-free voice activation (unlike the ill-fated Amazon Tap) and dialling up the radio use case in marketing.
I’d also be working on a better aftermarket in-car device than the flaky Echo Auto, whilst simultaneously trying to out-charm Google and Apple with car manufacturers (an area where Google are currently stealing a march).
As smart speaker adoption starts to plateau (after a pandemic-related bump in sales), it’s going to be interesting to see how radio listening via smart speaker trends over the next few quarters. I suspect it’s going to remain fairly flat, as existing owners continue listening a similar amount, whilst Amazon, Google & Apple struggle to persuade households who haven’t currently purchased a smart speaker of a compelling reason to do so.
As one of the most habitual mediums, I believe radio has a role to play here, not just in driving new smart speaker sales, but also in giving existing owners a compelling reason to keep using their devices - something Amazon is reportedly struggling with.
Hopefully RAJAR breaking out radio listening via smart speakers will help persuade Amazon, Google & Apple to collaborate more with established radio providers, as 100 million hours a week in a territory the size of the UK isn’t a number to be sniffed at.