Voice: One Medium To Rule Them All

Many of the titles I use in this column are repurposed from geek culture and only the geekiest among you will notice the reference — but this one should resonate a little more broadly, I hope. It’s a big topic.

In case you haven’t noticed, voice is everywhere. It is quickly going to become the dominant way we interact with computers in the coming years, and is going to have a massive impact -- in some ways, devastatingly so -- on the world of advertising and marketing.

(Disclosure: I do have some skin in the voice game. My company is closely tied to this technology.)

Voice activation is also everywhere. The most obvious use of this tech is in voice assistants, which eMarketer predicts will be utilized by 27% of U.S. internet users by next year, a number that will increase significantly by 2020.  

Voice assistants are already having an impact on search, and comScore predicts more than 50% of searches will be voice-based by 2020.  Voice search is easy and convenient, but it will have a massive impact on the search engine advertising world.  Users engaged in voice search do not want a huge list of results, and they certainly do not want some of these search results to to be ads.  They want an answer and they want it to be accurate, quick and unbiased. 



The more consumers use voice search, the less time they spend looking at a screen where ads are placed, which  will have a detrimental effect on the total ecosystem of advertising.

Voice search is just the tip of the spear, though.  More and more consumers are activating other types of basic functions through voice.  eMarketer says 12.2% of smartphone voice assistants ask for the weather forecast, while  7.3% ask for the news headlines and 7% ask for traffic updates.  These are dated numbers, published back in February 2017, so I would say it’s safe to assume these numbers are radically higher now.  

All these functions are information-gathering exercises that a consumer would typically go to the web to do, but now these are being done via voice.  The clear impact there is fewer eyeballs looking at a screen, and therefore fewer ads  being served.  

Who wins in this respect?  The rich get richer, so to speak.  Google owns these results, and Google is essentially taking more of the off-Google pageviews away and having users get their results verbally through their platform.  The same goes for Amazon and Apple, as they essentially create a better, stickier environment and keep consumers from going to third-party sites for this kind of nformation.

These are all simple use cases, the lowest-hanging fruit on the tree.  News came out a few weeks back that Mozilla is working on a voice-activated browser that would allow you to engage with the web and even have sites read to you without having to look at the screen. 

Your phone screen may be getting bigger in many cases, but more of your time is going to be spent looking away from it, leaving what’s left to be purely entertainment.

Also, not sure if you noticed, but podcasts are experiencing a renaissance of sorts and becoming more popular now than ever before.  

All this shifting to voice means fewer impressions in general and even fewer for third-party publishers who are not integrated with these major industry-leading platforms.

In this kind of environment, brand loyalty becomes even more important — but creating that loyalty in the first place will be more difficult, as it gets harder and harder to reach a new audience through advertising.  

Personally, I love this shift towards voice.  It’s efficient, effective and convenient.  So many times, I find myself getting information without even having to pick up my phone.  I’m sure all consumers agree, so how is the media world preparing for this shift?

1 comment about "Voice: One Medium To Rule Them All".
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  1. Walter Sabo from SABO media, June 28, 2018 at 3:24 p.m.

    Yes RADIO is ubiquitous, it has been proven for over 100 years and it built P&G. So where's tghe news. Radio has always been the best medium.

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