In recent years, we've seen a massive shift in how we consume audio content. Smart speakers have become so popular that they're now a staple in millions of homes worldwide. But what exactly are smart speakers, and how are they changing how we listen to local radio? 

In this article, we'll explore the rise of smart speakers, their impact on the radio industry, and the future of this exciting technology. So, whether you're a talk radio or music fan or love the convenience of having a virtual assistant at your fingertips, read on to discover how smart speakers are changing the game for audio content consumption.

The Rise of Smart Speakers

smart speaker sitting on a table in a family's living room

Smart speakers have been around for a few years, but it wasn't until 2017, when Amazon released its Echo smart speaker, and Google released its Home speaker, that they really started to take off.

Since then, their popularity has grown steadily as prices become more affordable. According to Statistica, the global smart speaker market was projected to count over 200 million units in 2023, a number that will keep increasing in the coming years.

Here are three of the main reasons why smart speaker adoption is becoming the norm:

  • Ease of Use: Unlike traditional radios, which require tuning in to a specific frequency, smart speakers can access thousands of radio stations worldwide with just a voice command. 
  • Controllability: Smart speakers can be controlled from anywhere in the room, making them a convenient way to listen to music or the news while doing other tasks.
  • Virtual Assistants: Speakers like Amazon's Alexa or Google Assistant can answer questions, set reminders, and even order groceries, making them a central hub for managing our daily lives.

How Smart Speakers Are Impacting Local Radio

woman listening to local radio on smart speaker while she cooks in kitchen

As smart speakers continue to gain popularity, here are a few of the most significant opportunities they present for local radio stations and broadcasters.

Enabling On-Demand Listening for Local Radio

Accessing local radio station content on-demand through smart speakers is a big game changer for listeners and broadcasters. Listeners can now use voice commands like “Alexa, play 104.7 KCLD” to tap into their favorite local stations whenever they want. This gives listeners more flexibility and control over their listening experience. Since 2021, AM/FM radio streaming via smart speakers has stabilized, growing slightly from 23% to 26%.

Personalizing the Local Radio Experience

Smart speakers can study listening patterns and recommend radio playlists tailored to each person’s preferences. For example, listeners that frequently tune into a morning show might get that station served up automatically as part of their morning routine. Similarly, smart speakers can also use A.I. to customize local radio content selections based on time of day, recent activity, and integrations with calendar apps. This level of personalization helps local radio stay relevant and integral to people’s daily lives.

Optimizing Content for Voice Search

Voice has become a primary search mode, meaning local radio stations need to optimize for voice search to get their content discovered on these devices. This involves using natural language and conversational keyword phrases when tagging audio content and showing descriptions. It also requires building integrations with smart assistant platforms like Alexa Skills. Local stations optimizing for voice search significantly expand their potential listenership on smart speakers.

Integrating Radio Into the Smart Home Ecosystem

Smart speakers like Amazon Echo and Google Nest have become hubs of the smart home, controlling things like lights, appliances, security systems, and more through voice commands. As radio integrates with these devices, it becomes seamlessly embedded in the smart home ecosystem. Listeners can now add radio to their morning routines or cue it hands-free while cooking dinner.

Opening New Listening Occasions

Thanks to smart assistants, local radio has an opportunity to own more moments in listeners' days. According to Edison Research, 59% of smart speaker owners report listening to more audio overall since getting their device. With easy voice access, radio can now be consumed during activities where listening before wasn't feasible, like getting ready in the morning, washing dishes, and working out.

The Future of Local Radio in the Smart Speaker Era

man driving car and listening to the radio with a smart-enabled speaker

While some fear smart speakers pose a threat, their ubiquity actually presents local broadcasters with a range of new opportunities. As stations optimize for the voice-first world, they can recreate the same intimacy and engagement that made radio so powerful to begin with by tapping into smart speakers' interactive, data-driven, and on-demand potential. 

Key trends to watch that will shape local radio in the smart speaker age include:

  • The rise of hybrid digital shows
  • The use of conversational ads
  • Interactivity enabled by voice

Keeping Local Radio Relevant

As listeners embrace on-demand and personalized experiences, local radio stations must adapt to remain relevant and competitive. By adopting digital content, exploring innovative advertising strategies, and fostering partnerships with smart speaker manufacturers, local radio stations can navigate the challenges and seize the opportunities presented by this technological revolution.

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