The Immersive Rise of Podcasts, Audio and AI-Voice Devices
Major things are happening for audio content now, and even on the Medium ecosystem. Medium itself has awesome narration — Medium Audio, meanwhile I’m noticing a lot of play.ht tweets and I’m also piloting them, listen to this article above.
They have up to 16 human sounding voice narrators (36 if you include other languages), with whacky global accents included even. While the Medium narrators are good; they are almost too good — and not in the range of gender/age voice variations I’d prefer. They are also likely expensive for Medium to produce and difficult to reproduce at scale given the content density of the platform.
Yes the Age of Podcasts Has Finally Arrived
The real news for Podcasts is that they are reaching a traction point. As we have less time and as we spend more time in between activities on mobile, Millennials and GenZ are listening more to them.
A third of Americans say they’ve listened to a podcast in the last month.
As Amazon Alexa is making a serious play for the hospitality industry and namely Hotels and custom Alexa skills for them; Google also recently launched something that’s a bit genius.
It’s called simply, Google Podcasts, and it has the potential to redeem Google’s long and disappointing history with podcasts. Namely because Google Home devices will be integrated with the service. So imagine your Medium stories getting more traffic through such an option, being heard across homes in America and abroad?
Audio Content is on the Rise
More than a third of the international respondents in the Reuters Institute’s latest Digital News Report — 2,000 from each of the listed countries — said that they had listened to a podcast in the month leading up to the survey.
Yes it’s happening, Podcasts are becoming more popular circa 2016–2018. As the Voice-AI interface gets smarter and more integrated with Podcast content and Podcast apps; this will only increase.
At least with Apple and iTunes, Podcasts were always an integral part of the experience. I don’t have a HomePod, but if I did, I’d probably be listening to Podcasts more.
As our content and mobile content tastes mature, we are starting to see the value of Podcasts as educational high-quality and highly specialized material. By country here is a look of where they are popular:
Podcast Personalized Recommendations and Google Home Could Help Google Podcasts Mature
While Google Podcasts might be another failure for Google, it could be a win for Podcasts in general. Another key difference is how it will offer us personalized recommendations. This can help our opt-in to using the service a lot more. This might feel more frictionless, for example a Netflix or YouTube like experience where you resume where you left off and the system begins to quickly understand what you like.
As you can imagine then, Voice-AI interfaces like smart speakers are a key growth driver for the future of Podcasts. Even for how content ecosystems like Medium survive app competition (that tends to be a downward trend), pivoting to audio could be essential for their new monetization model. Why couldn’t Medium recommend me audio content that’s personalized to my tastes? Some articles (especially if they are short); I’d probably prefer to listen to than to read, in all honesty.
I’m sick of scrolling through feeds, and I’m not alone. You can find Google Podcasts here. As for play.ht, it’s kind of pricey. What’s your favorite podcast ecosystem or app? Increasingly I find I’m electing to get my tech or sports news from a smart speaker.
Will Google’s recommendation algorithms be strong enough to serve me up awesome audio content and podcasts? I’m not sure, but YouTube is one of the best recommendation algorithms in the world — I think it’s considerably better than Netflix. Another reason why I don’t think IGTV can take off and where Amazon Prime Video is still behind.
The Podcasts app is integrated with Google Assistant, meaning you can search for and play podcasts wherever you have Assistant enabled. Is the market ready for audio content to go mainstream? I think it is. I think we’ll rely more on hands-off models of how we experience environments, content and contexts. There’s only so much thumb mashing one can do in one lifetime.