Your eyes are oversubscribed

Why voice assistants will lead the audio revolution

Alarm goes off. Grab your phone, conveniently sat by your bed like a faithful pet. Scroll through your emails. Move on to Twitter- skim read a couple of interesting looking articles and retweet them in an attempt to prove that you’re informed about life. Next up, Facebook. Tag your friends in a ridiculous video of a dog jumping into a pool. Cute. Next, Instagram. Anxiously check the number of likes on your most recent post of the Golden Gate Bridge. Not bad- although maybe you should’ve uploaded that photo of the burrito instead. Next time.

Sound familiar?

Our brains have now been wired to seek constant satisfaction from visual media. We’ve been developing new ways of consuming information for centuries: books, computers, televisions, phones etc. All are now fully established channels for visual learning and entertainment, and each battle for our visual attention every minute of every day. The market for screen based solutions is saturated. Our eyes are tired.

Audio is the new visual

Audio is a medium that’s on the rise, but the market is strangely untapped in terms of media forms. Our two main options are radio, which has barely evolved since its inception, and podcasts.

Podcasts are steadily increasing in popularity. In 2014, podcasting began to reach mainstream consumers, as quality podcasts from stations such as NPR, WNYC, and WBEZ grew, with “Serial” becoming the first podcast in iTunes history to reach 5 million streams or downloads.

However, podcasts have their shortcomings. For podcast creators, there’s a great deal of pressure to constantly create, uploading regular episodes to their channel. It requires a decent amount of equipment and software to produce a good sounding piece of audio.

For listeners, a common problem is finding the time to listen. Podcasts are typically 30mins- 1 hour long, which often results in making a choice between finding a block of time to dedicate to listen to one in its entirety, or listening in chunks and forgetting what was said earlier. Most podcasts are searchable by channel or series rather than the subject of an individual piece of audio, which means that if you’re after something specific it can sometimes take slightly longer to discover.

For those looking to give their eyes a rest, the options are fairly limited. However, new forms of audio are starting to appear. Medium have recently introduced audio readings of blog posts, read by voice actors or occasionally the writers themselves. This is a huge step in the right direction and it may not be long before the audio content market is as diverse as the visual.

Voice assistants will lead the audio revolution

Voice assistants such as Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant have the potential to spearhead this movement, precisely because they are built to be listened to. Having a Google Home or Amazon Alexa in your home means that it has never been easier to consume audio; all you need is to ask for it. The popularity of the flash news briefings and voice apps like Ted Talks proves that there is a hunger for listening to informative and interesting content, and this should only grow as voice technology becomes more popular.

Introducing Sound Owl

The Opearlo Studios team are thrilled to announce the launch of Sound Owl, our newest skill for Amazon Alexa.

Sound Owl is a platform for talkers and listeners to share bright ideas in the form of 5 minute shortcasts. A shortcast is exactly what it sounds like; a short form podcast, roughly around 5 minutes long.

Sound Owl enables people to share interesting ideas and thoughts without needing to write an article. Shortcasters aren’t pressured to continually create content; you can record audio once a week or just once. Our web app enables you to upload recordings or record directly into your browser and then submit for publication in the Amazon Alexa skill. 
For listeners, it’s the chance to learn something new without needing to dedicate visual attention or extensive periods of time. Shortcasts are for those spare five minutes when you’re getting ready for work, whipping up a meal, or just bored. After asking Sound Owl to hear a shortcast, you’ll hear an interesting insight played at random, giving you the opportunity to learn something you might not have expected.

Our initial launch has focused content around the theme of disruption; the technologies and ideas that are transforming industries around the world. We have insights ranging from augmented reality to stem cell research, spoken about by industry experts and people with a passion for the subject.

Sound Owl is available now on the Amazon Alexa skill store, but we have also published our launch shortcasts on our website. We’re excited to hear your feedback on the content as well as the Alexa skill, so please get in touch with your comments and reviews.