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Audioburst unveils Studio, an easy-to-use SaaS platform that brings the best moments from podcasts and talk radio to third-party apps and websites ✨

 

Audio is experiencing nothing short of a modern-day renaissance.

Digital audio listenership is up, podcast popularity is growing exponentially, and more and more consumers are discovering the value of voice assistants and smart speakers.

Add to this the fact that, unlike text and video content, podcasting and other forms of talk audio are innately portable with the ability to be consumed during hours that up until now were content blackouts (or non-media hours) such as work, gym, and commuting. (Heidi Cohen)

Given audio’s move to the forefront of today’s content landscape and its direct correlation to increased engagement across devices, it’s no surprise that many brands are starting to consider the addition of audio in their marketing strategies.

Of course, implementing an audio content strategy as a larger company is less of a challenge — perhaps you spin up a podcast or create a new app or skill for your brand.

But what about individual webmasters and app developers?

How can they leverage audio to enhance their user experience or increase time spent on-page (or in-app) without breaking the bank?

We’re excited to announce that as of today, we have a solution:

Introducing Audioburst Studio, your free one-stop shop for integrating short-form audio content playlists filled with the best moments from podcasts and talk radio directly into your web or mobile app experience.

Bonus? No coding required!

How to create and integrate an audio content playlist (and player) in less than 10 minutes

 

1. Choose your industry

We’ve laid out a few preset industries that lend well to audio, but we know that when it comes to big ideas and innovation, thinking outside of the box can be how the magic begins.

So if you’re something special (ie. you don’t strictly identify with the other options ) we have a choice for you too.

2. Next up? Select a playlist

Our AI has cooked up 14 specially curated playlists that are full of fresh, smart, interesting, and sometimes wacky audio content. Depending on your chosen industry, we’ll suggest the three playlists we think your audience will fall for.

For instance, ‘Navigational’ apps may choose our ‘Success here I come’ playlist, a selection of unique content to get your users where they need to go, both literally and figuratively, plucked from topics such as:

  • Career
  • Leadership
  • Entrepreneurship
  • Marketing
  • Financial Advice
  • Mindfulness
  • Business Development
  • Real-time Local Traffic Reports

3. Or build your own!

If you’re feeling creative, we’ve also added the ability to craft your own personalized playlist from 100+ categories and topics.

Choose from subjects like world news, sports, or true crime to style a listening experience tailored specifically to the interests and hobbies of your users.

4. Choose where you’d like to publish your playlist

Playlists and players generated in Audioburst Studio can be deployed on both websites and mobile apps, with integrations for Amazon Alexa and Google Home slated for release in the near future.

5. Take your playlist for a test drive

You don’t buy a car without test driving and the same is true for your playlist and player!

Give your playlist a listen and see how our pre-made player might look as part of your site or app’s user interface.

Audioburst Studio SDK Simulation

6. And we have liftoff!

Deploy your newly minted player through the use of either an embedded player or via a mobile SDK.

If you already have a player that you know and love, no worries -use our APIs to introduce Audioburst functionality to your existing design aesthetic.

Democratizing audio

Whether at home browsing a favorite website or blog, catching up on entertainment news while sneaking in a workout, or looking up traffic conditions while in-car, Audioburst is working to make sure audio content is always available whenever and wherever your users want it to be.

“What we’re doing is democratizing audio — giving website and app owners a way to deploy highly-curated and targeted talk-audio playlists that will provide growth, monetization, and user satisfaction.”

– Rachel Batish, VP Product @Audioburst

 

Join Audioburst in our mission of connecting users to the world’s audio content… we promise you’ll like what you hear.

Getting started

Build your first playlist! 💿 🕺

Ready to boost engagement on your app or site by building your users’ audio playlists filled with the best moments from podcasts and talk radio?

Have feedback? We’d love to hear it! 🤓 🔨

Comment below or shoot us an email to → support@audioburst.com

A primer on voice assistants and the technology behind them

 

It was early in 2015 and I was at my desk, which happened to be positioned close to the front door of my company’s office in San Francisco’s SoMA district.

A courier had just left a stack of Amazon boxes on a nearby table and people in the office started milling around, grabbing up their respective deliveries. As one particular coworker reached for a box with his name on it he looked over at me and said, “Alexa, what’s the weather today?”

“Huh?” I replied, confused as to why someone would ask me what it was like outside when we were sitting a mere 15 feet from floor to ceiling windows.

He chuckled and tapped the tape across the Amazon box, the strip of adhesive advertising the ‘Echo,’ Amazon’s latest foray into the hardware space.

“Amazon’s new voice assistant…she’s called Alexa. Pretty funny, right?”

Not the box in question, but similar — Photo Credit: The Krazy Coupon Lady

Oh yes. Hilarious.

I decided right then and there that I was never hopping on the voice train. 90% of the time ‘Siri’ didn’t know what I was talking about and now this new kid on the block had stolen my name, setting me up for endless ‘Alexa’ jokes that I would be forced to weakly smile at for all eternity.

No thank you, voice, no thank you.

Of course, the rest of the world wasn’t as salty about the introduction of Alexa as I was. The usability of voice has improved dramatically over the last four years and voice assistants are now the hottest new gadgets on the market.

According to Canalys, the number of worldwide smart speakers installed is set to grow 82.4% in 2019, surpassing 200 million units. To put that in perspective, 216.76 million iPhones were sold in 2017, and that was after 10 years on the market.

In addition, Grand View Research estimates that the global speech and voice recognition market size is estimated to reach USD 31.82 billion by 2025, fueled by rising applications in the banking, healthcare, and automobile sectors.

Voice is happening, and in case you too have been holding out on embracing the act of conversing with an inanimate object, let me catch you up to speed.

In this piece, we’re going to cover what voice technology is, how it works, who uses it, who is developing it, where it’s being used, and what we’re using it for. We’ll also take a look at what makes some consumers wary of adopting voice, like privacy concerns and apprehension around how voice assistant usage may lead to a lapse in common courtesy.

Hello, Computer

Though attempts at developing a verbally communicative relationship with machines have been taking place since the 1950s, it was only in the last 10 years that we got anywhere close to what Gene Roddenberry imagined when coming up with the voice-controlled computer utilized on the Starship Enterprise.

Voice Technology check-in, 1986 — Nope, still not there yet… (Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home)

Talking to inanimate objects used to be a behavior that would cause those around you be concerned for your mental health, however, these days controlling and interacting with your computer (or smartphone, speaker, watch, car, or microwave) through speech is fairly mainstream. Consumers to some extent have even come to expect a voice option, and take its availability as a feature into consideration when researching a purchase.

For instance, a recent survey of smart speaker owners performed by J.D. Power revealed that “59% of U.S. consumers said they were more likely to purchase a new car from a brand that supports their favored smart speaker voice assistant.”

That’s right, having Alexa onboard is right up there with heated seats and leather upholstery.

Beyond being a fun accessory or add-on, today’s voice tech services have many practical applications. Not to reveal myself as too much of a Trekkie (or Trekker?), but another piece of Starfleet technology affiliated with voice that has debuted in the real world is the ‘universal translator’.

Products on the market today such as Google’s Pixel Buds can translate 40 different languages in real-time, a feat that would’ve seemed impossible just a few years ago. Google announced last fall that the same functionality would now be available across all Google Assistant-enabled headphones and Android phones.

With voice turning from science fiction to just plain science, it does make one wonder exactly how the technology works.

Looking under the hood

Automatic Speech Recognition (ASR) is what makes this possible. It’s the process of turning human speech into something a computer can understand. The operation is much more complex than you might expect, so to keep it very high level, it goes something like this:

  • A person speaks into a microphone
  • The sound is processed into a digital format
  • The computer breaks the speech down into phones, bits of sound that correspond to letters –a cousin of the phoneme
  • Then the computer uses methods of pattern recognition and statistical models to predict what was said (Source)

This, of course, is just the most basic form of speech recognition, essentially providing the building blocks for activities like dictation or speaking your credit card number into an automated phone system. If you actually want to converse with a computer, the computer needs to not only hear the sounds you’re speaking but also understand them and their meaning — it needs context

Natural Language Processing (NLP), and its related subset, Natural Language Understanding (NLU), are a subfield of Artificial Intelligence (AI) that focuses on helping humans and computers converse naturally, while also comprehending the true meaning and intent of the speech.

If we can anthropomorphize a bit, computers are quite literal. Their human counterparts, on the other hand, tend to use language more figuratively. For instance when we tell a computer that we’re ‘killing it today,’ the computer likely thinks that someone or something is in mortal peril. (Source) Given the problems literal speech can cause, computers being taught the probability of a specific intent or context is imperative to a smooth voice experience.

Successful voice tech also hinges on the computer’s ability to learn and grow in its language abilities. This is accomplished through Machine Learning and its subset, Deep Learning, which use algorithms and statistics to analyze speech data to continuously improve computer performance of a specific task, which in this case is human conversation.

There’s a lot more to the puzzle of translating human speech to computers such as tackling the issues of audio quality, individual speech patterns, and accents, the last two being particularly important when creating a technology that will be used by a wide array of speakers.

Who uses voice technology?

The Spring 2018 Smart Audio Report from NPR and Edison showed that smart speaker ownership is evenly distributed across all adult generations, with women being a little more likely to take the smart speaker plunge than their male counterparts.

The Smart Audio Report by NPR and Edison Research

When it comes to those younger than 18, they like voice too. This year eMarkter expects “1.5 million kids — those ages 11 and younger — to use a smart speaker like Amazon Echo or Google Home, at least once a month. By 2020, that figure will grow to 2.2 million.” Children rely on voice assistants to play audio, tell bedtime stories, and even help them brush their teeth. Parents also like voice as a choice for children as it provides an alternative to screen-time, a concern that has been a hot topic in recent years.

When it comes to teen usage, eMarketer estimates that 3 million teens will use a smart speaker at least once a month in 2019. Teens aren’t heavy users of smart speakers due to increases in independence during the stage of life, however as avid smartphone users, teens are still likely to utilize voice tech on their mobile devices.

Who is developing voice technology?

All of technology’s biggest players are in the game, each with their own named, personified assistant.

As far as which is the best, that is up for debate. LoupVentures’ Annual Smart Speaker IQ Test compares the four main assistants (Google Assistant, Siri, Alexa, and Cortana) by asking them all the same 800 questions and seeing which performs the best.

Annual Smart Speaker IQ Test by Loup Ventures

In the most recent results, we learn that overall, Google Assistant is the strongest of the four assistants, but Siri is no slouch either.

You’d expect Alexa to be best at shopping, but the Amazon assistant answered only 52% of the commerce category questions correctly, compared to Google’s 86%. Cortana didn’t seem to be much competition at all, answering only 63.4% of the questions correctly and having its best showing as coming in third in the ‘information’ category.

Apart from accuracy, a survey of U.S. adults revealed that “How well [a voice assistant] understands me…” is the most important factor for users when forming voice assistant preferences. This means that in the end, you’re likely to adopt whatever technology understands you and provides the most seamless user experience.

Some named assistants coming out of Silicon Valley aren’t being marketed as end-user solutions themselves, but instead, are leveraged by other innovators to provide voice offerings that answer specific consumer needs. For instance, Audioburst relies on the power of IBM Watson’s NLU to understand the massive amounts of audio content we process each day.

Our CTO and Co-Founder, Gal Klein explaining how we use Watson to enhance the Audioburst experience

Of course, if Watson’s acute understanding of human language isn’t exciting enough for you, he also won Jeopardy! in 2011. So there’s that.

Why do we want to use voice tech?

That addition of ease in the navigation of daily tasks is likely the largest draw to voice technology.

Today’s society thrives on packing in as much into our days as humanly possible. We work, go to school, exercise, commute, cook, clean, socialize, shop, care for our loved ones, and maybe if we have enough time left over, we might also work in getting some sleep. In a world of constant multi-tasking and transitions from one context to the next, having our hands and eyes free can be a lifesaver.

The ability to utilize the benefits of technology through voice also aids accessibility. Lack of sight, dexterity, or literacy are no longer barriers to using and benefitting from computers and smart devices, leading to increases in independence and self-sufficiency.

Lastly, voice tech is just fun! Voice puts entertainment at the tip of our tongues, from trivia games to listening to streaming audio, to annoying our cats with smart speaker skills that are fluent in ‘meow’.

Where is voice technology currently used?

 

Geographically

While the numbers here in the States are impressive, the rest of the world is catching up. Australia, while technically coming in with a lower amount of adults (5.7 million) using smart speakers, has a “user base relative to the population [that] now exceeds the U.S.” (Source)

Meanwhile, China is expected to see a 166% growth in the installed base for smart speakers going from 22.5 million units in 2018 to 59.9 million in 2019. (Source)

Now that we know where in the world voice technology is being embraced, it’s time to talk about the everyday locations where voice is popping up.

In Daily Life

According to the Voice Assistant Consumer Adoption Report, users have fully embraced the use of voice in the home with “over 40% of smart speaker owners now having multiple devices, up from 34% in 2018.”

This suggests that more and more users are finding it useful to have a voice assistant available regardless of where they are in the home at any given time.

The report also sheds light on which rooms are most likely to include a smart speaker. Use in the living room is the most popular by far (44.4% of users), but the bedroom (37.6% of users) and kitchen (32.7% of users) are also proving to be useful spots for voice interaction.

Outside of the home, it’s no surprise that with hands and eyes occupied, the car is one of the most popular spots in which to interact with voice tech.

“Nearly twice as many U.S. adults have used voice assistants in the car (114 million) as through a smart speaker (57.8 million). The car also claims far more monthly active voice users at 77 million compared to 45.7 million.” (Source)

Probably the most omnipotent location for voice is our phones.

Google’s ‘Voice Search’ and Apple’s ‘Siri’ debuted on our phones around a decade ago and were the first glimpses into what a voice-controlled world might look like. Mobile voice tech accuracy and usefulness have grown significantly through time and as of 2019, 70.2% of adults in the United States have given voice a try via their phones (Source).

Voice is with us wherever we go, which might lead one to wonder: What exactly are we doing with it?

Voice tech applications

 

In an article for Machine Design, use cases were laid out for voice tech in the medical field. For example, during an exam, “having a listening device in the room with [a] patient has a lot of potential for capturing clinical notes, identifying billing codes, or even providing clinical decision support during the encounter,” freeing up the doctor to focus not on paperwork, but on the person whom they’re treating.

Another space where voice is getting interesting is Customer Service.

Most people can relate to the frustration of having a poor call with a customer service department, or even worse, their automated voice system.

However, with the advent of emotion recognition software, friction-filled support calls may be a thing of the past — it can “recognize customer emotion by considering parameters such as the number of pauses in the operator’s speech, the change in voice volume, and the total conversation time in order to do a real-time calculation [of] a Customer Satisfaction Index.” (Source)

There are many different ways emotion recognition technology could be implemented in a real-time support interaction.

For instance, knowing whether a customer is upset might allow a voice system to switch their approach with the customer, or perhaps transfer them to a human representative when the computer ‘senses’ that a call may be going south.

Customer Support solutions aren’t the only application of emotion recognition either.

For instance, we use it here at Audioburst to help determine the context and intent of new audio when it is imported into our system. Knowing whether a specific piece of content is happy, sad, angry, anxious, or even just neutral plays a vital role in providing personalized listening experiences, tailored to our users’ environment, interests, and personalities.

How consumers are using voice assistants

 

  1. Search covers queries like asking a general question, checking the weather, news, or a sports team’s current standings. These queries require the voice assistant to understand the true intent and context of the question, and then externally seek and return the correct answer.
  2. Commands are much more straightforward, including tasks like setting an alarm, making a phone call, or streaming audio from a chosen app.

The top three uses of smart speakers are asking general questions, streaming music, and checking the weather, with over 80% of smart speaker owners having tried these functionalities at least once. The above report notes one interesting piece of data from the use case results: smart home control is ninth in terms of whether or not a user has ‘ever tried’ the feature but fourth for daily active use.

Read: while not everyone has smart home devices such as lights or thermostats, those who do are likely to use their smart speaker to control them every day.

In-Car, voice assistants are used to take care of tasks like making a phone call, texting, asking for directions, and queueing up audio entertainment selections. These tasks would otherwise require the driver to pull over or take their attention away from the act of driving.

With many municipalities invoking ‘hands-free’ laws for drivers, the functionality is not only convenient but imperative.

Beyond using smart speakers at home and embracing in-car assistants, voice technology can also be found scattered throughout daily life. Taking orders at restaurants and even providing concierge services at hotels. New uses are emerging every day and it’ll be interesting to see where voice will install itself next.

Despite this rapid adoption, there is still some hesitancy

There are reports of personal conversations being unintentionally sent to random people in a user’s contact list, Alexa maintaining a record of every conversation you’ve ever had with the device (you can delete it), incidents of Alexa spontaneously laughing (not a privacy risk, but definitely creepy!), and the recent revelation that Amazon employees are actively listening to user conversations.

However, as alarming as these examples may sound, privacy concerns don’t seem to be stopping people from buying smart speakers.

Voicebot points out that though ⅔ of U.S. consumers have some amount of concern over privacy issues with smart speakers, it doesn’t necessarily appear to be a barrier to purchase and adoption.

“The privacy concerns for all consumers and those that do not own smart speakers are nearly identical. For example, only 27.7% of consumers without smart speakers said they were very concerned about privacy issues compared to 21.9% of device owners. This means that even some consumers with privacy concerns went ahead and purchased smart speakers.”

There are also concerns that barking orders at smart assistants all day may be making us forget our manners.

While the concern is for both adults and children, when it comes to kids, tech companies themselves are putting some behavior modification solutions into play in the form of ‘please and thank you’ apps and skills. There are even camps that are vehemently opposed to showing artificial intelligence the same courtesies we show fellow human beings.

Conclusion

 

Voice is changing how we interact with the world.

The technology is improving at record speeds and all eyes are on the space. It’s exciting to think about how additional research and data, as well as advances in technology and understanding, will influence voice communication’s ability to grow and evolve.

As for me, I’ve been the subject of approximately 4,782 Alexa jokes since that initial jab in 2015. While I know they are intended to be funny, I still can’t suppress my instinct to sigh and roll my eyes, reminiscing about the good old days when no one had ever heard of the name Alexa.

That being said, as I sit here at my desk, preparing to go to bed, I’ve found myself lifting my phone to quietly ask Siri to set my alarm for 7 am and to turn off the lights.

I must’ve gotten on that voice train after all.

 

Audioburst and Flipboard team up to offer audio-only content for users on-the-go

 

In an era of self-publishing, quality articles and smart, thought-provoking audio are in infinite supply. Though choice sounds like a positive thing, it is often paralyzing. When faced with pages and pages of unfamiliar search results, it’s often just easier to stick to our tried and true outlets.

Who wants to be stressed out by something that is supposed to be fun? No one, that’s who!

At Audioburst, content discovery is a topic that is very close to our hearts. This is why we are pleased to announce that we are officially live on Flipboard, the internet’s leading news content discovery platform (CLICK HERE to follow our publication).

 

Starting now, Flipboard users can enjoy our signature short-form audio ‘bursts’ alongside their favorite website, news feed, and social media content.

 

We’ve launched with 10 magazines including Top Stories, Business News, Sports News, World News, Entertainment News, and Offbeat Stories, among others. With topics so varied, there’s something to pique everyone’s interest, and as usual with Audioburst, you’ll only find relevant content.

Today’s on-the-go listener doesn’t have any time for filler…and neither do we!

 

                  

 

Audioburst on Flipboard has been quietly undergoing a beta period for the past few weeks, and we have been blown away by the response so far.

Flipboard users have listened to more than 300,000 ‘bursts’ and more than 600,000 minutes of top-notch, curated audio content. It’s been amazing to see Flipboard users embrace the burst, and we can’t wait for you to start seeing bursts popping up in your Cover Stories too.

What are you waiting for?! Head on over to Flipboard and hit the follow button today!

 

Audioburst is excited to announce new investments and strategic partnerships with Dentsu and Hyundai

 

Spring is the time of year for new beginnings and growth, and at Audioburst, we are leaning into the season with an announcement of two new strategic and investment partnerships.

Today Audioburst is unveiling plans to build unique advertising and in-car voice-based experiences with brands Dentsu Inc. and Hyundai Motor Company, respectively.

These partnerships are accompanied by investments, in conjunction with existing investors, totaling $10M. In addition to our partnership announcements, we are also pleased to share our plans to launch Audioburst in the Japanese market at the end of 2019, marking our first move outside of English-language content.

“The investments signal an industry acknowledgment for consumer demand of voice-based experiences, and Audioburst’s unmatched ability to deliver that technology” — Amir Hirsh, Co-Founder and CEO, Audioburst.

“It also provides us the ability to expand and expedite our technology offering, and tap into a larger ecosystem of investors and partners in the car, media, advertising, and technology spaces.”

From 0 to… 9: The origins of voice tech

 

Long before our current era of ‘smart’ phones, speakers, and cars, people had a strong desire to crack the code of voice technology.

The first voice recognition technologies emerged in the 1950s and 60s, but with limited capabilities. Developed by Bell Laboratories in 1952, ‘Audrey’ was the world’s first voice-assistant with the ability to recognize digits 0–9 when spoken by a human counterpart.

A few years later in 1962, IBM’s ‘Shoebox’ debuted at the World’s Fair. It too recognized numbers 0–9, but could also do basic computational tasks and understood 16 English words.

William Dersch’s Shoebox

While this may not sound like a substantial feat, as an article in PC World notes, “these first efforts were an impressive start, especially when you consider how primitive computers themselves were at the time.”

Over the next few decades, the field of speech recognition continued to make progress, but it wasn’t until Google added voice search to its mobile app for iPhone (2008) and Apple unveiled ‘Siri’ (2011) that voice as a true consumer option became a reality.

“What we really want to do is just talk to our device, ask a simple question, and get a response! In fact, we don’t want to be told how to talk to it, we want to talk to it any way we like” — Philip Schiller on Siri and voice technology at large.

Voice is reaching a crescendo

Voice technology has made exponential advances in the eight years since the release of ‘Siri,’ parallel to an expanding consumer market for voice-controlled products.

According to TechCrunch, U.K.-based analysts at Juniper Research estimate that “there will be 8 billion digital voice assistants in use by 2023, up from the 2.5 billion assistants in use at the end of 2018.” Read: We’re in the midst of a voice revolution. More and more consumers are using this technology to keep in step with what are increasingly busy and active lifestyles.

From checking in on news and current events to listening to a favorite podcast or radio show, voice is helping today’s consumer access content on-the-go, keeping them both connected and entertained.

Voice and the growing pains of audio

Despite significant advances in technology, voice still falls short in providing ideal listener experiences:

  • Without an audio equivalent of the text-based search engine, voice searches still are unable to provide original-voice responses and are more often than not lacking in contextual relevance
  • Audio content and the devices it’s distributed on are siloed. It’s hard to listen to a podcast followed by the weather and then check the score from last night’s game all in one app, not to mention all on one platform as we switch from car (infotainment system) to the gym (phone) to our homes (smart speakers)

What does this mean for voice?

Both voice search and audio content listening solutions are ill-equipped to provide seamless transitions in these moments due to competing ecosystems and content offerings.

Moreover, in addition to challenges for the listener, the strategy for voice monetization is still largely undefined, leaving brands and advertisers unsure of how to best tap into this new channel.

But that’s about to change.

Today’s partnership and investment announcements mark the starting point for a shift in the tide to an interconnected ecosystem of voice. Brands and companies can now have the ability to leverage next-gen listening experiences and rise to these challenges, well-positioning themselves to thrive in a new market built on the shoulders of voice.

Audioburst’s in-car infotainment player and search engine

Taking on the in-car voice experience

According to a recent blog post by Chartable, “A quarter of all listeners do the majority of their podcast listening in their car… and as more cars adopt Apple’s CarPlay and Android Auto, people are choosing to listen to podcasts or streaming services like Spotify or Apple Music rather than AM/FM radio.”

This new focus on streaming audio and in-car options beyond the AM/FM dial means that OEMs must act quickly to make these options more easily accessible, or be left behind.

Hyundai plans to add Audioburst’s personalized audio search, playlists, and Deep Analysis API to its Hyundai and Kia models’ infotainment systems providing drivers with an engaging, screen-free, and original-voice experience.

This move will also put the company in a prime position to respond to user behavior, utilizing Audioburst’s ability to understand real-time consumer audio content consumption.

Advertising in the age of voice technology

 

45% of millennials use voice assistants while shopping and “96% of retailers are investing in technology to allow consumers to shop for their brand on smart speakers,” (RetailMeNot) making the design and implementation of intelligent, audio-based advertising solutions an absolute must when trying to reach today’s consumer.

As such, Dentsu, the 5th largest global advertising agency, will be working closely with Audioburst to build a new market for personalized audio as an effective advertising channel for brands in Japan.

An Audioburst solution will help provide their clients with actionable insights into listener fascinations and behavior.

The future of voice-driven audio content

 

The road to fully experiencing the power of voice technology has been long, however now that we’ve arrived, it’s time to drill down on the fundamentals of what a good audio experience looks (and sounds) like for the voice-connected listener.

Users want real-time, personalized, immersive listening experiences that rely on voice technology. This means companies need to look deep and provide a user experience that is contextually aware and always keeping their users’ interests, habits, and personalities at the core of discovery.

Thankfully, unlike those early voice pioneers, we don’t have to wait decades for the technology to catch up — Audioburst is here, ready to deliver, via a voice assistant near you.

It’s news to no one that in 2019, content consumption is at an all-time high. We’re living in an age of dawn to dusk connectivity where it’s extremely difficult not to be distracted by the next news story, viral meme, or cat video.

One thing that might be surprising, however, is that even with well-known channels like Netflix and YouTube constantly vying for our attention, audio is still a primary format for popular content consumption.

  • 92% of Americans listen to the radio each week (Nielsen)
  • Streaming audio has become a weekly habit for 60% of Americans, with the average American spending 16 hours and 43 minutes listening to online audio per week (Edison Research)
  • Podcasting is also taking off, with American’s share of time listening to podcasts has grown 122% since 2014 (Share of Ear)
  • Podcast revenues are forecasted to reach $659 million by 2020, a 110% hike from 2017 (IAB)

More and more listeners are grabbing their headphones and tuning in, but in a culture where most people can’t even get through dinner without checking their smartphone, can audio really be as captivating as these statistics imply?

In a World Always Looking to the Next Big Thing, Why Audio?

Instead of asking why audio, you might start by asking, “Why anything but audio?”

For the majority of human history, communication has primarily been carried out through the oral tradition. It’s only in the last 6,000 years that anything else has been in existence.

Human language is thought to have developed around 200,000 BCE, with no evidence of symbol usage present until around 30,000 BCE when the first examples of cave paintings appear. Fast forward through the Upper Paleolithic period, it isn’t until 3500–2900 BCE that we see the early signs of written communication emerge with the Sumerians’ invention of the cuneiform and later, the Egyptian’s development of hieroglyphs.

While the Phoenician alphabet came around 1050 BCE, it still took another 3,000 years to get us to email, smartphones, and the internet, with the majority of today’s tech innovations occurring in the last 200 years.

Graphic: Conversation Design by Erika Hall

Throughout all of these advances in delivery, the oral tradition persisted. In fact, no matter what “the next big thing” is, we always seem to revert to voice.

The invention of the printing press, film, and the electric telegraph were answered with the telephone, phonograph, and radio, indicating that the urge to connect, preserve, and share ideas through voice and sound is an innate human desire.

Today we are in the midst of another audio renaissance.

Though much of the last 70 years focused on 20th-century advances like television, video, computers, and the internet, all of these technologies, while aiming to bring people together, have instead helped create the detached, complicated, and hurried lives we live today.

The response? Looking for connection in a more intimate form. As such, people are yearning to return to audio and voice, a more natural, personal, frictionless medium.

A New Era of Audio

In an article from the Atlantic, Emma Rodero, a communications professor at the Pompeu Fabra University in Barcelona, is quoted as saying, “Audio is one of the most intimate forms of media because you are constantly building your own images of the story in your mind and you’re creating your own production…and that of course, is something that you can never get with visual media.”

This intimacy, personalization, and connection to content are the driving forces of this new era of audio.

Today’s listeners are from a generation where choice and on-demand experiences are the norm. They only seek audio they can genuinely relate to on a visceral level, and anything else is just noise.

Aside from listening experiences needing to be personally relatable, contemporary audiences are looking for media that can adapt to a life of constant transition. Audio content is innately portable and available across virtually all popular devices and platforms. This ease in mobile consumption makes audio the natural choice for people on the go.

Lastly, modern audio is built around a lifestyle of multi-tasking.

Unlike video or print, audio is not reliant on visual or tactile interaction with its delivery device. Audio is in your ear, and easily controlled through voice technology, making the listening experience as hands-off and screen independent as is dictated by a given situation. Whether navigating through heavy traffic, working out, or the more mundane task of brushing teeth, the ability to consume content while focus is elsewhere is an absolute must.

With Popularity Comes Growing Pains

As the demand for audio content has risen, the space has grown increasingly saturated. The influx of content and interest has created many challenges, but some of the main pain points center around Discoverability, Accessibility, and Monetization.

Discoverability

A recent blog post by Chartable notes that “in 2018, an average of 575 podcasts were started every day — that’s about one podcast every three minutes” and TechCrunch noted last June that “Apple Podcasts currently hosts north of 550,000 active shows.”

That is a lot of podcasts.

Given the sheer amount of content being put onto the metaphorical airwaves each day, it becomes near impossible for listeners to uncover new material that might be relevant to their interests as there are no tools to navigate the space.

On the opposite end of the spectrum, podcasters want to step in and get their content in front of the right audience, but being heard above the din of the crowd is extremely difficult.

Podcasts, however, are not the only format struggling.

Traditional AM/FM radio remains the most consumed form of audio, but it has a major Achilles Heel that is rarely discussed. In a world where every aspect of life is documented, shared, and forever preserved, terrestrial radio fades into the ether post-broadcast.

There is no easy way to easily revisit or share a favorite moment from a radio story — even if it was streamed.

While some radio broadcasts are archived online, it’s usually in large audio files, which may or may not include show notes or segment timestamps.

The magic of audio is nestled in those small snippets of content that you want to preserve and share, but when people don’t even have the time to listen to a podcast at normal speed, who has the time to dig through hours of content for 30 seconds of audio? Or worse yet, go through a database of hundreds of thousands of podcasts looking for something relevant?

Without a way to search through all of this audio contextually, there is no way to create the personal, intimate listening experiences that today’s audiences demand.

Accessibility

Cloud-based services have taught consumers to expect media to smoothly flow with them from one device to another, from one task to the next. Listeners need to be able to seamlessly move from the car to their office to making dinner, all without having to pause.

While great strides towards this goal have been made, for all audio aside from music, the results are a mixed bag.

Smart speakers still haven’t fully embraced podcasts, and when it comes to the news, they rely on flash briefings from a computerized voice.

Advances in artificial intelligence have made smart assistants more personable; though it still isn’t the same as hearing content in its original voice .

Native audio in cars allow for content direct from radio sources, but access to podcasts still requires a peripheral device. Smartphones, tablets, and computers do the best job of providing seamless listening experiences, but users still must rely on multiple applications to fully meet their listening needs.

Another barrier to users accessing audio is the modern-day problem of context-switching.

While you might not consider this an obvious barrier to the medium, the issue crystalizes when you consider how distracted and overwhelmed we are as a society. An infographic by Inc. notes that we spend an average of just 1 minute and 15 seconds on a task before being interrupted.

That is not a lot of time. To make it worse, Inc. also points out that it takes a whopping 25 minutes to resume a task once interrupted.

With the average radio show lasting 2–3 hours and podcasts usually coming in at 30–45 minutes, finding an audio format that will meet the distracted listener where they are is a huge challenge.

Monetization

It is often reported that podcasting is easy to get into because all you need is your voice and a recording device, and while technically true, the idea is misleading. Even if the host chooses to go with a minimalist equipment setup, podcasts also require substantial time commitments for not only recording, but for research, editing, and promotion.

The adage ‘time is money’ may be cliche, but for a reason. Many podcasters embrace sponsorship, reading out commercials about everything from mattresses to underwear in order to bring in revenue to sustain production, but if your show doesn’t have a large following, sponsorship deals can be sparse.

Companies and App Developers also struggle with audio monetization. The two populations see the benefit of adding audio to their products — increased engagement and retention. However, beyond avoiding churn, what else is in it for them?

Companies, Developers, Creators, and Listeners all feel the draw to audio, but still aren’t exactly sure how to get content when they want, how they want, and how to benefit from it once they have it.

What is needed to resolve these pain points is a native audio solution that will:

  • Work in an omnichannel setting
  • Be tailored to a multi-tasking world
  • Present both deep and contextual audio content
  • Personalize the listening experience
  • Give companies actionable listening insights
  • Shed light on the monetization possibilities of audio

It’s a tall order to fill, but there is a solution that is up to the task.

Connecting Listeners to the World’s Audio Content

Audioburst’s vision is to empower the proliferation of ideas, knowledge, and perspectives through universal access to the world’s audio content. The best way to do this in a hectic, fast-paced world is to make sure that you’re meeting users where they are…

…and the best way to do that is to be everywhere.

Audioburst works with the world’s leading companies in seamlessly integrating next-gen audio content solutions to increase user engagement, gain valuable insights from audio analytics and listening data, and create new revenue streams for brands and content creators.

We provide not only access to content, but also the tools that it takes to navigate that content, which in turn, eases the friction of interacting with audio for companies, developers, creators, and ultimately, listeners.

How it Works

Using Automatic Speech Recognition (ASR) and Natural Language Processing (NLP), Audioburst listens, distills, contextualizes, and indexes audio content from both podcasts and radio into bite-sized “bursts,” diffusing the noise, and creating the short-form building blocks required for deeply personalized, immersive listening experiences, ideal for the busy lives of today’s listeners.

We then partner with companies to seamlessly integrate our solutions into their products through the use of our easy to implement APIs.

This opens the door to data-driven audio content experiences, including personalized playlists based on listening identities, real-time audio alerts for user-specified terms, and access to a robust audio search engine that provides results not based solely on keywords, but also intent, context, and timing.

Our solutions form a complete audio ecosystem that removes the difficulties of navigating a densely populated audio landscape:

Discoverability

Radio broadcasts that previously went uncaptured and podcasts that got lost in the shuffle are now easily accessible with the help of a powerful AI-driven audio search engine that draws on context and listener identities to provide a customized experience.

Accessibility

With Audioburst technology baked into a diverse array of products and applications, the on-the-go user can easily move between multiple devices, our personalized listening experience providing short form, digestible content that transitions with them without skipping a beat.

Audioburst Wizard

Distribution & Monetization

Partnerships with leading brands such as Bose, Samsung, and LG allow content creators to benefit from increased distribution and visibility, while both partners and creators gain access to new monetization opportunities via rev-share.

Data & Analysis

Partners and Developers benefit from access to essential listening data and audio content analytics that can unlock what drives customers — their interests, behaviors, and values.

Audio is here to stay

It’s an exciting time for both Audioburst, and for audio itself as a vehicle for information, engagement, and entertainment.

Our focus remains on bridging the gap between knowledge and access, listening for new ways that we can ease any bumps in the road that get in the way of audio’s continued success.

While some might worry that audio is yesterday’s news, we take comfort in knowing that it will be tomorrow’s as well.