CMO

Southern Cross Radio hits smart speaker and app news milestone

Network announces key milestone in digital news on demand service and eyes future development in smart speaker space as adoption of voice-activate devices rises

Southern Cross Austereo (SCA) says it has achieved more than one million listens to its 'News on Demand' smart speakers and app service, less than two years after launch, reflecting fast adoption of voice-activated device engagement.

The on-demand, voice-based news service is available on Google Home and Amazon Alexa smart speakers and across the Hit and Triple M network apps. SCA claims to be the first commercial media company to provide news on-demand on smart speakers by repurposing live broadcast news bulletins into ‘smart news’ bulletins available via these devices.

“We are thrilled with this milestone for our News on Demand service, that is proving more and more popular as Australians look to access local news when it suits them,” said SCA head of news and current affairs, Natasha Jobson.

In Australia, smart speaker adoption is rapidly rising. According to a recent Statistica.com report, integrated virtual assistants were found in Internet-connected homes of 16 per cent of respondents. The survey was based on 1047 respondents in March 2019.

In addition, the Voice of Us study by creative agency, The Works, in conjunction with the University of Technology Sydney, claimed almost 3 million Australians have a smart speaker in their home or office, making Australians one of the fastest adopters of the technology on a per capita basis.

SCA says its on-demand news updates are up 107 per cent year-on-year for its Hit and Triple M networks, according to the network’s News AoD Report from the week of 21 October 2019. The media outlet is now exploring different methods to produce news content, including partnering with existing local news publishers to provide stories in different formats and platforms, as well as educating consumers about the availability of the news service.

According SCA CEO, Grant Blackley, the network has 900 minutes of news per week developed specifically for smart speakers - devices that will be a key part of its development plans - and is “looking to develop longer form news stories and exclusive interviews for on demand”.

“It also underscores our commitment to a voice-activated digital future,” Blackley said.

News isn't the only section of the media to expect changes as uptake of smart speakers grows. According to the Voice of Us study, which examined how Australians are adopting and using new social technologies, 12 per cent of respondents have used one of these devices and it has major implications for brand's search strategies, but privacy concerns from users remain a potential threat to greater uptake. The online survey, a representative sample of more than 2000 people aged 15 years and over, was overlaid with census data from the Australian Bureau of Statistics.

However, while voice enabled technology has been embraced by Australians, more than nine in ten (91 per cent) have concerns with using it, with being hacked the major issue for 32 percent of respondents, closely followed by 31 per cent who had worries their conversations were being recorded or saved.

For marketers, who have invested heavily in search engine optimisation for online rankings, the growth in the use of assistants and smart speakers poses significant new challenges. The Works managing partner, Douglas Nicol, believes a voice search optimisation strategy will gain more importance as voice search queries grow. 

“Appearing in Google’s position zero, also called the featured snippet, which shows web pages above the first search results is vital as it’s what Google uses to respond to voice searches. While some larger organisations are now actively building capabilities in this area, the majority are not and this has the potential to impact on future revenue growth.”

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