Steve Goldstein: Podcast listening on smart speakers is less than 1%, but things are looking up

Steve Goldstein’s Amplifi Media works with media companies and podcasters in developing audio content strategies. Goldstein writes frequently at Blogstein, the Amplifi blog.

One would think smart speakers in kitchens, bedrooms, bathrooms and living rooms, would be a fantastic growth opportunity for podcast listening in the home, yet for the most part, that hasn’t happened. Right now, less than 1% of podcast listening occurs on smart speakers. That’s 200 million speakers worldwide that podcasts are not being listened to on.

While voice commands simplify so many things – “Alexa, play Lil Nas” – the lack of a user interface such as a screen on a mobile device makes discoverability and navigation on smart speakers a challenge for podcast listening.

Recent announcements from Amazon, Apple and Spotify will hopefully mark big steps in the right direction for improving the experience of podcast listening on smart speakers and turbo-charge growth.

Apple Podcasts is now fully integrated on Amazon Echo devices in the U.S. By linking an Apple ID to Amazon, users can listen to and seamlessly sync their listening from device-to-device. You can say things like “Alexa resume “The Daily” on Apple Podcasts” or “play Dave Ramsey from yesterday” or “skip ahead 30 seconds.” That’s something Amazon’s Audible subscribers have been able to do for some time which makes shifting listening from taking a walk to listening in the car or home effortless.

As a separate step, users can also set Apple Podcasts as the default podcast provider for Alexa. That means you won’t need to add “Apple Podcasts” to each query.

All of this is particularly significant as it signals a desire by Apple to boost distribution and listening beyond their walls. It is the first third-party integration for Apple Podcasts. As other podcast platforms grow and Apple’s dominance slides, it feels like a smart retention play. It follows a move last year which brought Apple Music to Alexa.

Spotify recently announced that its free tier will now work on Alexa, and of course that includes their rapidly growing podcast presence. Another boost.

Google Podcasts automatically integrates into Google Assistant.

Clarity Of User Benefit Is At The Core Of All Behavioral Change

None of this, however, will automatically grow podcast listening on smart speakers. That only happens with awareness and education. Podcasters must put promotional muscle behind it. We have seen this in our work with other applications and platforms. Clarity of user benefit is at the core of all behavioral change. Nothing happens until a clear case is made, defining in just a few words the pain point being solved, why it is better and ease of use. That definition must be followed by extensive awareness and education and critically important, teaching prospective users “how to.”

Podcasters who have been around for a few years certainly recall that we are not that far away from “yes, you already have a podcast app on your phone.” And most Americans are still not listening to podcasts, so the education phase is far from over.

Is There Some Type Of Federal Mandate On The Phrase “Wherever You Get Your Podcasts?”

Rather than defaulting to the often-used phrase ‘wherever you get your podcasts”- BTW, is there some type of federal mandate on that phrase? – podcasters should consider spending brief but instructional effort on how to listen to podcasts on smart speakers and other devices, and importantly not bury it at the end of a podcast.

User experience is everything. That’s why listening to podcasts has been such a challenge on smart speakers. Alexa compatibility with Spotify and Apple Podcasts reduces much of the complexity and increases the probability of actually getting to the podcast one wants to hear without much friction.

But it will only happen if people know about it.

Steve Goldstein