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The Future of News on Smart Speakers

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At Nieman Lab, Laura Hazard Owen checks in on whether and how people are consuming news on smart speakers and smart displays. It turns out, they aren’t, really:

Smart speaker news briefings didn’t get much love from users in this research. Here are some of the complaints Newman heard:

โ€” Overlong updates โ€” the typical duration is around five minutes, but many wanted something much shorter.

โ€” They are not updated often enough. News and sports bulletins are sometimes hours or days out of date.

โ€” Some bulletins still use synthesized voices (text to speech), which many find hard to listen to.

โ€” Some updates have low production values or poor audio quality.

โ€” Where bulletins from different providers run together, there is often duplication of stories.

โ€” Some updates have intrusive jingles or adverts.

โ€” There is no opportunity to skip or select stories.

Based on my experience with these devices and general trends in news and media consumption, I have a few predictions as to how this will change in the near future:

  • Audio news updates will get shorter and more specialized. The New York Times using The Daily as a “flash briefing” is really the ne plus ultra of cramming content not designed for smart speakers into the space. I had to pull them as a news source because of it.
  • Audio news updates will move from pull to push. Unless you put it on “do not disturb,” you’ll hear a news update just after it’s posted, rather than having to ask for it.
  • In other words, autoplay is coming.
  • Video will get more important as more of these devices add screens. And video offers all sorts of extra affordances and business models.
  • All of these things will happen faster than the advertisements improving. That’ll happen last if it happens at all.