I came across an article by Cory Treffiletti in MediaPost that posed the question, “can advertisers monetize voice?” Cory boiled the current possibilities down to two opportunities – voice search and custom skills. With search, advertisers will need to create more conversational content rather than traditional text content, as the way those results are retrieved is audibly. This is a challenge in itself because of just how new and different this equation is than the incumbent method that we’ve grown accustomed to.
As far as custom skills go, there are hundreds of thousands of registered developers that are creating voice skills to sell to businesses or as consumer-oriented skills, and some have been quite successful, such as Nick Schwab. Companies like VoiceXP have taken the platform approach, to enable virtually any business, of any size, to create it’s own custom skills and create a voice web presence.
In talking with VoiceXP CEO, Bob Stolzberg, for the Harvard Business review article I wrote about businesses using smart speakers as a channel to communicate with their customers, he pointed out that creating a skill is only half the battle. The other half is creating consumer awareness. Just as Cory pointed out in the article with the Pringles example, companies need to take it a step further and really drive awareness toward the skill. Leveraging traditional marketing methods to make people aware of the new marketing channels.
It’s a really well thought article and while the article focused on monetization, Cory did a very good job of concisely articulating what makes voice simultaneously so exciting and promising, while also being quite challenging:
Voice is an interface. It is a UI. In fact, you could consider voice to eventually become something like an operating system in that it gives you a means to access the tools that are important to you, but it is not a tool in and of itself.
It’s also much larger than that. Voice is a way to interact or engage with technology and consumers. It is not a media format to directly monetize. You don’t see ads embedded in Windows or the Apple operating systems, so why would you expect to hear ads embedded in a voice UI?
This is spot on. It’s easy to forget that voice represents a multitude of things. It is akin to Windows and Apple’s OS in that it is the active environment where you interact with the technology and access its utility. The assistants that serve as the UI play the part of mediator and facilitator, and given the context of what you need from your assistant, can lead to an environment where advertising is appropriate. This is no different than being advertised to through all the apps on your phone, whether it be Yelp, Facebook, Pandora, etc. We enter in and out of different apps (environments), which we knowingly and expect to be advertised within.
Sometimes, however, our smart assistants become the “app.” One minute I might be asking Alexa for general inquiries, such as the weather or to play a podcast, and the next I’m asking to shop. When I’m shopping, is it suddenly appropriate for Alexa to advertise to me based on the context? If I’m indicating that I want particular type of item, with no brand specificity, does that prompt Alexa to start suggesting different (paid?) results based on what it knows about me? The same goes for Google, when I ask it to tell me about the best restaurants in a given proximity, is it going to have paid results fed to me first?
The fact of the matter is that voice is a new type of web, it’s a new type of computing, it’s a new user interface, and it’s seemingly on the path to being a full blown OS. There are a few ways to monetize it today, but like the dawn of the internet, we’re only seeing a glimpse of what’s possible that will only become more apparent as the technology as a whole matures over time.
-Thanks for Reading-