For the past few years, I have been immersed in the world of on-demand audio.  The proliferation of the smartphone and great new audio content have been the catalysts to sharp growth in podcast consumption.  Today, 67 million people listen to podcasts each month, and among 18-34-year-olds, the growth and penetration is impressive and points the way to systemic change.   

While listening to podcasts is getting easier, there is still plenty of friction in selecting, downloading and playing them.  What if that process was reduced simply to asking for a program and it magically started playing? 

That is the promise and potential of voice assistants.  According to data from Jacob Media’s latest Tech Survey report, 11% of households already have access to one of these devices. That is crazy fast.

Amazon’s Echo, in particular, has become a juggernaut in a short period of time.  Along with Goggle Home, sales are projected to hit 27 million units this year.  Gartner predicts that 75% of U.S. homes will have one by 2020.  That’s less than three years away.    

The implications for podcasting and radio are huge.

All of this is the catalyst to a new and exciting partnership we are announcing today:

Amplifi Media is joining forces with Jacobs Media’s Mobile App Development unit, Jacapps. 

Today we are debuting a new joint venture, SONICAi.”  This new company develops “skills” for voice command devices.  We strategize, design and create spoken word software for voice assistants.

Our partners in this new startup are two longtime friends and business associates, Fred and Paul Jacobs.  We have a long history. Fred and I worked together at ABC Radio in the 70’s and later when I lived in Detroit, there were countless excursions to a rib place nearby. Jacobs Media was a valued partner during my time with Saga Communications.  In addition, Robert Kernen, who heads Jacapps, is a longtime colleague.  All of this creates a perfect environment for the development of solutions and strategies for broadcast and podcast. 

Joining us is Lee Davis.  Lee is a top-flight media manager, having run WFAN, and WINS in New York and headed national sales at Univision Radio.

We are not the first to this space.  But we’re positioned as the company where a team of strategic programmers will attack radio’s opportunities to accurately access radio streams and go beyond to create “skills” that we believe will drive ratings, revenue, and brands.

We also see voice assistants as a leveler on the playing field for podcasts.  On these devices, it is just as easy to access a podcast as Spotify.  Just ask. 

Radio continues to be challenged in the home.  With some imagination, these devices open pathways to engagement with listeners which go way beyond a station stream.  Our vision includes audio clips, features, podcasts and services which are designed for time shifting, retention and growth. 

For podcasters, discovery, ease of navigation and easy to recall utterances will be key growth factors. 

Here is a video which describes what SONICAi – or Sai – is all about:

The website is SonicAi.com

We are very excited about this new venture and the possibilities and solutions ahead with voice assistants.  

I am looking forward to speaking about podcasting at Canadian Music Week on Wednesday (4/19) of this week in Toronto.  

I am looking forward to speaking about podcasting at Canadian Music Week on Wednesday (4/19) of this week in Toronto.  

Comment