Smart Speakers, Podcasts and Text-to-Speech – How Are Publishers Implementing Audio?

19 September 2019


Audio content is changing the way readers consume and interact with content. For publishers it is proving to be an extremely successful way of increasing reader engagement, creating new loyal audiences and improving accessibility for some readers.
We are seeing voice content being integrated into publishing platforms in many forms, such as news briefings and long-form content on smart speakers, topical podcasts and text-to-speech functionality.

Smart Devices (Google Home/Alexa)

According to a new report released by Edison Research, more than 53 million Americans now own a smart speaker and 72% of people who own smart speakers say their devices are part of their daily routines. So there is no surprise publishers are building-specific voice teams such as NYT voice editor Dan Sanchez, who is trying to create an authentic voice, platform he explains – “We’re not just reading you a set of headlines, but actually trying to form an emotional connection.” This proves large publishers really are taking this platform seriously.
Smart devices are being used by newspaper publishers predominately to create daily news briefings about top headlines in an attempt to form daily habits. After this has been achieved they are then trying to create longer-form content to immerse readers further within their brand.
Newspapers are also finding great traction in attracting and building relationships with younger audiences with their content on smart speakers. This format better suits their consumption habits and the on-demand manner they are used to when consuming content. A great way to tackle the issue of engaging younger demographics!
This platform doesn’t come without its challenges, publishers are finding it difficult to monetise, discover content and of course, the obvious issues around privacy are some reasons why publishers are still holding back on audio. However, the engagement levels achieved cannot be ignored, it must be part of the content strategy.


We have also seen an increase in requests for podcasts to be integrated into newspaper apps. The Guardian, The New York Times, Politiken, The Economist, and the Financial Times are amongst the many publishers that have successful daily news podcasts. These publishers all have differing podcast strategies, Politiken is using podcasts to increase the value of its digital subscription as an add-on to premium subscribers, whilst the NYT has 10m monthly listeners to their free daily news roundup which is also rebroadcasted on radio app.

The proportion using each type of podcast monthly (all countries) 
News content totals 15% share of podcast shows and therefore has the great potential for the newspapers to tap into different audiences. PageSuite is currently integrating podcast functionality into their apps which is arriving shortly.


A completely different use case for spoken audio content is the text-to-speech feature available in some apps. Of course, it can be a great feature to simply read your articles out loud in a podcast format, but it can also serve a slightly different set of needs. Some people with certain disabilities, including people who are blind or partially blind, can use this feature to read articles aloud or it can assist people who cannot read the written language.
It is clear smart speakers and voice technologies are changing reader habits and news media companies are beginning to invest in audio tech to produce on-demand audio content. For publishers, voice is set to have a huge impact on the way their readers not only consume news content but also the way we interact with all content. It is predicted 50% of all searches will be voice searches by 2020, so now is a great time to invest in audio content as smart speaker owners are spending more time listening to on-demand news, music, podcasts, and books.

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