Radio France Commits to Voice Beyond the Smart Speaker

Pippa Rimmer – Radio France

Pippa Rimmer, head of app products for Radio France sees voice assistants as an important distribution channel beyond the smart speakers and the entire space represents the revenge of radio. Why revenge? After many years of digital focus on written and video content, voice assistants put audio back into the spotlight. That is clearly where radio shines despite forays into other media. Rimmer expanded on point of view during a panel discussion at the Smart Voice Summit in Paris last week.

“When SEO was invented, suddenly radio had to think how we can make that content crawlable. We had to start writing articles so that we would appear in search results so that we would get discovered. Now, we are in the other situation. With voice interfaces it is a voice-first platform and we kind of have the upper hand versus the written press who are also trying to be present in the space. But, they don’t have the vocal material that we do. That is something that is our DNA. We know how to talk to people. We know how to design sound experiences.

“What we know is that text-to-speech has a place on these platforms and it is hugely versatile. As it was said previously, text-to-speech might be okay for perhaps a couple of sentences, but not for a whole article and not for an hour. The content we have at Radio France you might want to listen to for an hour. So, that’s how we are taking our revenge.”

Voice Assistants Tailor Made for Voice and the Car

The number one use case for smart speakers is consistently reported by consumers as listening to audio content. An extensive survey in 2017 by Edison Research and NPR found that 68% of smart speaker owners listened to music on the devices and several other popular use cases were related to news and information services where radio has content today. In addition, 65% of smart speaker owners reported they were listening to more music and 20% were consuming more podcasts after acquiring the device.

Image Credit: Reuters

These consumer behaviors align well with Radio France’s strengths. The organization not only has 24-hour radio programming with music and news across several stations, it also generates more than 60 million monthly podcast downloads. Edison Research also found that 64% of smart speaker owners are interested in having similar capabilities in the car. This is a key focus for Radio France according to Rimmer:

We are thinking beyond the smart speaker. We are very interested in the car space. We already have one of our apps compatible with Android Auto and Apple Car Play. For me that is super interesting because the car is where people are using voice assistants the most. I really think it is the the missing link where we can create a consistent experience throughout the day. You can start at home, continue in the car and on the Metro and then at work and back at home.

Being Everywhere and Forming Consumer Habits

Rimmer said that Radio France is the default on Google Home for news inquiries from French users and they hope to have a similar position when Amazon Alexa launches in the country. Radio France’s popular FIP (France Inter Paris) radio station already has an Alexa skill in the UK. “FIP has a big audience in the UK, US, Germany and Netherlands. We were already launching an English-language FIP app so we launched the Alexa skill at the same time in December,” said Rimmer. For Radio France it comes down to bringing content to listeners throughout the day and through whatever device is most convenient.

Radio has always had some form of brand loyalty. Even before digital channels existed people had that habit of turning the radio on in the morning. It’s all about creating those moments during the day. We are trying to create those habits so people will come back every day and repeat the same ritual in the morning and in the evening. And it’s also about creating a continuity of experience. How can we be with the user from the moment they wake up until the moment they go to sleep? That is the long-term plan.

Most of the smart speaker and voice assistant news seems to emanate from the U.S. today. However, that is not due to lack of activity throughout the rest of the world. Radio France is indicative of a wider trend by media, retailers, transportation providers and brands to make their content and services increasingly available through voice assistants.

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