Voice - CES

Radio, which once worried a flood of new technologies would leave it out in the cold, was in a strong position at this year’s Consumer Electronics Show. Sure, there were silly inventions on display like an AI-powered kitty litter box. But the pervasive prominence of voice throughout the show is playing to radio’s favor.

“Audio is now everywhere,” said Pete Erickson, founder of the consulting firm Modev and creator of the Voice Summit. Wireless earbuds are making listening habits even more ubiquitous, he noted in a Radio Advertising Bureau-produced video recap. “Audio is able to permeate more areas of our homes whether we’re telling the device in our kitchen to play music or a podcast. And now we’re seeing interactive advertising so we can interact with an ad using our voice,” said Erickson. “There is definitely this collision between audio and voice whether it’s broadcast, podcast, advertising,”

CES is best known for showcasing gadgets, but Joe D’Angelo, Xperi Senior VP of Broadcast Radio, said their focus in 2020 wasn’t on new receivers but the user experience that digital radio can offer. “We are showing the benefits to consumers of having broadcasters create and distribute metadata through their platform and also take advantage of HD Radio and all the distribution channels that are out there,” D’Angelo told the RAB. “The net effect to the consumer is radio is more discoverable, you can find programming easier and it’s really engaging. It’s a rich multimedia user experience where you have rich metadata like you would on any digital-only platform—we’ve now brought all the rich graphics, images, and supporting text to broadcast radio as well.”

Digital radio is one of the ways that broadcasters have helped maintain their presence in the high-tech dashboards that automakers have rolled out during the past decade. Even as infotainment systems have made it easier for drivers to listen to other things, research shows radio remains king of the road. The most recent Infinite Dial report showed that among the 90% of Americans 18+ who said they had driven or ridden in a car in the past month, a whopping 81% of respondents reported they listened to AM/FM radio. That compared to 28% who listened to streaming radio, 26% who tuned to podcasts, or 22% who used satellite radio.

Cary Tilds, Senior VP of Digital Strategy at Ford Direct, told RAB President Erica Farber that she considers herself a “fan” of audio entertainment and said she understands it’s a medium that resonates with drivers. So do local dealers, she added. “The power of sound to deliver a message and connect with a consumer is a scientific one,” said Tilds. “And I understand the power of audio and the scale at which they leverage it.” She also noted that radio ads have been especially useful for dealers when they’re trying to connect with a local marketplace. “Community is so center to our dealers,” Tilds said.

Didn’t make it to CES? Consultant Fred Jacobs unpacks what the trendsetting show means for radio on the latest episode of the Inside Radio Podcast. Listen HERE.