User experience is the foundation of any well-performing website. It’s that one intangible metric that affects your tangibles such as exit and bounce rate, conversions, and so on. Publishers are rightly paying close attention to it but in a constantly changing competitive environment, there’s always much to learn. Why, you ask?

Barney Stinson meme
No, it’s not that.

Because trying to enhance user experience touches every aspect of your publication and for the most part, it means holding your reader’s hand and assisting them while they glance over your content. There’s always room for improvement. Staying competitive means investing in different ways to improve usability and the overall experience you’re delivering to your readers.

Then, there’s this ugly piece of truth that I know you don’t want to hear: enhancing your readers’ user experience is an ongoing task that requires staying up to speed with the experience your readers are expecting and optimally, staying ahead of the curve and over delivering.

These days, providing an experience that’s based on reading alone is risky.

Increase engagement with voice

One of the barriers written communication faces is the sense of intimacy and lack of nuances non-verbal communication has. Subtle distinction in the tone of voice or facial expression gives a whole new meaning behind a certain word or phrase. Words can only do so much but even that is not the primary reason to enhance user experience. It’s about a completely new way to engage and grow your readers.

Increase engagement with voice
Not like that, but close enough.

For publishers struggling to stand their ground in the increasingly competitive landscape, the best way to it is with audio content. Allow me to make my case.

Why voice will improve user experience

At the very core, you are removing friction in any shape or form for those of your readers who are getting used to listening to content (because they’re podcast consumers, audiobook consumers, or simply consuming audio content your competitors are creating). If anything can be said for modern readers with 100% certainty, it’s that they expect to receive their content in a way that will enable multi-tasking. They demand a high level of immediacy. Gone are the days of relying solely on a good textual experience to deliver results. To put it simply: even the slightest obstacle produces massive levels of frustration, which ultimately takes a toll on the amount of time they spend on your website, and the number of new readers you welcome into it.

If you don’t give your readers what they expect and provide them with different ways to consume your content, you’ll lose them.

And voice is where the game is played, affecting brand credibility and recognition, two very important factors among content consumers.

We’ve come a long way.

The number of publishers which employ a native audio player to provide a seamless audio experience is on the rise. It’s a different approach that doesn’t rely on content consumption via smart speakers alone and affects those important website metrics such as exit rates, bounce rates, and so on. The equation is simple: voice first angle is about being where the readers are and it helps reader loyalty and retention.

Let’s check out what the BBC is doing, for a minute. The broadcaster has set up a dedicated team of experts that design editorial experiences specifically for voice assistants like Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant. For the company, it all makes perfect sense. The adoption of smart speakers and voice assistants they nest for tasks like news updates, weather forecasts, and similar is in line with the core offering of BBC – providing information. Plus, it already has deep integration with Alexa so treading into the space of voice and conversational interface is a logical step, if anything, considering the younger demographic (one of the key groups with purchase power) is very much into voice.

The fact that these two media giants (and they’re far from the only ones) are dedicating a part of their staff and resources to design content for voice and enhance user experience should be telling. It clearly indicates the need to expand the range of content and add an untapped revenue source. The truth is, if you don’t audiofy your content and engage your audience where it is, your competition most definitely will (and already are).

Adoption of voice AI technology

With any new technology, skepticism is justified. If you don’t believe me, do you believe the hype and facts?

Voice interface technology is amongst the fastest adopted technologies in history. There’s no shortage of (un)realistic predictions, from the widely quoted stats for 2020 (researchers sure love those round numbers) such as “30% of internet browsing sessions will be done without a screen” and “half of all searches will be performed via voice.”  I could throw a number of bullet points at you, but I feel you already get the point.

More tangible research by Adobe Analyticsshows consumers’ use of voice services is on the rise, with 76% of smart speaker owners increasing their use of voice assistants in the span of one year. Apart from commonly using them for music, weather updates, and other daily activities, voice assistants also assist more and more consumers with the shopping process. While not many users commit to placing orders, they engage in the early shopping stages such as product search and research, the creation of shopping lists, and price comparison.

Adobe Analytics shows consumers’ use of voice services

What we have on our hands is a bonafide audio revolution, and these statistics highlight just how important it is to have your content ready for voice. I’ve touched upon the topic of the audio revolution in my previous blog post, something that I firmly believe in. In fact, I’m going to throw in my prediction. By 2020, the number of… I’m kidding, there’s plenty of that online without me throwing in my two cents.

However, I will say that more voice tech accessibility will translate to more voice-enabled audio content in 2019. Voice has this marvelous ability to communicate with the listener “one-on-one.”  It’s the human voice that reaches listeners and gives life to words, serving a direct connection between your content and your listener. In a world replete with various distractions, content is still king to maintain engagement. Creating a voice first experience provides your readers (listeners-to-be) with an exciting and engaging experience that has the potential to transform how they do consume content. At the end of the day, making you omnipresent – isn’t that worth investing in? 

Convert articles to audio turning eyeballs to eardrums

This is the age of efficiency, where multitasking is practically ubiquitous or mandatory, depending on how you see it. There’s no denying we’re doing something while we’re doing something else for much of the time. Your readers simply no longer have the luxury of time to sit down and go through a full article. I’m sure you are well aware all of this leads to a quick look at the content in question and superficial browsing, causing major drops in user engagement. And that’s the best case scenario.

In that regard, a native audio player designed to provide a smooth audio experience that enables listening to texts instead of reading and fits the bill of providing an experience in line with reader expectations. The same can be said for smart speaker skills (or actions, depending on your weapon of choice). These allow you to harvest your best content and make it available to readers at a more convenient time and place, boosting growth and retention.

Audio consumption is thriving because it perfectly aligns to busy people, in particular, because there’s a format and type of content for everything: short bursts of information, long stories with developed narratives, news-like updates – all of that in virtually every topic and length. Put yourself in your reader’s shoes: they may not have enough time (or patience) to sift through a long article but just might listen to it during a commute. Bonus points go for creative and entertaining presentations that keep the listener hooked, even for long(er) times, and turn them into a long-term consumer of your content.

Here’s another tidbit: people spend almost 17 hours on average each week listening to online audio, which means just slightly under two and a half hours each day are spent listening to audio content. Can you honestly say you can hold your readers’ attention for two and a half hours each and every day?

Average time spent listening to online audio

One hot issue with online audio content is the question of how it makes money and how much. That’s a topic deserving its own post, with plans down the tube to tackle it in the near future. For now, I’m much more interested in digesting the movements and shakings across the industry. For instance, the music-streaming company Spotify recently forked out $340 million for podcast networks Gimlet and Anchor. Further reports suggest there are plans to spend a total of up to $500 million this year on more acquisitions.

It’s a high profile bet, that’s for sure. Spotify is putting money behind its ambitions in a young industry that has yet to prove itself. In 2017, podcasts brought in just$314 million in advertising revenue. But the move makes great sense, and Courtney Holt, the head of Spotify Studios, summarized it perfectly when talking to TechCrunch:

“We found that in increasing our [podcast] catalog and spending more time to make the user experience better, it wasn’t taking away from music – it was enhancing the overall time spent on the platform.”

Once more, it’s about how you can enhance user experience with voice and the contech (content technology, for those uninitiated in the term we at Trinity Audio coined) behind it. This is a process people engage in and that constantly gets better with each iteration. The podcasting industry will evolve as more businesses start being present on voice as a whole. As Activate founder Michael Wolf puts it (and that’ll be the last quote, I promise):

“Podcasts within the next three to five years is only going to be about a billion dollars on its own, but is likely to drive billions and billions of dollars of revenue for other companies.”

Be a standout

Whether it’s a mobile voice search result, a native audio experience via a web-based player, a smart speaker-based Alexa Skill or Google Home Action, or something else, you have to be ready for voice.

Just take a look at how the process of search has changed. People progressively rely on natural language to perform voice commands, which translates to different terms stemming from specific keywords. Voice is embedded into numerous apps and devices which are already a part of our everyday life, whether you are working in an office or relaxing at home.

In terms of what your audience wants and expects from you, user experience plays a crucial role. Let’s not forget that poor user experience equals high bounce rates and low retention rates. Looking at the big picture, audio needs to be an essential part of the user experience in a world where not just your readers, but also both you and I want to be able to multitask and consume content on the go.  

Audio technologies are slowly but surely getting better and businesses would bode well to pursue whatever strategy makes the most sense for them. Audio can help you improve website user experience and add new functionality but only if you ask for help. Speak up and stand out.

Image credits:

https://memegenerator.net/instance/64131252/barney-stinson-maybe-because-im-awesome https://pentins.co.uk/business-grows-help-people-grow/
https://giphy.com/gifs/internet-stops-y9Tia8PxQMlhK https://www.slideshare.net/adobe/adi-state-of-voice-assistants-113779956?ref=https://www.cmo.com/features/articles/2018/9/7/adobe-2018-consumer-voice-survey.html
https://www.slideshare.net/webby2001/infinite-dial-2019