As we gear up for the May 20-25 National Innovation Mission, we’ll be talking with some of the companies we’ll be visiting. Today, we’re chatting with Jeremy Mims, Head of Strategy at SpokenLayer about the growing space of audio.
Tell us a little about what SpokenLayer does?
SpokenLayer is the leader in voice content on Amazon Alexa, Google Home/Assistant, and soon, Apple’s Siri. Companies like Gannett, McClatchy, Hearst, GateHouse, Medium, The Guardian, Politico, Slate, Gizmodo Media Group, The Intercept, and many more work with SpokenLayer to get effective, habitual and profitable audio experiences on every major audio platform.
Beyond this, we’re building a platform that makes content creators first-class citizens when it comes to content, advertising, subscription, and affiliate revenue.
What’s happening in the audio space that has you excited?
Everything feels exciting right now.
Smart speaker adoption is growing around 2x faster than smart phone adoption with over 56 million shipments expected in 2018. It’s not just early adopters, it’s literally everyone. These devices are cheap and they’re approaching ubiquity.
That said, the market is really much bigger than it looks at first glance. Phones, cars, computers, and headphones are all smart speakers too. This is one of those markets that turns out to be internet sized.
One amazing thing is that right now local sponsors are coming onto this platform first. I honestly can’t remember the last time local advertisers had access to a new technology before national advertisers did.
Most of all, we’re excited to help media companies and brands tell their stories in an exciting, intimate new way.
What do you think Innovation Mission attendees will learn about audio during their visit with you?
They’ll learn what makes a great audio experience, how they can create one, and how monetization works in voice. They’ll hear demos from some of our top partners and get a first look at some of our new features.
I suppose they’ll probably also learn about some of SpokenLayer’s favorite cocktails. 🙂
What are publishers like Time and Wired, who work with you, saying about the opportunity with audio
We’re learning a lot right now. And it’s coming from small markets, large markets, nationals, and internationals. For some, success is just being there to build an audience. For others, showing up with a baked in business model is more important. Some are being quite creative with their content and others are trying to dial in a consistent format.
• Monetization is on everyone’s mind. Lots of publishers we work with are excited about the opportunity in audio but are wondering what revenue options look like. Fortunately, we have a bunch of case studies now of local advertising being sold successfully. It turns out you can be break even at fairly low audiences numbers. We’re working diligently on bringing national advertisers into the fold and they’re excited about reaching local audiences adjacent to quality, relevant content.
• Content companies that built their own Alexa skills are quickly realizing that while that was fine for a prototype, they really don’t want to be in the application development business (especially with Google, Apple, Spotify, Pandora, and more entering the arena). Sometimes people forget that initial development can be cheap and maintenance can be expensive. So we have a lot of partners coming onto the platform that built their own version 1.0 and are turning to us for version 2.0. It’s far better to focus on creating great content and letting a platform like SpokenLayer handle the software part, negotiate for better invocation terms, and standardize on metrics and advertising solutions. It will allow the publisher side of the ecosystem to mature a lot faster (in some cases faster than the big distribution partners).
• Discovery is a big challenge but we think we’ve got a pretty good answer. It’s a bit premature to describe it here, but we think there’s a great opportunity for local and national content creators to leverage each other’s strengths to build large audiences. Hopefully, we’ll demo this for you at the Innovation Mission.
• There is some hesitation about whether this is yet another Facebook in the making. It could be, but not if we all work together right now to develop a real business model. Imagine if we had all worked together 10 years ago. We’d have much more control over our destiny, our content, and our business model. SpokenLayer is working with groups like the LMA and LMC to make sure that everyone sees the value in figuring this out early.
• Don’t get hung up on the perfect show or the exact size audience. This is a wave market and it has a tendency to create momentum behind even modest audiences. If there’s any doubt that you can build a big audience here, we have lots of shows with hundreds of thousands of listeners a month and growing month over month. It seems obvious, but those that promote are seeing the biggest gains.
• It turns out that there are huge swaths of opportunity for content creation. Companies of all sizes are looking at developing content for their core markets but they’re also trying to figure out what they might be able to do better than everyone else. This is a moment to evaluate your strengths and figure out what you want to own. It’s a big, growing, blank slate. We don’t need to wait for someone to tell us how to do this. We’re pioneers. We get to start now and figure it out together.