Should magazines invest in voice platforms like Alexa or Google?

Amazon’s Alexa, Google Home, Apple HomePod. The three key players in the audio platform market and it seems, there’s something new about them every day, good and bad. From humans listening in to what people are talking about to lives being saved and laundry pods being ordered. Should you as a magazine invest in one or all of these platforms? The answer is, that depends.
For single-title, boutique publishers, right now it can be cost-prohibitive. Although a work-around is to create a podcast and set it up for distribution across various networks. Creating a podcast doesn’t have to be expensive either.A decent room with DIY sound baffling and about $500 worth of gear and some free software, like Apple’s GarageBand and you’re good to go.
Too often, we’ve seen publishers rush into new digital channels, only to invest too much money for too little return. One of the challenges of new technologies is that they can be expensive in the early years, before there is broader adoption by consumers. Publishers, for example, who experimented with Augmented Reality (AR) spent a ton on various promotions and AR still hasn’t gone mainstream. Few have invested in Virtual Reality (VR) and rightly so. It’s still an expensive technology to get into.
While we’ve experimented with Google, Amazon and Apple products, we’re not at an opinion where these technologies will be adopted beyond some very basic uses by consumers; weather, podcasts, music, some product purchase and settling arguments at the dinner table. Other uses may be controlling home technologies like heating, A/C and lights.
If you’re going to invest in any voice type applications, make it a podcast. The cost of entry and subsequent distribution is low. Failure is less costly and easy to move on from. Do some research, see if any other publishers have done anything interesting and if so, adapt from what they did to make it your own.
For now, voice remains in an early adopter market for publishers and the market as a whole. There’s no way for paywalls or membership type services with voice tools yet. Another thing to consider is there may be a spike in consumers not adopting such tools as privacy concerns grow and a significant tech lash may be ahead.
Related: Why deleting technology can be good for your publication.

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