Voice technology is taking many industries by storm, and the publishing industry should be no exception. Yet, in an industry built upon dedication to thorough immersive reading, it’s easy to understand why new technology is not always rapidly adopted. Still new technologies have proven to help grow revenue for publishers and authors alike. One current example is Audiobooks, are widely-considered to be the most quickly growing niche in the publishing world — 2017 alone saw $2.5 Billion in audiobook sales. This year’s figures confirm the trend. According to the AAP StatShot Monthly report, ‘Downloaded Audio’ is still the fastest growing format in publishing — up 36,5% for the first two months of 2019 as compared to the same period in 2018.
Voice technology has seen huge advancement in the past decade. The number of people who utilize such technology is growing considerably; many of us rely on smart tools like Apple’s Siri or Amazon’s Alexa to prompt our devices to perform quick, handy tasks for us without having to push a button. There’s no secret about it: more and more of us are caving to the tantalizing prospect of smart home devices and ultra-advanced tech. Over 240 million US homes are anticipated to install smart home devices by 2022 — and smart speakers will likely account for nearly 70% of that figure. When publishers step back and realize that each of these devices presents an opportunity for exposure and sales, the situation looks exceptionally interesting.
Yet, voice tech has failed to serve the publishing industry as well as it should have so far.
Top Voice Assistants Recognize Only 43% of Basic Queries Related to New York Times Bestsellers
If you are a publisher, are you taking advantage of everything voice technology has to offer for you and your authors? One WNIP contributor performed an experiment utilizing the top 15 fiction and non-fiction titles from The New York Times bestseller list. They queried a number of popular voice assistants like Alexa and Siri for basic information and tasks — they asked for the title of each book, stated that they wanted to listen to each book, etc. The results were startling: the top voice search tools can only recognize approximately 43% of the key searches for best-selling titles, including, “I want to read X book by Y author,” and “I want to listen to X book by Y author.”
With 66 million devices already in American homes and businesses, many readers are using their voice assistants to locate and purchase book titles –and if your titles aren’t recognized by those platforms, you’re missing out on the opportunity to connect with those readers. In many cases, that may mean you’re losing a significant percentage of the sales you could bring in if they were readily available. You want people to be able to find your titles, and that doesn’t only refer to bestsellers, but backlist titles and audiobooks as well.
How Publishers Benefit from Voice Technology
Some companies have moved to leverage voice technology in ways that allow them to drive sales and introduce consumers to titles they wouldn’t have purchased otherwise. For instance, Simon & Schuster released their own Alexa skill, known as a “Stephen King Library,” designed to quiz readers on their preferences before offering them a suggestion of which Stephen King title to pick up next.
Certain publishers have taken steps to get even more creative with their voice tech offerings. Novel Effect, a company in cahoots with the Alexa Accelerator program, launched an Alexa skill designed to complement in-person live readings with a variety of audio soundscapes. This technology can benefit educational publishers as it not only does this technology bring listeners into the fold of the story they’re hearing or the information they’re learning, but it’s been shown to increase reading retention and comprehension in classrooms. The soundscapes can also produce greater engagement for trade publishers who need to contend with the fact that younger consumers crave more than simple text based experiences on their mobile devices.
Audio games are becoming part of the package. Westworld, for example, already has its own audio game, which interested fans can play through Alexa. These games can help increase hype and encourage interest in new stories and familiar ones alike — and they’re a great technique for adding to the content offered along with your best sellers.
Now is the Time to Take Ownership
Voice technology is growing fast, but many publishing companies haven’t yet taken ownership of the facets they’re able to control. Now is the perfect time to take advantage of that, creating content that will intrigue readers and encourage them to come check out your books.
Fortunately, there are a number of steps that publishers can take to increase their chances of success and take matters into their own hands. The beginning of the process could be as simple as performing independent audits of various voice assistants and addressing issues with tech companies, but more motivated teams have the world at their fingertips.
- Audit your catalog’s voice-first compliance
This approach can begin simply and become more granular and targeted as time goes on. Making sure all titles have the basic metadata makes for an excellent starting point. Once issues have been pinpointed, it’s the publisher’s responsibility to open up communication with voice teams from whichever tech company’s voice assistant is causing trouble. Publishers can report problems, request changes, and receive guidance on how to move forward with fixing things publisher-side. Down the road, more advanced metadata like keywords and awards can be added.
- Offer title recommendations based on previous titles read
Create an app that will allow readers to search for “books like [your current best-seller or new release].” Provide lists based on popular searches and choices.
- Create the answers to common questions and make them part of voice-recognition programs
“Who wrote [X]?” “What books did [Y] author write?” Many people use voice recognition devices to get fast answers to their questions. By ensuring that they are part of the program, you increase the odds that your books and authors will be recognized by the voice search platform.
- Deepen the reading experience
You likely already offer audiobooks on these platforms. In order to take full advantage of voice technology, however, you need to go beyond mere audiobooks. Consider how an auditory component could add to the reading experience, whether that means you’re providing a soundtrack while your readers enjoy a physical book or offering additional content that is only available via the device.
- Connect with your readers’ routines
By integrating your apps with voice-assisted devices, you can make your books part of the readers’ regular routines. Do your readers start their mornings with an inspirational or spiritual reading? Do they want to check out the news or have a quote of the day delivered to them while they enjoy their coffee? As you become part of your readers’ routines, you also increase the odds that they will want to continue to purchase your books and materials in the future — especially if you issue recommendations for the next title as they near the end of a book.
- Optimize your ‘voice’ marketing strategies
There are several key strategies you can use to transform your marketing efforts, including transforming your search keywords to meet those needs. Keep in mind:
- Voice searches are often longer than text searches.
- It’s important to plan for questions asked with a natural sentence structure in place.
- Optimizing for Google’s featured snippets is a great way to get your content noticed.
If publishers take ownership of voice apps and ideas now, they can get ahead of the curve of increasing sales through new technology, rather than having to play catch up down the road. Your publishing company will be part of the standard programming on those devices — and your readers will be more likely to turn directly to you to discover that information, too.
It’s easy to consider major technology improvements to be the domain of the large tech giants, but the fact of the matter is that there is much a publisher can do today to reap the benefits of voice tech. The process may not be simple, but a little forward thinking and innovation will go a long way. If you find the prospect of integrating voice tech into your business models a little daunting, find a trusted technology partner that will walk you through the process. Whether it’s an Alexa skill that offers suggestions or an app that enhances the audio experience as it happens, voice technology brings in countless new and incredible capabilities for the publishing industry, serving to boost readers’ interest and enhance their time spent devoted to literature.
By Max Kalmykov,
VP, Media & Entertainment at DataArt