Smart audio report offers insight into user behavior and attitudes

Wednesday, July 18th, 2018 
NPR logo

Smart Audio Report Offers Early Insight Into Mainstream User Behavior And Attitudes

WASHINGTON, DC — With smart speaker ownership over 43M in the U.S. (18+), these devices have quickly expanded beyond first adopters. New smart speaker owners are emerging as a distinct audience in terms of user profile and behavior according to new research from The Smart Audio Report, which for the first time offers a preview into the realities of mainstream use and reveals opinions about brand activations and messaging within the voice assistant ecosystem.

“First adopters” (those who have owned a smart speaker device for more than one year) demonstrate more advanced use of the voice assistant and smart speaker – for instance, using it to control home security and other household devices. By contrast, new, “early mainstream” users (who have owned a smart speaker device for less than one year) are relying on the technology for a wider range of daily activities including ordering food, making calls, getting traffic reports, researching products, shopping, and even facilitating family/social time:

  • 38% of early mainstream owners say they purchased the device hoping to reduce screen time
  • 47% of early mainstream owners use the smart speaker with other people in their household most of the time
  • 33% of early mainstream owners who have children in the home say they talk to their smart speaker during mealtime

“Voice-activated tools have become part of our daily lives and are bringing dramatic changes to consumer behavior,” said NPR CMO Meg Goldthwaite. “As the research shows, smart speaker owners are turning off their TVs and closing down their laptops to spend more time listening to news, music, podcasts and books — fueling the demand for more audio content.”

The Report surveyed users about their preferences on brand activations of the platform and found that for most users, skills/actions are the preferred method of brand integration with voice assistants: 81% of smart speaker owners would be open to skills from brands. Host-read ads on podcasts, product endorsements, and sponsor or underwriter announcements during public radio are also among the most-preferred formats for audio advertisements.

“As people build daily habits with their smart speakers, there is an opportunity for brands to be a part of people’s routines in an entirely new way,” said Gina Garrubbo, President & CEO of NPR’s sponsorship subsidiary, National Public Media. “We are thrilled to be working with forward-looking brands to experiment in this new space, and data from The Smart Audio Report continues to inform us, our sponsors and the industry as best practices for user-centered experiences on smart speakers emerge.”

The Smart Audio Report Spring 2018 release also reveals how across user groups this technology is affecting the way consumers engage with other media. The devices are not only driving more listening, they’re quickly becoming a main vehicle for audio consumption.

“In homes that have had smart speakers for at least a year, they are now the number one device for consuming audio. This has profound ramifications for anyone in media and advertising. For millions of Americans, smart speakers are truly the new radio,” says Tom Webster, Senior VP of Edison Research.

Shifts in media consumption habits are particularly pronounced among new smart speaker owners (“early mainstream”):

  • 29% of early mainstream owners say their smart speaker is replacing time spent with TV
  • 28% of early mainstream owners listened to a podcast on their smart speaker in the last week

News is already a significant driver of smart speaker use for first adopters and early mainstream users: 37% of all smart speaker owners listened to at least two hours of news on their smart speaker in the last week. According to the Spring 2018 release, there is demand for even more news on the platform, and it’s a capability that’s driving sales:

  • 73% of all smart speaker owners named “news and current affairs” as the spoken-word topic they’d be most interested in listening to on a smart speaker
  • 3-in-5 of all smart speaker owners who plan to buy another smart speaker, want to buy it in order to listen to news in more rooms of their home

The Smart Audio Report from NPR and Edison Research, which debuted in June 2017, is a reoccurring study on trends in Smart Speaker ownership and voice assistant user behavior. NPR was the default Flash Briefing provider on Amazon Alexa devices at launch in 2014, and also on Google Home, Microsoft Cortana and Apple HomePod devices.

How This Study Was Conducted

The Smart Audio Report is based upon a national online survey of 909 Americans ages 18+ who indicated that they owned at least one smart speaker. The device owner data was weighted to nationally representative figures on smart speaker users from The Infinite Dial 2018 from Edison Research and Triton Digital.

More: Smart Audio Report

Links: NPR; Edison Research