Why Smart Speakers Are The Next-Gen Clock Radio


“Hey Alexa … wake me up with my favorite radio station!”

That’s a reality top digital publication Engagdet has brought to the attention of Silicon Valley and the online universe.

Are radio broadcasters smart enough to see what they do about the smart phone as the next-gen bedside clock radio?

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By Adam R Jacobson

In a piece posted Dec. 11 at Engadget by writer Jon Fingas, shared 212 times as of 11:15am Pacific Tuesday (12/12), it is revealed that waking up to whatever music you like “hasn’t been an option for Alexa-equipped devices like the Echo.”

That is, until now.

“Amazon has added a feature to Alexa that lets you wake up to the music of your choice from one of several streaming services, including its own options and Spotify.”

What about iHeartRadio, or RadioPup, or Radio.com? How about NextRadio?

The answer is yes.

“Alexa can stream radio channels from the likes of TuneIn and iHeartRadio,” Fingas notes.

That’s huge news for radio broadcasters who wish to capture the attention of consumers right from the moment they awaken for the day.

How significant is this to Fingas?

“This sounds like a minor feature, but it’s potentially very important,” he writes. “If Amazon is going to make the Echo Spot a viable alarm clock, it needs to give the device better functionality than that 20-year-old clock radio sitting on your nightstand. This also makes all Echo models more directly competitive with rivals that have had music wake features for years, such as Sonos. And let’s face it: even if you’re just using Alexa on your phone, Amazon would rather be the one to start your day.”

So would Elvis Duran, or NPR, or Brooke and Jubal, or hundreds of local radio hosts available anywhere via the existing audio streaming capabilities of their originating station.

With Smart Speakers and the Connected Car two key technological advances that have captured the attention of radio broadcasting industry professionals from coast to coast, the time is now to ensure that listeners are fully savvy on how to access your stations from an Echo, and from the reimagined dashboard entertainment system.

It’s also time for radio stations to abandon the deletion and substitution of commercials from their audio streams.

While this column is really about the great new capabilities of Alexa in the bedroom, we must begin the conversation of the failed nontraditional revenue opportunities seen across radio station groups for their audio streams. From horrific Ad Council PSAs that plagued some Alpha Radio streams from Portland, Ore., early in 2017 to poor clock management (as seen on the old CBS Radio platform with several streams), the damages outweigh the benefits as 2018 approaches.

As audio streaming increases thanks to smart speakers, which the industry largely advocates, it is insipid to tell advertisers that their spots will now likely be heard less — as the audience migrates from an over-the-air signal to a stream.

Since many in this industry are AARP members and were working in radio industry jobs while our editor-in-chief was in diapers, it is perhaps best to paint this picture with respect to what 2018 represents for radio broadcasting companies.

We are in late 1974, and the FM revolution is about to “rock” the industry.

Only, we’re not talking about FM radio converters for the car or new portable radios for the home with solid state AM and FM tuners.

Instead, we’re talking about internet-delivered audio at home and in the car, agnostic of the device.

Yes, folks: Unless consumers are using NextRadio on an Android-powered device and opting to listen to your over-the-air signal instead of the streamed audio for your station (which, by the way, may be easier for consumers to find), your advertisers may wonder why they’re being called on if their ads aren’t also on the stream.

The argument that an audio stream is different than an over-the-air broadcast is just as stupid as the one that said an AM radio station couldn’t simulcast an FM, and separate programming had to be in place.

That was protecting AM from its inevitable death.

Let’s not protect FM from its inevitable death by making Alexa the murderer.

Get all of your ads fully accessible to your listeners, regardless of how they are listening, and make it your New Year’s Resolution.

Adam R Jacobson is the editor-in-chief of the Radio + Television Business Report. His earliest memories of listening to the radio include hearing hits such as “Fox On The Run” and “Sky High” on WLS in Chicago. He was three years old — and already wondering why these songs weren’t on an FM station which didn’t fade and crackle during a thunderstorm. He then discovered Y-100 on a trip to Miami. It took a few more years for Chicagoland — and his hometown in New York’s Mid-Hudson Valley — to get a full-fledged Top 40 on the FM dial, confirming his belief that no hit-loving listener would suffer through static to hear music anymore.