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All Access, All Access Wednesday, Sep 06, 2017 10:29 AM EST

RAIN Summit Talks Smart Speakers, Digital Audio In Austin

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Smart speakers were the focus at the RAIN SUMMIT in AUSTIN TUESDAY afternoon (8/5), with a presentation by EDISON RESEARCH's LARRY ROSIN and a panel of digital audio leaders looking at how the AMAZON Echo and other "smart" devices are changing the audio landscape.  The event also offered advice for radio stations getting into podcasting and a panel on the state of digital audio revenue.

ROSIN's presentation offered research on smart speaker usage, including where people use them (over half in the living room/family room, a quarter in the kitchen), increasing usage as time goes on (counter to the perception that they are "toys"), how one in five smart speaker owners say that the speakers are the primary way they listen to audio, and more from a study conducted with NPR.  As for radio's hope that the devices will be the "new radio,' ROSIN pointed out, "what these things really are, are computers you can talk to."

Moffett, McCracken, Higbie, Steinhauer

NPR COO BRYAN MOFFETT moderated a panel following up on ROSIN's presentation with a discussion of smart speakers and radio's place in the voice-controlled device world.  XAPPmedia's RYAN HIGBIE, WESTWOOD ONE's CHARLES STEINHAUER, and SCRIPPS' ROB MCCRACKEN talked about their companies' arrival in the space, the importance of flash briefings, how to create interactivity with an audio brand and advertisers, and costs (in money, time, and people).  HIGBIE admitted that the audiences through smart speakers are still small -- thousands, he estimated -- but he added that he expects to see the number grow substantially.

A late panel examined the state of digital audio revenue in 2017, with TRITON DIGITAL's JOHN ROSSO, NUVOODOO's CAROLYN GILBERT, BOLD GOLD MEDIA's VINCE BENEDETTO, and BOONNEVILLE's MARK PRESTON offering their viewpoints, moderated by the LOCAL MEDIA ASSOCIATION's JED WILLIAMS.  But the panel directed their attention more generally towards radio's role in the more competitive playing field.  GILBERT pointed out that radio appears to have gotten away from entertaining and giving the listeners what they want, but BENEDETTO insisted that the radio broadcast business model is "great" and better than many other businesses.  ROSSO, responding to a comment at PODCAST MOVEMENT that station personnel not qualified to do a broadcast show should be given a station podcast by saying that stations should not do that, because they "shouldn't put (their) brand on crappy content."  And PRESTON said that one of his stations, Sports KIRO-A (710 ESPN)/SEATTLE, is considering charging for its popular SEAHAWKS podcasts.

And the proceedings closed with attorney DAVID OXENFORD's return, this time to talk with SOUNDEXCHANGE's COLIN RUSHING for an update on legal issues related to music licensing for digital audio.

The slate also included presentations by ALL ACCESS columnist and JACOBS MEDIA "Digital Dot Connector" SETH RESLER on launching a podcast, NEXT LEVEL AUDIO's CHRISTIAN SCHALT and KRONEHIT/VIENNA, AUSTRIA OD RUDOLPH LANDGRAF on the new SKIP FM technology that allow listeners to skip songs on broadcast radio (it splits the live stream into files), and BOOSTABILITY's JON BENNION.

Winners of the 8th annual RAIN Internet Radio Awards:

  • Best Single Stream Webcaster; DJFM SHOEGAZE RADIO
  • Best Streaming Broadcast Station: ENTERCOM Classic Rock KSWD-F (100.3 THE SOUND)/LOS ANGELES
  • Best Podcast: "RADIOLAB PRESENTS MORE PERFECT"
  • Best Overall Digital Strategy: NPR
  • Best Overall Online Radio Service: PANDORA and SPOTIFY (tie)