Voice Technology in the Publishing Industry
Monday, March 25, 2019
Posted by: Dimitrios Evangelopoulos
I was recently invited to a friend’s house for dinner. Six of us were having a casual conversation about cinema. My friend Josh asked, “Which movie that was based on a book is your favourite?” We all selected The Godfather.
What we couldn’t agree on, though, was the year it was released. Tim and I were sure it came out in 1972, but Sara insisted that 1973 was the year. Then Ann, the host, said: “Alexa, what year was The Godfather part 1 released?”
The most interesting thing in this conversation is not that there are people who do not know that The Godfather was released in 1972. It's something else: we have reached a point where conversational bots are integrated into our lives and take part in our conversations naturally and unconsciously.
When people are having a heated debate and are trying to convince others, they will use any possible way to prove they are right. They might state facts from memory, search online, use body language, phone a friend, or ask the audience. The addition of voice assistants to casual conversations is an indication of technology acting as an assistant to the human thinking process and communication routine.
Technology giants are competing to get a bigger slice of the voice-user interface (VUI) pie, creating platforms that consumers can use for a broad range of everyday voice-driven purposes. Amazon has Alexa, Google has Google Assistant, Apple has Siri, Samsung has Bixby, and Microsoft has Cortana. The market penetration is quite impressive. According to Juniper Research, the estimated there were 2.5 billion voice assistants in use at the end of 2018. That number is expected to triple by 2023 to 8 billion.
Source: Juniper Research, Voicebot.ai
This trend, along with the high adoption in countries such as the United States, the United Kingdom, Canada, and Australia, suggests that we are moving from the early adopters to the early majority stage in the product adoption curve. For the publishing industry, this rapid growth of voice technology and the consumers’ shift toward voice-driven applications might be a bit challenging, but at the same time it creates a huge opportunity for innovation and growth.
The biggest challenge for the publishing community is probably the fact that they need to move fast to adapt to the new technology-driven era that requires digitization of businesses and brands. Publishers should be ready and make their content suitable for voice search and for other natural language processing applications. In the digital age, consumers want to have access to information in seconds and search engine optimization requires brands to be well positioned in the market and make sure their products are effortlessly discoverable and accessible.
Although it might create some challenges for publishers, voice technology offers opportunities for promotion, distribution, recognition, and discoverability. Voice-first applications make content searches easier and customers make book selections and purchases more quickly. For example, some possible conversations with voice assistants could be:
“OK Google, give me a list of books with similar content as My Favorite Book,” or
“Alexa, find me the top-rated book that talks about preventive medicine and add it to my shopping basket.”
Like websites, voice assistants are platforms that help companies or individuals protect their identity, create a persona, promote their products, and interact with customers. Publishers are able to build their brand, develop their own unique features (Amazon calls them “skills and Google calls them “actions”), and become part of a completely new storytelling methodology, adding to the overall customer experience. Authors can also take advantage of their story creating capabilities and help other brands build their own dialogues between the company and the customer.
One interesting use case is the Google Assistant’s HarperCollins StoryCastle app (or “action”). This is a voice-activated audiobook for children that offers a unique listening experience for kids and parents with two new stories every day. This application becomes even more engaging when the user takes part in an interactive and gamified story. Readers essentially create the plot by, selecting among several scenarios that lead to different endings. Some applications that are currently available and are based on this logic are the Amazon apps (or “skills”) “The Magic Door” and “Choose Your Own Adventure.”
This idea is not new and has proven successful in nonvoice-related applications. In 2010, the “choose a different ending” concept was applied by the London Metropolitan police in their anti–knife crime campaign on YouTube. Similarly, in 2011, Tipp-Ex launched a gaming advertising campaign in which customers could select the ending of the advertisement based on several options. From a marketing perspective this is a clever method of raising brand awareness and keeping customers engaged in a creative and innovative way. From the customer side, the high user response rate reveals that people are willing to interact with and respond to attractive and fascinating stories.
The development of voice recognition technology, artificial intelligence, and natural language processing will play a significant role in the years to come. In the publishing industry, voice assistants can become a useful tool for speech-to-text applications, provide assistance to people who struggle with handwriting or typing, and proofread text for dyslexics. Some writers claim that the ability to walk around while speaking gives them more freedom and leades to more natural and creative expression. Also, focusing more on the words and less on writing can make people more productive and improve the flow of their thought process.
As voice technology grows and evolves, the publishing industry needs to move quickly to overcome challenges and adopt voice-driven practices effectively. The faster it integrates the current technology trends, the smoother the transition will be.
Rapid changes in technology have affected not only our daily routine and personal habits but also the professional status quo. Companies used to be in the financial, real estate, insurance or healthcare sectors. Now, we work in fin-tech, real-tech, insur-tech, health-tech, and so on. Nonetheless, we are heading to an age where today’s high-tech will be so integrated into our businesses that we will start removing the ‘tech’ suffix from the sectors’ names and make the old names the new norm.
This article is brought to you through a partnership with Amnet, a technology-led provider of services and solutions, catering to the needs of businesses for content transformation, design, and accessibility. The points of view expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the perspectives of Amnet or of BISG.
Dimitrios Evangelopoulos has worked as a Consultant and Project Manager in the Energy and Technology sectors. He utilizes innovative thinking to develop technology application strategies for the improvement of business operations." He is currently a consultant at VAICE, which helps brands discover how voice technology and conversational AI can benefit them. VAICE leads the strategy and design frameworks for conversational AI experiences on platforms such as Amazon, Alexa, and Google Assistant.