Introducing the audio-centric web

A recent article by analysts Gartner making their Top Predictions for IT Organizations and Users in 2017 and Beyond has achieved its objective by getting people talking – and, I imagine, getting a lot of links. None of the predictions – even if they come true – are going to have immediate impact on industrial business marketing, but it’s intriguing to read where things might be going.

The one which jumped out at me was: “By 2020, 30 percent of web browsing sessions will be done without a screen.” I wasn’t even sure what that meant, at first.

I read on to discover that the article was talking about ‘audio-centric’ use of the web, using devices like Amazon’s Echo. If you haven’t seen one of these, they’re great fun, but behind them is some state-of-the-art artificial intelligence. There’s also a steady acceptance of audio interfaces to computers and smartphones, like Apple’s Siri, which can also fetch information from the web. As more people find out how much better these have got, and how much quicker it is to use them, this trend will continue.

For example, I just asked Siri on my phone, for five different companies: “What is the phone number of [company] in [town]?”. For all five tests, it gave me the right answer, straight away. Was this quicker than finding the company’s website and the ‘contact us’ page? You bet it was.

Now, before skeptics start emailing to say: “Well, I tried it and it gave me the number of an unrelated company in Australia”, sure, it’s far from infallible. And if you have one poor experience of trying a technology for the first time, it can put you off for longer than is sensible. But I can see where the prediction of growth of audio-centric use of the web is coming from, and it’ll be another nail in the coffin of those who are trying to monetise freely-available information.

Discussion

  1. Iain Thornton

    I attended a recent e-Commercial conference where one of the key note speakers was from Bing who claimed that by 2020 50% of all searches would be by voice (source quoted as Source: Mary Meeker Internet Trends 2016 – kpcb.com/internettrends).

    How this might affect PPC advertising is interesting because presumably if I ask my phone or other voice interface about those fabled ‘blue widgets’ then I won’t be expecting it to reel off 10 different options, pointing out that the first three or four are sponsored? This and other AI presentations I’ve seen suggest that the interaction will be more human-to-human like and more conversational than that.

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