Smart speakers for smart listeners

Radio Tomorrow with James Cridland

All the research, of which there’s really quite a lot, seems to show that radio goes well with smart speakers such as Amazon Echo and Google Home.

Data from the UK shows some very good results for radio when you look at total audio time with speakers.

I’ve a Google Home, and I use it for music and for live radio. It’s been pretty impressive, once I know what to call the station. “ABC Radio Brisbane” won’t play – it tells me it can’t find it, but “612 ABC Brisbane”, branding it got rid of in January, gets me the station I’m looking for.

Trying to tune into 4ZZZ was a bit harder, until I remembered that I’m talking to a computer. When you listen to the radio station, you hear it call itself “4 Triple-Zed”. So, you might think that “Listen to 4 Triple-Zed” would work. It doesn’t. Instead, I discovered that if I ask for “4 Zee Zee Zee” then I can tune in.

There’s been a lot of research on getting these smart speakers working better. The brand we know the station as isn’t necessarily what the official name of the radio station is – “Listen to Radio 4” would be used by many in the UK, even though it’s actually called “BBC Radio 4”; and the amount of stations who are desperate to call themselves “The New Blah FM” instead of simply “Blah FM” will also fox the devices a bit.

For the Amazon Echo, at least, things are slightly easier once you have your own “skill”, which is what they call apps on these things. You need to get your audience to get your skill installed, and perhaps that’s the hardest thing; but once you’ve done that, you can get listeners tuning in quite easily.

It’s no different, to be honest, to the attention we give our radio frequency. We need to remind audiences repeatedly what our allocated random number is, so that people find our station again. Many stations have their frequency as part of their name.

Perhaps it’s time to think about how we educate our audience to tune into us on a smart speaker, too. If we tell them we’re available that way, perhaps that means that radio reaches into more rooms in the house: and that’s probably a good thing.

So when next making fillers and promos for your station, perhaps one might be something along the lines of: “Got an Amazon Echo? Ask Alexa to listen to WABC. And get us playing: everywhere!”

Or, as WBZ NewsRadio recently did , remind people on social media how to tune in.

Smart speakers pose a good opportunity for radio. Let’s make the most of it. 


About The Author

James Cridland, the radio futurologist, is a conference speaker, writer and consultant. He runs the media information website and helps organise the yearly Next Radio conference. He also publishes, a daily briefing on podcasting and on-demand, and writes a weekly international radio trends newsletter, at

Contact James at [email protected] or @jamescridland