Features

Digital transformation in media: the new way to read the news is through audio

The way we consume media is changing. As we highlighted in part one of our series on digital transformation, print is not dying but it, along with other mediums of journalism, is evolving at a rapid pace. What many did not expect, was the rise of audio content, and how it has resonated with audiences across the globe. 

Chief executive of Shazam, Rich Riley, told the FT back in 2014, “the smartphone phenomenon is one of the great tech trends in our time - most people have, in effect, a supercomputer in their pocket.” Since then, audio has become the fastest increasing revenue stream in publishing, and readers from around the world have begun to consume media and insights through their ears rather than their eyes. 

As we touched on in part one of this series, Lionel Barber, editor of the FT, has been positive in the ways that journalism and media consumption is changing. “The digital revolution has also led to an explosion of creativity and new forms of rich storytelling,” he voiced in his speech in 2018.  At the forefront of this is three main ‘new forms’ that allow readers to consume journalism: smart speakers, the integration of AI, and podcasting. 

Today’s business and financial journalist has never been so versatile, never so tested. On multiple platforms: print, audio, camera [...] they collaborate in ways unimaginable a decade ago.

Lionel BarberEditor of the FT

Just how smart can “smart speakers” be?

With the launch of Amazon’s Alexa and Google’s Home speaker systems, smart speakers are beginning to become a staple in modern homes. These AI-powered supercomputers hold billions of bytes of data, streamed from the internet to bolster its knowledge base, and learnt over time through consuming what you do around it, to better tailor and personalise the experience. 

Consumption of content through these devices differs from entertainment to news, and over the past few years has continued to grow. “The ease with which intelligent speakers can summon audio entertainment on phones, in cars and in living rooms promises to open up a new market,” says FT journalist John Gapper, and he’s not wrong. As of January this year, over a quarter of US adults have a smart speaker in their homes, and it continues to grow. 

Naturally, with the growth of the medium, there have been suggestions of it being incorporated into offices and companies globally, and some of the biggest technology companies are suddenly in a hurry to bring voice-enabled AI into office life. Amazon’s chief technology officer Mr Werner Vogels, said that “the use of voice AI at work is only at a very early stage,” but this adoption of artificially smart speakers could enhance the way that offices communicate important insights and news. 

Particularly in journalism, smart speakers are an excellent way to distribute the most up-to-date and timely news, in a way that is not only easy to consume, but also ready to act fast. The news that the FT distributes can now be heard through most leading smart speakers, with our readers able to take in the news that matters the most to them, and in the industries that they deem the most vital. 

By utilising smart speakers to consume the most important FT content for your industry, you and your team and are acting proactively, rather than reactively. With this trusted journalism readily available, you save time and increase productivity, making your team the market leaders with their intelligence.

Evolution of artificial intelligence in journalism

It’s not just smart speakers using artificial intelligence to distribute and tailor news for the consumer. Increasingly, content is being read and understood by AI-powered machines, to enhance the user experience. Nowhere is this more prevalent in text-to-voice AI software.

We are rapidly approaching the moment where all text can be understood by machines - a revolution as big as the launch of the internet.

Lionel BarberEditor of the FT

Huge corporations IBM and Google have launched their maiden voyage into text-to-voice with Watson and Polly respectively, and the natural, lifelike cadence of the software is demonstrating our push to a more AI-enhanced life. Google’s Polly in particular brings naturalness and expressiveness - two key factors in synthesising lifelike speech in getting closer than ever to natural human voices

The more this technology grows and enhances, the likelier the arrival of a ‘voice guru’, as FT writer Kavita Reddi suggests. “The fusion of great content and artificial intelligence may herald the arrival of [...] a trusted companion and adviser, armed with data from past listening chores, who anticipates listeners’ desires better than they can.”

With the implementation of Curio, the FT is taking the first steps to achieve this ‘trusted companion and adviser’, reading you the news that matters whilst you’re on the go. Within the web article, the software dictates the content to you in a matter of minutes.

In a world of busy people with headphones in, it’s an easier way to gather the insights that offer you analysis that help make business smoother and simpler. It's a way to educate your workforce in a medium that's convenient for them, offering them better learning opportunities, and greater market intelligence to put your team a step ahead of the competition.

Put simply, the future is better in audio. With trusted news and journalism readily available at our fingertips and through our ears, it’s never been easier to get the best insights to give your team the upper hand. None more so, than through podcasts. Part three of our digital transformation series will explore how podcasting has evolved, and where it could go in the future - stay tuned.

If you missed part one of the digital transformation series, click here to read how print is not dying. 

If staying on top of the latest updates in your industry is a priority for you and your team, speak to one of our advisers to see how a free trial of the FT for 30 days can enhance your organisation’s intelligence, and give you the content you need in the format you require.

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