gather round kids and sit up in front of the speaker that talks back to you

More British kids are using a smart speaker now. Quite a lot more.

Hi, I’m Lee 👋 and you’re reading Wakeword, a newsletter all about the (I used to change the adjective here but I’m going to stop now) bit where the news, voice-controlled devices and artificial intelligence collide.

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Oh no. I’m sorry. It’s been a very long time since one of these went out.

There’s genuinely six or seven drafts stacking up of editions of this newsletter, and they’re all VERY OUT OF DATE now.

Have you heard of a little* British media regulator called Ofcom? As well as hilariously scolding soft-porn channels for being too raunchy, they do research into how people interact with the media.

Their latest Children’s Media Use and Attitudes (CMUaA?) is out and this infographic is inteeeeresting:

Image: Ofcom. Obviously. Children’s use of smart speakers, 2018: 15% 2019: 27%. Children’s use of radios, 2018: 26% 2019: 22%, Children’s use of smart TVs, 2018: 61% 2019: 67%.

That’s the percentage of children using smart speakers nearly doubling in the space of a year. Radio, maybe unsurprisingly when you look at the smart speaker stats, is slightly down.

So for the first time, they’re being more widely used by children than radios, which for someone who grew up listening to BBC Radio 1’s Sunday Surgery on my bedside radio is pretty weird to understand.

Right - put EVERYTHING on the speakers, yeah? Not so fast. Here’s what Ofcom’s report says about how they’re used:

Despite these significant increases in use, our qualitative Media Lives research shows that children do not appear to use smart speakers in any sort of structured way. Instead, they are using them for fun or on an ad-hoc basis. For example, Suzy, aged nine, said her mum barely used their Alexa speaker, and that she used it from time to time, either to “tell her jokes” or to help her with one-off questions she had during homework, such as checking the spelling of a word or times tables.

So get the content (hate that word) on there, but make sure children (and everyone) have a reason to use it - and make it easy to use. The team that developed the BBC Kids Alexa skill have a great step-by-step guide all about that.

Some stuff I’ve spotted

  • The Telegraph seems to have changed its mind on its voice news product. Two flash briefings a day still, but the real target appears to be WhatsApp users because they’ll send it to you that way - then send you links to the articles mentioned in the briefing (I think this is the cleverest bit).

  • Microcasts are where it’s going to be at in 2020, maybe as part of something interactive or maybe standalone. This is US radio station WBUR’s first one: Morning Conditions. It makes me wonder where we can eventually go with our BBC News flash briefing…

Well that’s it for now.

I’m @lmcly on Twitter and you can hear me occasionally on smart speakers by saying Give me BBC News or having BBC News in your flash/news briefing playlist.



(*not really little, the main one)