In a world where consumers—especially young consumers—trust the opinions of peers and online celebrities over brands, hearing information in that person’s own voice may naturally extend to AI.
Pioneering this effort is Hearst, publisher of O, The Oprah Magazine (and over 300 others). The company’s Native & Emerging Technologies team has teamed with Amazon for an experimental project called “O to Go,” reported by The Wall Street Journal. This new “skill” (an ‘app’ in Echo parlance) for Amazon Echo features Oprah Winfrey reading 90 snippets from her book, What I Know for Sure when prompted by the user.
For now (perhaps due to its experimental nature), the publisher isn’t advertising on its digital assistant offerings, and neither Hearst nor Amazon are paying each other for the Oprah content.
This isn’t the first time Hearst has used Amazon Echo to enhance magazine subscriber experiences. As the publisher of over 300 magazines, four major cable networks and 30 television stations, the company is in a unique position to offer a wide variety of tips and content across demographics.
In December, for example, the company launched a skill for Good Housekeeping that advises users about how to remove stains.
“It’s a really good branding opportunity—as we’re providing that advice, we can also give the consumer guidance on which brands they should look for,” Phil Wiser, Hearst’s chief technology officer told Adweek. “That’s a theme that we’re going to build on as we take our expert editorial content and weave it in with branded content.”
For Elle, users can have their horoscope answers questions by Alexa. For now, it seems, these offerings are read by Alexa’s default voice but “O to Go” could change all that.
Gartner analysts predict that by 2020, 30 percent of web browsing sessions will be conducted without a screen, which is big news for marketers. According to a September forecast from Juniper Research, more than $12 billion annually will be invested in paid voice search by 2021.
What if you could have recipes read to you by Rachel Ray or science facts explained by Bill Nye? Beauty tips as told by Kim Kardashian or jokes told by Steve Martin? Digital assistants like Alexa, Siri and Google Assistant need not be limited to one voice or personality—a concept Hearst is ready to explore.