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Smart home technology ‘a platform groundbeaker’

Could smart home technology be the future? Australian publishers seem to think so, with Seven West Media and News Corp Australia seizing the opportunity to work with the new tech, which has been likened to the innovation of the iPhone.

Smart home technology launched in Australia in July with the Google Home. Amazon’s Alexa and Apple’s Homepod is expected to follow in the coming months.

While it is currently a niche product, Seven West’s head of digital Dan Stinton believes that there is huge opportunity in the market.

“We consider it a really important emerging channel. We think that almost every home in Australia will have at least one of these devices, if not all three in some cases.

“It’s a really exciting new interface to allow us to communicate to our audiences as a publisher,” Mr Stinton said.

News Corp Australia was one of the first media organisations to embrace the new smart technology, being a launch partner with the Google Home device.

Nicole Sheffield, News Corp Australia’s chief digital officer, also sees great opportunity for publishers in this area.

“Voice activated technology is the future. It is set to change the way we live, work and consume,” she said.

“It’s the perfect complement to our content with our readers now able to hear the latest news headlines, without lifting a finger.”

Seven West Media is a newcomer to the audio market in comparison to News, but is planning to make a big splash in the near future.

Smart home technology will lead the charge, with Seven West working to be on all three platforms soon after their respective launches in market, offering consumers in the west news bulletins alongside five new podcasts that are currently being kept under wraps.

“Personally, I think the home devices are going to be substantial [in market], they really are transformational,” Mr Stinton said.

“I had the same response to my Amazon Alexa when I first got it as I did to the iPhone 10 years ago. The first time I started playing with an iPhone, you knew the touch interface was absolutely going to change the world.”

With the Alexa, just being able to speak to it was truly transformational, he said.

There are currently no plans for advertiser integration at Seven West, with production teams focused on creating a great product to deliver to market. However, as popularity of the platform increases as predicted, the opportunity may arise.

In the US, Amazon has already attempted to integrate advertisements into its Alexa device. The ad-network scheme was introduced in May, offering short six-to-10 second timeframes, with the initial aim of “sponsored messages” specifically targeting users’ interests, using data collected by developers. However, the service was abandoned by June.

News has approached monetisation by offering the Google Home device as a subscription incentive.

Through bundling the hardware with a yearly subscription to any metropolitan or national masthead, the publisher has achieved a win-win – that is, ensuring that more and more paid readers have access to the platform.

“Bundling our subscriptions with Google Home, demonstrates our collective commitment to being at the forefront of the latest trends, innovations and intuitive technologies,” Ms Sheffield said.

News Corp Australia chief operating officer, publishing, Damian Eales added: “No matter how technology changes the way people consume news, News Corp Australia is committed to ensuring our content is readily accessible.

“The availability of our national, metro and selected regional titles on Google Home is part of our ongoing commitment to providing Australians with the latest news, sport and entertainment whenever and wherever they are.”

Smart home technology is increasingly popular in the US, with Amazon Alexa currently out-selling Google three units to one.

Alexa is expected to be a key feature of Amazon’s Australian launch in the coming months, however no date has been set. Apple’s Homepod is to launch in December, however, little has been made clear about functionality.

Mr Stinton believes Australian consumers will be fast adopters of the technology.

“When I am in my home, I use my phone much less than I used to because it is easier to ask the speaker on my shelf to do something for me instead.

I think that once most Australians realise that they will be everywhere, they will be in every home,” he said.

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