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Business News/ Opinion / Views/  Opinion: Can the voice medium win the content battle?
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Opinion: Can the voice medium win the content battle?

In India, a land of many tongues, voice could be a game changer, a digital enabler

New distribution mediums have overtaken content firms—radio, TV and the internet are clear proof points.Premium
New distribution mediums have overtaken content firms—radio, TV and the internet are clear proof points.

A river of funding is flowing into the Indian content space, proving once again that content is king. But can content alone win the hearts and minds of audiences?

Chinese ByteDance content platforms, Tik Tok and Helo, and their rapid conquest of Indian audiences has intensified the battle in the vernacular content and social media space. Content drives audiences, audiences drive valuations. As the race for funding in Indian content space hots up with Indian ShareChat trying to build its arsenal, and Dailyhunt raising funds, is content enough to woo audiences?

Historically, new distribution mediums have overtaken content firms—radio, TV and the internet are clear proof points. The medium of delivery, discovery and ease of access, is critical. The latest medium is voice—with consumers accessing content on voice on over one billion devices globally ( magazine). The promise of voice is a new digital UI and, the one, producers and publishers need to reckon with.

Globally, many have been quick to take note of audience preferences for voice interaction. “Voice-enabled devices represent a transformational shift in how consumers get information and how publishers distribute news," said Francesco Marconi, strategy manager and AI co-lead at Associated Press. The New York Times, Financial Times, BBC and the German Bayerischer Rundfunk have all set up units to facilitate voice content and interaction. Wary of having lost the battle on mobile, they want voice search and delivery, via human and text-to-speech read-out articles. The race is on to personalize and create human voice personas for content brands.

In India, a land of many tongues and levels of literacy, voice could be a game changer, a digital enabler. Over a billion Indians do not speak English, and they will rule the market. And the Chinese already know this only too well, from their experience in China.

Ease of access to content is critical. Vernacular languages are not easy to type in—How many people know how to use a Hindi or Telugu keyboard? Small mobiles screens do not help content generation or sharing. Voice is the UI to bring new audiences online, and help them become active content consumers. Last year, in India, Google voice search was 30% of the total, and Hindi search grew 400%.

In India, voice can become the main channel, alongside video. Voxta is betting on voice, and that’s why we have built Indian language speech engines and text-to-speech engines, to drive content consumption. History has shown, the medium is vital to drive adoption. Adapting content to the medium of voice, looking at navigation, length of content, variety of accents, are all part of the content production process. Marshall McLuhan said that “the medium is the message". And, every medium revolutionizes content production, consumption and distribution.

As Nic Newman (Reuters Institute) summarized in his recent report, “For regular users, it (voice) is the first and final contact with technology." Amazon Echo has voice enabled 400 news websites. Indian media platforms and newspaper publishers, have to follow their global cousins. As suppliers within the digital giants’ ecosystems, they have a choice—risk handing over their audience relationships to the giants or, alternatively, voice enable their own content as independent applications—and own their audience. Owning the medium now is definitely as important as the message!

Kavita Reddi is co-founder of Voxta Communications Pvt. Ltd.

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Updated: 01 Apr 2019, 12:16 AM IST
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