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Techsurvey 2020 Tracks Smart Speaker Success

Privacy concerns are the elephant in the room

The home listening environment has become a hostile place for AM/FM radios. The proliferation of electronic devices such as computers, LED lighting, and especially smart power meters has combined to raise the noise level to the extent that reception is near impossible. That could be part of the reason smart speakers have experienced such explosive growth. Techsurvey 2020 fills in the details, including some opportunities for radio, but also implies there may be a dark cloud in the device’s future.

Jacobs Media, Techsurvey, smart speaker

Their data suggests a close correlation between age and ownership of an AM/FM radio. The silent generation leads with 92%, and that number gradually decreases, ending with 67% for Gen Z. Overall ownership has fallen from 89% in TS 2016 to 81% for TS 2020.

Jacobs Media, Techsurvey, smart speaker

These trends, according to Jacobs data, are almost the reverse for smart speaker ownership. The silent generation owns just 18% of the smart speakers, while millennials own 41%. Gen Z and Gen X are almost tied for second place, with 38 and 37% respectively. Overall ownership has skyrocketed from 11% with TS 2017 to 33% with TS 2020.

Jacobs Media, Techsurvey, smart speaker

Listening to streamed music tops the list of frequent uses for smart speakers; AM/FM radio listening is essentially tied for second. Sadly for radio, data from TS 2020 also suggests that only 38% of smart speaker owners have heard stations promoting the devices.

Jacobs Media, Techsurvey, smart speaker

This comes despite data from Jacobs Media which suggests that radio’s local orientation continues to grow in importance. Fred Jacobs, president of Jacobs Media adds, “While it’s always been true that localism matters, that’s never been more the case than with the coronavirus pandemic we’re facing now. Some broadcasters have really embraced smart speaker technology and promoted it well, while others have their work cut out for them.” He adds that stations who lean into their personalities and really embrace localism may come out ahead of the game when the current crisis has passed.

[Read: TechSurvey 2020 Looks at Podcast Growth]

Despite its meteoric growth, the future is not all bright for smart speakers. Jacobs survey also asked why respondents do not own a smart speaker. “No use for one” led the responses with 37%, and “privacy concerns” was second with 32%.

As Jacobs elaborates, “We started to hear more about privacy concerns with smart speakers in our focus groups, so we added the question in TS 2020. There’s no doubt that the voice activated internet is here to stay, but privacy issues are not going to go away. It’s something that Amazon, Google and the rest of the smart speaker manufacturers will need to come forward and address.”