Voice content is getting a lot of hype but examples of publishers who have successfully launched a quality product in this new field are still hard to come by.
One exception to this is BBC Good Food, a media brand that includes a monthly print magazine, an app, and now an Alexa skill that launched in August 2018.
Diversifying content on offer makes sense, as experts predict that voice search will only increase in the coming years.
However, although BBC Good Food sees around 90 million searches on its website each month, there are only a few hundred users who access the content through Alexa skill.
"Amazon and Google are still on a big learning curve and there is a massive push to create skills that are easier and more intuitive to use than it is now," said Hannah Williams, head of digital content at BBC Good Food.
One of the factors that makes optimising voice content harder is that the use of smart speakers is changing all the time, so consumers may be using their devices in a completely different way in two years’ time.
To help the BBC Good Food team work out the trends, they use analytics that offer insights into how people use the Alexa skill.
"These metrics are very similar to what you would do for a website: volume of use, volume of completion, drop-off rate etc,” said Williams.
When using the skills, users can take two distinct paths: voice search or hands-free cooking. These two options are joint on the skill, but the team is looking into which path do consumers prefer, trying to figure out why.
"It is early days,” said Williams, "so the crucial metric at the moment is acquisition of new users and then learning about drop-off rate which can help us optimise the product."
"We are all about what's not working rather than what's working at the moment. We are after the pain points - finding out what it is that people don’t want."
One of the trickiest parts, Williams explained, is the recipe selection. It is as much of a problem for the publishers as it is for the users. There is so much content available that the balance between having a choice and making a decision quickly is hard to strike.
Another trick is to find the added value in user’s journey. Is it about finding the recipe? Hearing the ingredients? Is it hands-free cooking?
"We are looking to deepen analytics to the product to improve our research into how users interact with the skill," said Williams.
The publisher is also exploring commercial revenue streams in the announcements and the instant purchase option.
Part of this strategy is increasingly pushing anonymous users to engagement which makes them part of the whole BBC Good Food digital universe. Another possible revenue stream could be subscription to access exclusive content.
If reading all this made you want to launch a voice product, Williams offers her best tips.
"Keep it really simple. Don't put loads of time and money into it because you may not be able to craft the perfect product as that doesn't exist at the moment.
"People are still learning what they want their voice devices to do so put something out quickly and cheaply, then invest into analytics to learn from it as fast as you can."
Free daily newsletter
- What is the future of the BBC's funding model?
- A decade in data journalism: what has changed?
- Ideas for innovating public interest news: The Australian Newsroom Mapping Project
- The Washington Post launches newsletter to help readers understand graphs and charts
- 12 replies to common objections to using data in the newsroom