The next revolution is voice

“The first killer apps in this space will look a lot like an intelligent, thoughtful radio — a radio station tuned to your interests, a station that knows who you are and listens.”

The social, mobile, and touchscreen revolutions are played out. iPhone sales are flat. Every kid already has a messaging app. So any journalism institution rushing to figure out Snapchat in 2017 is fighting the last war.

So what’s next? I believe it’s voice.

steve-hennHuman beings didn’t evolve over millions of years to spend their lives staring down at tiny screens, typing with their thumbs. We evolved to talk to each other. We evolved to listen to one another.

And if you take a look at the history of computing from the 1950s to today, two things are clear: Big changes happen when computers get smaller, and how we interact with these machines become more innately human and more intuitive.

We’ve gone from flipping switches on machines the size of a house, to using punch cards, to DOS prompts, to manipulating Windows on a laptop, to a tiny touchscreen in our pocket.

And today we’re at the very beginning of the next big change — voice. Amazon’s Echo, Google Home, and Siri are simple, imperfect computers you can talk to. They’re often frustrating, but they’re getting better fast.

These new platforms are going to compete for the time in your life when you can’t look at a screen. They are going to be there when your eyes and hands are busy.

And the first killer apps in this space will look a lot like an intelligent, thoughtful radio — a radio station tuned to your interests, a station that knows who you are and listens.

Telling stories with your voice is wired into who we are as people. A decade ago, before you could break into radio, you had to own a broadcast tower and fill out a program schedule that ran 24/7. There were gatekeepers and barriers to entry. Those barriers are falling fast. Today any institution that produces incredible journalism should think about how it can leverage what its already doing to give its work a voice — and spread that voice digitally across the next big platform that’s just around the corner.

Steve Henn is cofounder of 60dB.

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